My side analysis of Gargish phonology wasn't even up a week before it became one of the most viewed posts I've tossed out there. Withstand the Fury Dragon's attempting to rope me into doing a segment based on it for the Ultima Codex's podcast sometime, which I'm more than willing to do - I mean c'mon, blather on about how TWO subjects I have a deep love for intertwine? (Although hold your horses, it's gonna be some time before I'm in a position to actually do so.) I, uh. I'm a little floored, to tell the truth - I wasn't anticipating that much interest at all, on account of the fact it was basically just me nerding out on a topic in my field, that happened to tie into Ultima VI. I'm half wondering if I can squint at Gargish hard enough to draw out enough for a follow-up at some point, now. There's a lot more I could go into as far as vowel quality goes (I never did touch on dipthongs), there's the point to make about why there are W's present in transcriptions of Gargish despite the fact there's no letter for it in the alphabet, and I haven't even attempted to see if I can figure anything out about Gargish prosody.
But we'll see what happens. For now, let's talk Ultima VI.
I was a bit worried going into the game, on account of the problems I've had getting used to the interface and the fact I'm going to have to deal with it for no less than three games on my list. But thankfully, I finally seem to have got over whatever hump had been there, and though a couple things still managed to trip me up (it took me way too long to figure out how to get the balloon to do what I wanted, and I can't tell you how many times I hit H to <H>ole up and Camp instead of R to <R>est) they weren't as debilitating as previous attempts at Ultima VI have been.
|I didn't feel adequately prepared for encounters like this.|
|It's nice to know just what my magical resources mean.|
Inventory management became a bit cumbersome here and there, but there were some facets of it that I truly enjoyed - most notably the fact that gold coins actually had weight that had to be accounted for. Granted, it's probably easier on the player and less obnoxious to simply take money out of the equation when it comes to the decisions including weight as a game mechanic lead a player to make, but it works rather well here in Ultima VI. Including their weight in player carrying capacity forces a player to make decisions about their budget, more than just 'how much do I need to save before I can buy this really cool item.' The economic system in place in Ultima VI is balanced well enough to make such a thing possible without becoming too headache-inducing, and I really like it for some reason. Seems rather more reasonable to me than carrying around thousands and thousands and thousands of metallic coins - I hauled around enough boxes of coin when I worked at a credit union to know those things get dang heavy.
|Little moments like this add so much flavor to the characters.|
As always, though, I've got to get to the story sooner or later. And while I normally separate my discussion of the game's story into the story on its own and the story as it relates and fits into the story of the series as a whole, I'm not so sure I can make that separation as cleanly this time around. So much of Ultima VI's story leans on themes and ideas from previous games, after all. And perhaps partly because of that - the fact that it built upon the foundation the previous five games left for it - it's an extremely strong and well-woven story. In fact, despite my love for Ultima IV, I'm going to go as far as to say that Ultima VI is the pinnacle of storytelling in the entirety of the series.
Yes, I did really just make that claim.
I've mentioned before that the three games of the Age of Enlightenment establish the heart of the setting that Ultimas I-III introduced and refined. They're the games that explore the philosophy and way of life of the people of Britannia, and that's all culminated here in Ultima VI. Ultima IV introduced the virtues in the first place, a set of ideals that established a personal code of living. And that was the Quest of the Avatar was, at its core - a personal exploration of virtue, and an emphasis on the individual. From a certain perspective, it could even be argued that the Britannian system of virtues almost emphasize the individual - introspection, self-betterment, and the boundless infinity of wisdom to be gained from walking that path.
Ultima V took these virtues and examined the flipside of them, the way they could turn dark when twisted to become something they weren't. The game took a look at what happened when virtue became mandate and law rather than something willfully chosen and followed, and suggested a need for nuance and care when it came to application of the virtues. In a sense, this also reinforced the individualistic nature of the path of the Avatar - forced application on a larger scale led Britannia not into a golden age of development, but a dark period of tyranny, and it was the corruption of virtue in one man, Blackthorn, that cascaded down into an oppressive regime that held the kingdom in an iron grip.
|Virtue is personal - but we can't forget those around us, either.|
There's aspects of Ultima VI that I'd love to see expanded - a fan-made game from the Gargoyles' perspective would be utterly intriguing, if you ask me, running around the collapsing Gargoyle Realm to find an Orb of the Moons, figure out how it works, capture the Britannian Shrines, and ultimately figure out how to draw out the False Prophet - but there's no more and no less there than necessary to tell the story successfully, and that's what makes it work. It's ever-present, even in the detail work, and it doesn't drown you in the unnecessary. It's wonderful, and I'm glad that I've finally seen it through to the end.
It's been a journey well worth taking.
And now it's time to pull out my pith helmet and machete as I get ready to plunge into Savage Empire! I may have a few more general things to blather on about before I get started there, and in any case I've got a manual to read before playing, but Eodon is calling my name and I'm raring to answer the call.