Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ultima IV: Starting the Quest

This is not what I would call a great beginning.
With my starting position of Yew too full of painful and embarrassing memories of slaughter of innocent clerics for the sake of money and experience, I decided to plunge my way into the forest and see if I could push through the brush all the way to Lord British's castle - it was he who would be able to explain my presence here and the Quest that lay before me, after all, and I was sure he would provide some useful help and advice.

Unfortunately, it seemed whatever forces were at work in the world decided to deliver its own brand of justice on me. The forest remembered what I'd done to its denizens before, and I was beset upon by several parties of orcs - no less than three, in very rapid succession. Having panicked and accidentally thrown the dagger I'd started with somewhere I couldn't find it rather soon into the first battle (how's that for an auspicious start?), I had to beat them back with my bare hands. Which I managed to do, but only barely, I was sore and very close to collapsing by the time it was all over. I made camp for the night, only to be set upon by yet another band of roaming orcs, and the weariness caught up to me.

I died.

And then was revived, in the very heart of where I'd intended to go in the first place. The universe has a weird sense of humor sometimes.

Oh, I intend to be, Lord British. I intend to be.
By the way, in my opinion, it really is a very handy mechanic to have death bring you back to Lord British's castle, at least for the early parts of the game. It's here that's kind of the hub of an aspiring avatar - Lord British can offer help and hints of how to accomplish the quest, you learn of the runes and mantras and shrines thanks to Sheila in the castle healer's domain, Hawkwind is here to appraise your progress on the path to virtue... and with Britain close by to stock up on supplies, this is a good way to bring a player to where they need to go quick, even if they don't necessarily mean to. One can die very quickly in the early stages of the game, so it's nice to get dropped off at a place where one can recover without too much of a hassle, and get a few things done in the process. I didn't mean to get to LB's place via death, but I did find it particularly amusing - it really did feel almost like Britannia itself was conspiring to make sure I felt some sort of retribution for the deeds committed in past games!

Anyway, back to the game proper. After checking in with Lord British to get a sense of my quest, I wandered the castle, talking to those I could find. They told me all sorts of things, from an admonition not to run from battle to the importance of the shrines and how to make use of them, to the advice that I should not only learn about the virtues, but how they are formed from the three principles. After a stop in at Hawkwind's to see how I was coming along, I wandered over to Britain, where I learned a good deal about compassion. I bought a sling to replace my dagger, and found the rune at the end of a hallway on the advice of Pepper the bard, while Cricket told me what the mantra was.

Pirates on the horizon! Already!!
So informed, I decided to make my way to the shrine to make use of what I'd discovered. And on the way there, I had a massive stroke of luck - the Powers that Be recognizing that yes, I intended to repent and make amends, by sending a pirate ship just over the horizon! (Yes, this is probably the earliest I've ever seen a ship appear in a game of Ultima IV. I sat there staring at my screen, then laughed as I shook my head. How many games have I run around the countryside just hoping to spot one just so I can get that last Eighth!)

So after I'd dropped by the shrine, I returned to Britain to make plans. Lord British recognized my growth and informed me I'd need to demonstrate some good leadership qualities, so I got Iolo the bard to join me on my quest. We learned that Mondain's influence had not yet left the world, and that I should ask of his skull in a place called Buccaneer's Den. I think that'll be for later, though, as I was advised by Lord British to stick close to the towns until I become more experienced. So I think Iolo and I will head to Trinsic by way of Paws and see what lessons and adventures we can find in the process. Once we get some rest, that is.


Traipsin' along with my buddy Iolo.
I feel like I've said a good many words on the game thus far while having made considerably little actual progress. I'm not sure whether that's because I have a good deal to say about the game in the first place, it being one I know so well, or because I'm trying to focus on the narrative which is making me a tad verbose. In any case, I hope I'm at least managing to stay engaging, and my next session should at least get me a decent ways further into the game. I'm actually having to force myself to remember to slow down and poke my nose into everything - since I'm trying to focus on story, I'm trying to refrain from darting around fetching everything until I've actually managed to find the proper clues that point me to them, which is really making me look at the game through pseudo-fresh eyes again. I'm rediscovering conversations I haven't seen in ages, and I continue to gleefully take down notes on what I'm supposed to "know" as I make my way around the countryside. I know I'm enjoying it, and with any luck, I hope my readers are as well.

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