Quick update on my Ultima IV progress, which has been slow (IMO) but fairly steady.
In the beginning, learning how the moon gates worked was massive for me. But relatively soon after that, acquiring a ship took things to a whole new level. It took me ages to lure one and "steal" it, but once that was behind me I had an enormous amount of freedom. Prior to that I was entirely landlocked, with the exception of using moon gates. And even those can only get you so far.
So, to get around this massive world, my progression has been like this:
- on foot
- on a horse (kinda nifty)
- by moongate
- by ship
To get to some really obscure areas I had to learn a Blink spell. This is a really creative bit of magic that allows to you teleport in a given direction several "squares" to get to hidden areas on the map - especially hidden coves not accessible by normal travel. I've had to use it at least twice, and it's always via trial and error. Like, to the top of a mountain (and you can't walk on mountain tiles).
Everything in this game revolves around the number 8. As someone who goes by the moniker 'intric8' this made me smile. At first.
You need to find 8 runes, and earn 8 virtues, and finally find 8 colored stones. And everything is strewn all over the damned place. You can also have a party of 8 characters, each being a unique class (with 8 different classes out there).
This post isn't a review, but I've been wanting to talk about this game a bit. I have a friend who is also playing it, so comparing notes with him has been a lot of fun, no doubt. Reminds me of when I was playing Legacy of the Ancients in 9th grade, and each day my then-best friend and I would compare notes. Good times.
Ultima's backstory is actually very cool, and the game mechanics of requiring us to be virtuous the whole way through a game is kind of mind blowing. It would be like playing Legend of Zelda, and slashing your sword at a chicken and realizing (eventually) that you've been penalized for doing so. I can't think of another game out there that follows this model.
I wonder if it was intended to make a bunch of teenagers in the 1980s better people or something (and it may actually have done so!). The concept is so deeply woven into the game it's beyond impressive.
That being said, the spells in the game are weak. Other than healing and curing poison, I bet I could finish this game without ever using anything else. Part of that is how spells are implemented in the combat sequences, which is also a really weak part of the game. I don't think I've encountered a single battle that has made me worry about a character dying. Well, there was one time... a pirate ship started firing its canon at my ship, and my ship is far less strong than my party (ironically), and so I nearly got blown out of the water. The solution? Attack the pirate ship directly. Pirates are very weak enemies. Heck, they all are!
But besides that one instance, so far the main challenge of this game is learning and understanding the vast world and its quests, the hidden items and puzzles to solve, and gleaning hints from NPCs in a very impressive (if usually repetitive) communication system, which I'll talk more about later.
In any case, the dungeons are now where I'm really focusing, and while tiny, they are not easy. I easily get confused in them.
4 characters (2 6th level, 2 4th) -- can you guess what level I need to get to? Yep! 8th.
3 stones (5 to go)
8 runes found
6 virtues earned (Sigh!! How was I supposed to know in the earliest days not to run away from battles?)
I quickly learned that adding characters to my party was a bad idea, too, but I didn't figure that out until it was too late. If I could go back in time, I'd remove one of my characters - the painfully useless shepherd. I wish I could boot her out of the party and swap her with a fighter or paladin. I'm not sure if I need all 8 characters to finish this game or not... the more you add, the more cumbersome and mind-numbing the battles, especially in the dungeons. The battles are kinda boring half of the time. There are some interesting tactics I've employed (I use my shepherd as a human shield in front of my ranged weapon character. Hah!), but they aren't as deep as the Gold Box offerings. If only they'd made the spells more than 1:1 combat, it could have been far more interesting.
In any case, I'm enjoying things. The travel from place to place, food/spell reagent management and battles can be a bit of a drag, but it's part of the experience. And overall, it's pretty enjoyable. Finding something of value is a complete and total thrill - feels like finding a needle in a haystack. Or winning the lottery!