Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ultima I: Spacing Out

My play session this time around was a little on the short side, but I still managed to get a few important things accomplished! First and foremost of tonight's adventures was my venture into space, the natural place to begin after having bought a space shuttle and stocking up a good deal of cash with which to refuel.

Hostiles everywhere!
So after making sure I had my reflect suit equipped (I'd had to replace it yet again after a gelatinous cube got to it), I hopped in and blasted off into space! After maneuvering my way into a docking station, I parked my shuttle in favor of a speedy attack ship, pulled up a scan of the vicinity, and went hunting for enemies! They were plentiful to the south, so I decided to circle my way around, making my way to the eastern edge of the map and then turning back around. I was hoping I could defeat twenty enemy ships in one go, without needing to refuel - though I had enough cash on hand for three refueling trips - and kept pushing my luck, thinking I could go just one more sector before needing to find a place to refuel! When I started dwindling down to about 100 fuel, though, I relented and stopped by a refueling dock, which happened to be in the very sector I'd just cleared out. Back on the starways, I found out I'd been just two ships shy of making it to a Space Ace on one tank of fuel - and jumped the gun on attempting to get my screenshot, so you'll just have to take my word for it on that one!

Get back here! You can't escape me that easy!
There's not a whole lot to say on playing through that section of the game, but its presence is certainly worth talking about. In a game full of castles, knights, swords and sorcery, the sci-fi elements can make things feel a little disjointed, and this is most flagrant during the space section. Yet, somehow... it works. Maybe part of it's due to having established time travel as an integral part of the plot, and for a plausible sort of reason - if the gem is what makes Mondain immortal, then clearly the secret to his demise must lie in doing so before the gem made him immortal. Time travel is an important part of Ultima II's plot as well, but it's not played with quite as much, I feel, which I'll get to in more detail when I cover that game (assuming I remember). In any case, it feels less out of place than it does in Ultima II, to my mind, and I can't quite put my finger on why, much as I try to puzzle it out. As wacky as it is, and as dissonant a chord it strikes against the more properly fantasy elements of Ultima I, it works and it's enjoyable. And maybe therein lies another part of its secret - it's a fun little diversion, a shaking up of the way the game has gone up to this point, something different that's still meaningful.

What do you mean that's the wrong key??
Back on Sosaria, having actually landed safely rather than needing to burn up in the atmosphere and kill myself due to not having enough money on hand to change ships like I did the last time I played the game, I hopped back in my aircar and headed for the Lands of Danger and Despair, what will become the setting for Serpent Isle several games down the line. Having hit level eight last update and becoming a Space Ace this one, of course I had to go rescue a princess while picking up the quests for the kings. The Castle of the White Dragon was closer, so I paid him a visit, and once he told me to find the Tower of Knowledge (back in Lord British's territory, if I recall right), I fired my blaster at his jester followed by practically all of his guards. And it turned out the jester had the wrong key! So it was off to Shamino's, where I was told to kill a balron. But I misheard it as a bard-ron, and shot his jester too, who had the right key this time, and the princess (Dianne by name) in her gratitude told me a time machine was on the northwestern part of the continent. I found it right by the Grave of the Lost Soul (which Lord British wanted me to find, another reason to pay his domain a visit), and that was where I called it a night. I still need one more gem to power the machine, and that'll come from slaying a mighty balron (and surviving to tell the tale, of course).

The end is in sight! Watch out, Mondain. I'm coming for you.

Just one more gem...

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