Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ultima II: Honor Among Thieves

As is traditional, my opening stats.
And so my (in)glorious adventure of Ultima II begins! Having conquered the World of Doom and defeated Mondain the wizard, Aric the Stranger now finds himself attacked in his own world. This is probably the weirdest thing to wrap my mind around when it comes to Ultima II - I mean, this is meant to be Earth, but it doesn't take long at all to traverse the globe, and anyway, Britannian (er, I guess Sosarian, at this point) characters can be found hanging around. I can only surmise that Minax's attempts to strike down the Stranger and conquer the planet through the timegates have distorted space as well (inextricable as the two are from each other - yay physics!) as Sosaria and Earth are beginning to merge together... yeah, I'm thinking about this one a little too much. It's confusing to begin with, so might as well just run with it.

Anyway, as I indicated in my intro post, I decided to make Aric a cleric this time around, which is turning out to be rather an odd choice, thematically - I mean, my main means of getting more food has been stealing it thus far, which is hardly a holy thing to do. And just what are clerical orders based around in Ultima II-era Sosaria? It's never established that there's any gods, at least not by this point. Ultima III's manuals shed some light there, but now? I'm stumped. And probably overthinking things again.

Once I had my stats and such in order (hey, that reminds me, what's with the other races in Sosaria, too? I can play as four, but I never really see anything except what appear to be humans, although I suppose it never specifies one way or another, just indicates class, and-- NO, stop that!), having opted to emphasize the physical stats at least a little, I was dropped into BC-era Canada, unarmed, unarmored, and waving a cross about. First order of business - equipment!

Guess this is who the town's named for. Feel kinda sorry for him.
I blundered my way over to Towne Linda, getting accosted by a thief in the process, just outside of the city and before I could get myself anything more hard-hitting than my bare fists. I managed to knock him down, though, and I crossed my fingers that I'd get lucky - but alas, no blue tassel for me, just a cloak. I bought myself an axe and some leather armor in town, as I felt certain I had the stats to make use of them, then spent a bit of time in the pub to pick up some tips. I learned that some fighters wore magic helms, and that I needed ankhs to open space. I wandered around town a little bit more before picking up a horse in the hopes of it helping with food to at least a small degree, and with food becoming a concern, I left Linda and set my sights on Le Jester. In the village, I bumped into a nymph who told me I should visit the Hotel California (I hear it's such a lovely place), and after buying what food I could, I went out into the world to slay some monsters.

So close, and yet so far - stop taunting me like that!!
And from here on, most of my session consisted of hunting down monsters, whacking them for gold, and hoping against hope I'd run into a thief and that I'd be able to procure a blue tassel to commandeer a ship from him. The opening stages of the early Ultimas are always tense, hoping that you can cling to your wits tightly enough to not run out of hit points or food while you struggle to climb up the ranks, but I feel like so much of the early game of Ultima II is based on luck - that monsters will appear where you can actually get to them, that right kind of monster will appear (namely thieves, as they give you the most interesting stuff when you defeat them, and then a ship, once they give you the right item), that you'll get the right thing from them when you whack them, and all the while trying to keep your supplies up.

I mostly kept to the BC years to fight, sneaking over via timegate to the AD years to visit Lord British for HP and Port Boniface to swipe food from the McDonall's (oy) ride-through, feeling somewhat guilty that I have to resort to it so often and cringing over knowing what other less-than-moral acts I'm going to have to commit by the time I've defeated Minax. I found sea serpents rather frustrating to deal with, as they'd keep running away after getting hit, and being sea-bound creatures and me being land-locked, I had no way to go after them, until I figured out their pathing and managed to lead them into little eddies where they had nowhere to go. I was vaguely amused by the point I caught two of them on either side of  the Indian subcontinent, bouncing back and forth between them to trade hits on them.

Okay... but it would help to know why...
I explored the four towns I kept to, the two in the BC years and the castle of Lord British and Port Boniface in the AD years. I was told to find the Father and claim the ring, so it's nice to have that plot point triggered properly somewhere. Thieves constantly taunted me by popping up on islands where I couldn't reach them, and I shook my fist at them as I rode by. Still, it was better than my last game, where I had a demon appear in England that tried paralyzing me whenever I rode by the English Channel.

Eventually enemies stopped appearing on the main landmass of the BC years - I guess I hit a max enemy limit or something. I poked into Le Jester to whack the thief at the entrance, careful to keep him between me and the guards (man do guards hit hard!!), but still no luck. By this point I'd managed to blunder my way to level three, and a couple thousand hit points and food, so I felt I could explore a little more. Blundering my way through timegates, I whacked a thief in a time zone I had no idea where, and after the dust settled, I squealed - somehow I'd obtained not one, but two blue tassels - and a ship was on the horizon!

After taking it for myself, I sailed around cackling madly while firing cannons at everything in sight, and to my further delight, realized I'd ended up in the AD years - New San Antonio was sitting there calling my name. After hitting level four I made port in Australia to call it a day, ready to build up gold so I could boost my stats.

It's slow going, but now that I've got a ship? Things should be, pardon the obvious pun, closer to smooth sailing.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me...

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