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...

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