Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ultima V: The Whirlwind Tour

I do believe I'm well and properly hooked now.

I fired up Ultima V again intending to get a session in, visit a couple towns and get some clues, do a shrine quest or two, maybe try and get a level for some of my current party, and that'd be that. Instead I fell victim to the RPG version of 'one more turn' syndrome - "Okay, maybe I'll just do one more shrine quest... maybe I'll just visit one more town... well, I'm not far away from getting Shamino another level... maybe I'll just play a little longer..." On and on it went in that vein, and before I knew it, I'd lost a good portion of my evening and had far more exploration and clue-hunting under my belt than I'd planned on, and my notes just kept going. It always takes time for me to really click with a game, and I'm never quite sure where and when that point is, or even, really, what causes it to happen. All I know is that I've never got to that point with Ultima V before - until now. It was slow going in the early stages, but now that I've broken through that nebulous barrier, whatever it was, I'm practically having to wrest myself away from it long enough to scribble down my thoughts on it and type these posts up.

This seems ironic, somehow...
Consequently, I've got a lot of ground to cover in this one. I mentioned at the end of my last post my intent to drop by Spiritwood, to seek out Sir Simon on an island near there and ask him about the missing Crown Jewels. That was where I began with this session, or at least sort of. I took something of a detour, although a necessary one. I'd pass by the Valorian Isles on the way anyway, so dropping by Jhelom seemed a natural pit stop. And since it was just over on the next island, I paid a visit to the Shrine of Valor, which told me to visit the Codex and learn of the failings of a life without valor. That would come after a trip through the town, though, where I met a very rude smith, a man who told me a bit of what I might be able to expect in the dungeons, and a former Council member who was a little touched in the head and often spoke backwards - though I did manage to get the Word of Power for Destard from him. It was a quick jaunt to the Codex to get the reminder that knowing one's limits - and thus one's self - was part of the nature of Valor, so after returning to the shrine, I continued north in search of Sir Simon.

And I found him, though I'd have missed the keep he dwelt in if I hadn't thought to use a viewing gem as I passed by the island, it was surrounded by mountains that I had to climb via the use of Lord Michael's grapple. There was a lot to learn in Bordermarch, though - and not only that, I bumped into both Sentri and Dupre there, who were more than willing to take arms and join me. There was no room for them in my group at the moment - a smaller entourage would be less noticeable, after all, but I assured Dupre I'd come back for him when I saw the crestfallen look on his face. It didn't seem right to leave him behind. Sir Simon told me of the crown and the scepter of Lord British, that his crown (which I'd previously been told was being kept in Blackthorn's castle) would protect against magical attacks, and his scepter could disperse magical barriers, which would come in handy if I could retrieve it from where it was being held in the keep of the Shadowlords themselves. His wife Lady Tessa told me of Lord British's amulet, which lay amongst the graves of valiant warriors in the Underworld and that I would need it to find my path in an unholy darkness. I'd been told all three items would be necessary to rescue Lord British, but they would not be easy to retrieve!

Speaking sdrawkcab is tluciffid.
I left Bordermarch behind me and moved on to Skara Brae, where I didn't really learn anything that I wasn't already aware of - the mantra of Spirituality, who I could talk to to find out where the Shrine was, that sort of thing. And on that note, it's nice that the mantras are kept the same from Ultima IV, not just for continuity's sake. It's knowledge that the player character should already have given their history, and it's a nod to players of Ultima IV if they've paid attention and/or kept their notes (or just know the lore well enough), and yet the game still provides methods of reminders for the new players. It's a fairly nice balance, certainly struck better than Ultima IX did in that respect (oh, what I'll have to say on that subject when the day comes). Anyway, I dropped off Geoffrey so I could dart back to Bordermarch and pick up Dupre, and also came across a young boy named Froed, whose father had been imprisoned in Yew for breaking a law of Virtue. He asked me if I could tell his father he was well, and I made a note to do so. I also learned that Blackthorn was seeking the mantras, intending to use them to destroy the shrines and remove their power from the world - bolstering my thought that perhaps the Shrines themselves are evidently against Blackthorn's rule.

Dagger and Verity Isles were next on my list, the former to visit the Shrine of Honesty and learn of the failing of dishonesty, the latter for the Lycaeum and Moonglow. I found another lighthouse here, Waveguide by name, but neither of its residents seemed to be very helpful - Gregory was a very unpleasant man who I couldn't get out of conversation with fast enough, and Jacqueline had memory issues. So I moved on to the Lycaeum, to see what I could find out about the Shadowlord of Falsehood and to gawk at the almost extortionate prices for reagents. I learned the Shadowlord's name from Lord Shalineth, and Lady Janell told me to speak with the twin sisters in Cove to learn where I could find the Shard of Falsehood. Mariah was here as well, though ailing, and so I thought it best to leave her to her recovery rather than take her along with me. Sir Sean told me where I could find Stonegate, the keep of the Shadowlords themselves, when I asked him about it upon recollection of someone telling me to ask him about the place. It was Lord R'hien whose words stuck with me the most, though, decrying Blackthorn's Laws on the basis that Virtue lacks meaning when imposed by force, rather than chosen. It seems fitting that this is why the Keep of Truth remains a holdout against Blackthorn's claim to rule.

I told him I lost the fight with the frying pan. It was epic.
Moonglow was a reminder of this, when I spoke to young Malik and his mother Malifora, learning the Word of Power for the dungeon of Deceit in the process - both asked me for money for what information they could provide, as if truth was something that needed to be bartered for. Though with a man like Don Piatt in charge of the town, I suppose this was only to be expected, as those who spoke the truth too openly could be looked down on. Don warned me of a man who lived in a tower in the middle of town who sowed only discontent, but Zacariah turned out to be rather helpful, telling me of the comets in the heavens heralding the Shadowlords and where they would be that night, along with the clue the Goeth, whom I'd met in Jhelom, could tell me of a new power of the moongates.

From there it was off to the Codex again, which told me dishonesty favored temporary gain over the permanent (Blackthorn's version would give it something temporary and permanent, with the loss of one's tongue), then a return to the Shrine of Honesty, and another stop in Jhelom to learn of the stones I could find to manipulate the location of the moongates - and find a Magic Axe in the process! I would use this profusely for training purposes, and by the time the session ended Aric was starting to near level 7, while the rest of my party was at least level 4. Speaking of the moongates, though, making a stop in Jhelom meant I was near both a gate and the Isle of the Avatar, which made completing the Shrine of Spirituality's quest a fairly simple matter - in response to the exhortation to learn of the neglect of one's spirit, I read that to forsake one's inner being is to abandon hopes for one's self and the world. Yet Blackthorn would have one pay more attention to others' own spiritual journeys with his Laws, forcing the public to enforce them or else die a heretic.

Pretty much the game's theme in a nutshell.
New Magincia was my next stop, and the residents there also had a lot to say on the need to choose virtue freely - which seems fitting, considering it's built on the ruins of a city destroyed for its failure to choose virtue. It's become a pleasant little pastoral town now, and there's even a cemetery for the denizens I met in Ultima IV, finally at rest. I bumped into Katrina again here, and her excitement at my return was, admittedly, quite charming - though it made it more difficult to tell her it wasn't feasible to include her on this particular venture. Still, she seemed confident in my ability to get the job done, so I said my farewells and continued to explore the town. The best thing I learned was from a woman named Kaiko, who told me one of the former Council members took refuge in New Magincia for a time, until Blackthorn captured him, and is presumably being held prisoner in his palace. Someone else to look for when I make my way there to reclaim the crown.

After stopping by the Shrine of Humility and the Codex, learning of the weakness of pride (which Blackthorn's Law misses completely, mostly serving to maintain the pride of those in power), I headed for Cove and the Shrine of Compassion, which asked me to learn of the heart of the cruel soul. Cove didn't hold that much for me, but I did learn of the location of the Shard of Falsehood, which lay in the Underworld near where Deceit let out into it. The twin sisters gave me directions to where I could find it, which would be very useful indeed. I dropped by Britain again to gather some supplies as I passed, and while I was there heard a rumor about the mystic arms and armor - supposedly Bullweir, the rude smith in Jhelom, knew something about them. I didn't look forward to speaking with him again, but those would be nice to have again.

Katrina, why must you test my humility so?
Serpent's Hold came first, though, and here I learned the Shadowlord of Cowardice's name, along with the location of the Shard of Cowardice, beneath Hythloth - it would seem there are a series of small caverns near there, which would require magic to explore properly. I'll need a good deal of In Por spells ready before I go after that particular shard. An eager fighter named Maxwell wanted to join me here as well, but I was getting used to my group's configuration, and it was nice to be alongside stalwart companions that I already knew well, so I told him to continue to fight the good fight at the Hold. After a visit to the Codex again for the reminder (that Blackthorn very much needs) that only the detested took pleasure from others' pain, I went to follow up on the mystics, learning of a man named Ambrose who had been searching for them and currently healing in Cove. He was only awake for an hour at a time or so, but when I made my way back to Cove he was fortuitously just waking up, so I spoke with him on the matter. It would seem they were pretty much right where they were last seen - at the spot in the Underworld that lay directly beneath the Abyss.

There were just a few more matters to tie up at this point, so I headed to Yew to pass on Froed's message, and while I was in the jail I found Felespar, who told me Wrong's Word of Power. Greymarch was glad to hear his son was all right, and also pointed me to Sir Simon about the scepter - redundant, really, but it still was uplifting to see this poor prisoner's heart lighten at the news of his boy. Then it was a march to the Shrine of Justice, my last quest from the shrines. After the Codex told me that those who inflicted injustice could not expect fair treatment themselves, a wind turned the page, and gave me further instructions: to head for the core of the world past the exit of dungeon Shame, to call out 'VERAMOCOR' to enter, and that which the world had lost lay within. It became clear to me then why I would need the crown jewels to rescue the rightful king - the amulet would get me "beyond the darkness," the crown would protect me from the "stealers of souls," and the scepter would assist me in getting past the "ethereal wards."

I'll do my darndest. And you'll help.
I paused to consider a moment. I had the Words of Power for all the dungeons save Hythloth, and I had an idea of what lay beneath all of them save Despise. So I ventured through the latter to get an idea of what I might face in the dungeons and the Underworld - I would need to trek through them soon, after all. Despise proved rather straightforward, and when I emerged, some exploration let me to a wrecked ship, where I came across Captain Johne. He claimed responsibility for unleashing the Shadowlords, having come across the Shards which drove him to kill his three companions. Seeking to make right his previous actions, he begged me to allow him to accompany us - and after consulting with my group, Gwenno gave a small nod. She would head back for the inn in Britain, and gave Johne the chance to redeem himself.

Back through Despise we went, our new companion in tow, and that was where I called it a day. I think I've settled on this group as my final party proper - it just doesn't seem right to go through an Ultima game without Iolo, Shamino and Dupre if I have anything to say about it, and I didn't get to travel with Jaana last game on account of having started Ultima IV as a druid, so it only seems appropriate to give her some opportunity to properly act as a companion of the Avatar. And Captain Johne needs a chance of redemption, if only so he can have some closure properly.

The pieces are coming together, and I think I've learned all that I can from the people of Britannia. My next steps, then, are to gather the Crown Jewels and defeat the Shadowlords by collecting the three shards in the Underworld. I think my best bet would be to start with the crown, as that way I can find the last Council member and hopefully gain the Word of Power for Hythloth in the process, and its protection from magical attack would be useful in my attempts to gather the rest of the items I need. So I think that'll be where my next session begins - the assault on Blackthorn's castle. I'm getting really excited, I've never gotten this far in the game before so I'm anxious to see how all of this goes! I still can't decide when to storm Stonegate, either... I suppose we'll see how the run for the crown goes and I'll make my choice from there. In any case, the fight's only just begun - now it's time to start outfitting my group for the depths. It's going to be a wild ride indeed.


  1. That's it. My next game I'm playing is Ultima V. Out of the Ultimas, I've completed 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and Underworld 1. That leaves me the original trilogy, 5, Underworld 2, Savage Empire, and Martian Dreams. Getting into 1, 2, and 3 at all I'm debating because, well, it's 1, 2, and 3. They are so much different than the games coming after them. But I haven't played 6 and the rest really since I was a kid. You know, maybe I should start at 1 and just redo the entire series (except Underworld... I literally just completed that the other week :P ), what do you think?

    1. Oh yeah, here's my writeup on it, too. :P


    2. Well, as far as what I think - play whatever you've got interest in! I started this venture partly out of desire to finish the Ultima games that I never had before, and partly because I wanted to get a better sense of the series as it developed, an idea of its story as a whole. Starting from the beginning and progressing chronologically was the best way for me to do that, and blogging the experience has been a way for me to organize my thoughts on such and to make sure I stick with it. In the end, it's all about what you're looking to do - and if you're inspired to give Ultima V a go again, then by all means, go for it!

      I will say that there is indeed a pretty stark difference between the first three games and the rest of the series, and they can be a bit difficult to get into at first, but they can surprise you if you give them the opportunity. I enjoyed Ultima III far more than I expected to once I got used to how the game worked, and wouldn't mind giving it another whirl with a different party format.

  2. Now I have to go start this up. That was a detailed review.