Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ultima II: Small Spaces

...wait, Father Antos is a she? I'm confused.

True to my goals in my last post, I borrowed a plane to steal a rocket to head out and explore space, to the fullest! (Space is a lot tinier than I expected it to be. Then again, what did I expect when I can sail around Earth a dozen times in the space of a few minutes?) But that's going a little too quickly. Let's start back at the beginning, shall we?

Some good ol' hack-and-slash.
Now that I can smack guards around and keys and locked doors were no longer an issue for Aric, I made one last round of the towns and villages to poke around to see what I might have missed in my previous explorations. Not much, as it turned, out, although I realized that I forget to ask around in Baradin's Town way back in the Pangaea era, which was rather a blunder, as it's there where one can obtain a good deal of information about Antos and Planet X! Kind of confused that some of this information comes from astronauts - prehistoric astronauts - but I guess that can kind of be handwaved due to Minax's confusing time shenanigans in the first place.

Anyway, during my explorations, I blundered into the Time of Legends, and decided to take a whack at the first wave of monsters that I met there. I remember the first time I played through Ultima II, I blinked several times at that massive gathering, thinking 'oh shoot.' It's not a terribly difficult fight to plow through, though, when it comes down to it - just simply finagling of enemy pathing and making use of the tight passageways. This batch of monsters is a lot tougher than their standard counterparts, but I made my way through them without too much difficulty. I was glad for my large stash of idols, capes, and boots picked up from my many grinding sessions, though, they saved me from a good deal of sleep and paralysis spells.

Forget going through Customs. Takes too long.
I saved the bunch of baddies awaiting me outside Shadowgate for later, ducking back into the time gate for the A.D. period and New San Antonio, this time to break into the hangar and steal myself a plane. Musing once again on how many rules I have to break in order to win the game - and how much worse that seems since I'm playing a cleric this run-through - I leapt into the plane, shot down a few guards, and ducked my way into the jail to nab Santre's Quicksword for 500 gold. I'd bought some power armor after a grinding session too, so now armed with the best equipment in the game, I taxied the plane past the time-negated guards at customs, and took of for a time gate and the Aftermath Era.

From there it was a quick flight to Pirate's Harbor, home of the remnants of the Soviet Union. First priority was exploration, of course, finding such places as 'Red Skware' (ow), 'Red Magic,' and a run-down 'Red Lobster'. It was here that my plan ran into its first snag, too - I found myself backed into a corner surrounded by guards and ended up dying. One reload later, I made a beeline for the launch center, negating time to bypass the guards and hop into a space shuttle.

Enilno is mine!
And then it was off into space! I actually had a lot of fun poking around the planets this time around, I just went straight for Planet X last playthrough. A lot of space and the other planets is... well, empty space, as I think I've remarked upon before, but at least somewhat interesting things are done with it - the tight mountain passages of Mars, the huge empty plain of Neptune, the transportation logistics necessary to explore Pluto... this session by far had the largest collection of screenshots yet, from all the interesting things I thought to snap a picture of. Proof that George Washington visited Mars; Izod Burgers on Jupiter; daring the swamp of New Jester on Uranus; some meta-humor, orcs around a campfire and a belligerent cook in Computer Camp on Neptune... all fluff, when it game down to it, but it was the flavor I'd been missing in-between all the grindfests. I also found a few clues pointing to Antos and New San Antonio on Pluto... which was kind of extraneous at this point.

So from there I went on to Planet X, and Castle Barataria, home of Ozymandias. After replenishing a few hit points, ducking through Kueen Susan's Room (ow again) through the jail (why is the jail right off of the queen's room?), I managed to find my way to Father Antos in the castle's chapel, who gave me his blessing and the exhortation to return and claim the Ring. Which I shall do next session, after making my final preparations to face Minax herself.

A camp run by orcs? Think I'll pass.
That covered my progress for the day - I actually think this was one of my favorite days playing Ultima II! I wish more had been done with space, either making it a bit easier to get there and eliminating some of the grind-slash-busy work in building a character up to the point where it's actually feasible to steal a rocket to explore, or having a bit more than just a lot of extra space with the occasional single dungeon or town to poke one's head into. It was nice having a few more maps to explore, something apart from the areas I'd become far too familiar with from seeking monsters to kill for cash. Much of it served little to no purpose as far as the overarching plot/goals of the game went, but it was good to have a little change of pace. I'm glad I took the time to explore this time around.

There isn't much left to do in the game, so I should be able to strike down the sorceress in my next session - my own revenge against the enchantress is close at hand!

Will do, Father.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ultima II: Guarded Thoughts

It's been approximately two months since I last documented one of Aric's ventures through the varied worlds of Ultima - I suspect Minax is beginning to get impatient. Once again life decided to slam me all at once (this time with work/moving-related issues), but I'm still here and rarin' to get back to the journey.

I did have some opportunity for a play session during the down-time, but I'll be relying more on my notes rather than fresh memories for this particular record, as there's been a decent amount of intervening time between session and blog post. This ought to be interesting!

The Midwest gets overrun...

It does strike me, however, how... forgettable a lot of Ultima II seems to be. I think a lot of it has to do with how insanely grindy that it feels, and how... well, empty and superfluous the world as a whole feels. I haven't made my way into space yet (that's the plan for the next play session, at the very least), but there's a lot of empty space that doesn't feel like it has much purpose other than to just Be There. I mean, we get to see Earth in four distinct time periods, but beyond a settlement or two and a handful of dungeons that need a fair amount of equipment to really poke around, there's... not really that much. And even those towns don't really have all that much to them once you've found the handful of citizens that say something unique, most of which are closer to in-jokes and pop culture references than actually relevant to the game. I'll go into more detail on this in my closing thoughts (note to self), but Ultima I felt more streamlined, and it's not just because of the fact I was playing a remake. Ultima II's kind of the transition between the dungeon crawl of Ultima I and the sense of a living, breathing world with a story that Ultima III kicked off, and it puts it in kind of a unique position.

Man that's pricey.
We're here for the continuing story of Aric at the moment, though! I mentioned in my last post my belief that the moment the game opens up is the moment the player obtains his first ship. It serves as a fine first goal (beyond survival, that is) for a new game of Ultima II, but it's only a first step. Defeating guards is the only way to get keys, which are a necessary item in that necessary vehicles are behind locked doors. That being the case, my goal for this particular play session was to build Aric up to the point where he could take on a guard and come out of the fight in reasonable shape. Can't get to space without unlocking a few doors!

Of course, doing practically anything in Ultima II involves scads of gold, which means slaying a whole bunch of monsters, so of course I went sailing around the world again in order to find baddies to beat. I was amused by the veritable deluges of monsters that politely lined up to get smacked around one at a time by either my cannons or my weapons.

All of my new toys!
There were three things I needed to see to in order to ensure I could take down a guard and live to tell the tale - better stats, better weaponry, and better armor. Stats took precedence, and there was a lot of running back and forth into New San Antonio and the Hotel California to bump my stats up to the 40s-50s range. That done, I turned my sights toward a new weapon and a new set of armor - which turned out to be rather expensive, and that was with fair-to-middlin' charisma! Still, enough time gave me enough money (and a fair few more levels - I know I said this before, but what's the point to keeping track of levels if they don't do anything?) to pick up a shiny new phaser and reflect armor!

Yes, that gold and experience is from a guard. One down...
Since I was spending most of my time in that time period anyway, I meandered over to Port Boniface to test out my new toys and see if I could slap a guard silly. I felt a little weird doing so, especially as a cleric - I suppose this is part of what makes Ultima IV so poignant, the Stranger ended up doing a lot of questionable things before he became the Avatar, didn't he. I can't count how much food I've stolen throughout the course of this game, and my guard killcount tally is starting to spike. (Where do they find guards in Sosaria, anyway? Can't be a pleasant job, standing around saying the same thing over and over until some adventurer shivs you for a few keys. Although apparently you don't need much more the UG, ME TOUGH.)

I survived the encounter little worse for the wear, so slapped a second guard around too. Now I finally have the keys I need to progress further! I spent a while going in and out of the city to smack the guards' new replacements, so I could build up a good stockpile of keys. Now that those are in my pocket, I can poke around town a little further, and most importantly, turn my sights toward space!

That's what my next goal is, and hopefully it won't take a few months to get there...