Okay, okay, so I'm not actually certain whether the game world of Ultima VI, in any sort of measurable terms, is any bigger or smaller than its predecessors, but I've played Ultima IV so often that I know its general layout practically like the back of my hand, and Ultima V didn't shake things up much in that respect, so it made getting around and knowing the relative positions of everything a fairly simple matter. Ultima VI, however... while (almost) everything is in the same general position, the shift from dual-scale to single-scale has meant that my sense of... well, scale, has been somewhat off and I'm finding it fairly easy to get lost when I'm not sticking to the roads. Which, I suppose, is actually reasonably realistic, though it's making it a bit of a chore to figure out where I am in relation to everything sometimes.
|How the heck would you WIELD it?!|
But on to the game itself! As can probably be surmised from my musings on how easy it is to get lost, I did so a couple times during this particular session. Having freed the five shrines accessible via the mainland, it was now time to hit the high seas and explore the islands. I'd bought a skiff in Britain at the tail end of my last session, so after a few minutes' worth of figuring out the commands to board, exit, and carry it around, I shoved off from the pier and turned my vessel to the south. It was on this maiden voyage that I first got a real sense of the size of Britannia and my need to re-learn the landscape - I found a shipwreck in what I thought was the southern tip of the main continent, guarded by ghosts and skeletons galore, until I remembered that I hadn't passed Paws yet and was, in fact, currently sailing through the Fens of the Dead! Serpent's Hold - my first stop on my marine journey - would be quite a voyage yet.
After that brief confusion in the Fens, I resolved to stick closer to the coast until I was certain I'd passed Trinsic, and once the walled city came into view, I paid close attention to the pattern of islands on my map and tried to match them up with where I was. I found another wreck on an long, thin strip off land just off the coast of the city of Honor, and made a note to come visit it again later - I had things to do, places to go, people to see! (Although it did amuse me that ships apparently can do 30 points of damage. I wonder how you wield one of those?)
|Dunno about that, but your help is welcome.|
Having thereby increased our little band to six, we next spoke with Sir Caradon, who originally hailed from Yew. He told us that he had fought the gargoyles near the Shrine of Honesty, speaking of some substance that they ingested that made them fight like living cyclones. His tale spoke of a fierce and harsh battle, of which there were few survivors, though I admittedly found myself wondering just how well the young knight adhered to the virtue of the shrine he fought by. Our last meeting in the tavern was with Shubin the cook, who asked if we could bring him a dragon egg if we came across one - he apparently needs one to cook Magincian Pastry, a recipe he learned from Sandy of Trinsic. We'll have to see about that one - that would be no small task.
|The tests of Humility continue.|
Gherick, the local smith, was indeed helpful in crafting me a proper shield for the Order with a gold nugget and viewing gem (Seggalion happily provided us with the items from his own personal stash), and to thank him for his help we purchased a halberd for Dupre to use. We trained for a bit with Loubet the fencing master, exchanging friendly greetings and caught up with our old acquaintance Sentri, showed Koronada the shield Gherick had crafted for me, and then set sail to the west, aiming for Jhelom. It only occurred to me afterward that I forgot to follow up on Chuckles' clue while I was in the vicinity, but I was sure I would be back again later.
I came across more wrecks - and more ghosts and skeletons guarding them - amongst the islands on the way to the city of Valor, and Dupre's new weapon was tested as we fought them all off. We gave the island that held the Shrine of Valor a wide berth for the time being - we didn't want to get ourselves into the fight we expected there until we were prepared to reclaim the Shrine proper. Skirting the island meant it wasn't long before we made landing in Jhelom itself, though, and we were met by an impoverished sailor with a hook for a hand. He asked if I could spare a doubloon for him, and after I obliged, he regaled me with his tale. His name was Heftimus McPry, a name once feared in Buccaneer's Den, but he had fallen from grace since his fight with Captain Hawkins that lost him a hand - which Hawkins promptly threw to the sharks. A nasty figure by all accounts, to be sure, that elevated him into infamous legend.
|Odysseus you're not.|
With this bit of knowledge, our next stop was obvious. We made our way to the Sword and Keg, where Shamino waved to a man wearing a rather distinct, oddly-shaped helm and exchanged a few bits of news. The man was named Stelnar Starhelm, whom Shamino had traveled with before. He introduced himself as a monster-slayer, killing wisps and gargoyles for the past year in Spiritwood. He too wished to go slay Sin'Vraal, with no regard for the part he had played in the rescue of Lord British. He did suggest that he may be found where we last met him, however, so that was another useful piece of information. Stelnar also made a remark that ugliness is only skin deep, just like beauty, which seemed a bit odd coming from him though no less well to keep in mind.
|I wonder where the rat found that ring...|
It occurred to me while sailing the high seas just how little combat I've encountered in this game. I mean, I knew that pacifist runs were a thing for Ultima VI, but I've run into remarkably few random encounters as I meander from place to place. I can probably count them on one hand when I was running about the mainland, and sailing about probably doubled that number. I'm not entirely sure what I think about that - on the one hand, it's nice not to constantly be interrupted every few steps with beasties, but on the other, I'd like at least a little something to shake up the exploration. Maybe it's because I've mostly stuck to the paths thus far, I'm expecting the dungeons to be another matter entirely once I get to them.
Writer's block is a nasty thing when it rears its ugly head (I've been sitting on this post for a few weeks now because of it), but I seem to be through it for the moment, and I'm eager to free those last two shrines and move on to a segment of the game I've never really done much with. Onward to the island of shepherds!
|Another suggestion all may not be as it seems...|