Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Ultima Underworld: Level up, level up, level up

Exploration in a new RPG is always a process wrought with nervousness. This is not unique to the short draw distance I seem to be finding myself seeing in the RPGs that have qualified here. In Might and Magic 6 and 7 this feeling was highly encouraged by the game. One look over the horizon and seeing enough dragonflies or goblins or beholders to fill an army in its Heroes spinoff was enough to give me pause the first time I played it. This is admittedly not a logical thing to think, since I have saves up the wazoo and this isn't Wizardry.

There's a lot of water here.
There's considerably less going on at the start of this session than there was last time. The bridge I met the goblin on doesn't have a way down...and it leads to a river anyway. Side note, sling bullets on the ground, nice touch. This left me with two paths, behind the goblin. One north and one sloping downward, west. I take the western way.
You sure you don't want to stab me or anything?
It doesn't take long before I find a goblin behind a gate, next to that symbol of peace the human told me about earlier. I can talk to him...guess he didn't notice that his friend is dead yet. (this guy is the same skin color as him) He asks me what I'm doing here and I tell him I'm exploring. Best of a bunch of bland options. And he allows me to enter to see his king. Uh...I smell a trap, but whatever.

The walls of text in this game put Pathways into Darkness to shame
If there is one, its going to take a while to spring. I meet a random goblin, trying to find the king, and all he says is that I'm not a goblin. He alerts me to the king's bodyguard. I find him, and he asks me if I'm going to bother the king. I say yes, not finding a good way out of this meeting, and he calls me a smart and makes fun of me for being smart. Clever game, clever. Talking to him again, he starts talking about the stew he's making. Maybe I need to sweet talk him by asking about it? No, but that does get me the recipe. Hmm, interesting, this game is screwing with me.
I'm genuinely torn between writing this all off or calling it genius
Oh, the king is next to him...uh...huh. Interesting. I have to suck up to him or he won't talk to me...wait, why did I need to talk to him again? What, is he just going to tell me where to find the baron's daughter? I don't even get the option, instead I have to butter him up to get various bits of information that I didn't even know I needed yet.

  • We've got lizardmen, who don't speak common/English and instead speak Sseth and click for yes and no. I do not know which is which yet.
  • There are knights here...are they the same as the humans? They kill the trolls.
  • Sir Cabirus collected eight great Talismans, each embodying a virtue. (That is, a virtue the religion that exists in Britannica, they're big on this) The green goblins have never seen them.
  • Diplomacy may not be possible, as Vernix tells me if I should met the gray king or queen to stick a knife in them.
I should have named my guy after the Deadly Rooms of Death dude
I don't think there's anything else to do in here, so onward outside. From here there's a path south, leading to that place I died last time, possibly. The path directly there leads down into a river with no way back and I'm not that desperate. There are paths north, west and east. I go east, into a room I suspect is a trap from the checkerboard floor pattern. I'm assuming too much from this game, aren't I? I fight a spider on a ledge, taking him out handily. I'm grossing overestimating the difficulty of this game.
I miss Dungeon Master's selection of enemies
The spider was only guarding an ear of corn, there's nothing else on this side of the pit. Moving west, I encounter some rats. A gray one poisons me. After taking him out and his compatriots, I look around, hoping for a cure poison potion or something. Nothing. But the poison does go away on its own. I guess I was just unlucky against the red bat. There's nothing really to the rats, but I did get enough experience for a level up.
What mysteries lie within?
I would talk about what I got after levelling up, but it seems like I only got a few points of health and nothing else. So more exploring. I continue onward, and see a door. Something hits the door. You can't scare me now! ...and its locked. I guess I shall find out what's here later.
Oh, I so don't care about the politics of this place

North of that section, which is west of where I climbed up, is a door leading to an area with more green goblins. These fellows are hostile, and attack me on sight. Well, I'm going to friendly if you are, but I'm not about to let myself be killed. Combat in this game is...not fun. In order to do any damage you have to hold down the right mouse button to charge the attack and then release it. There is very little feedback, it doesn't feel like I'm doing any damage until they are dead. In this case, I don't kill them, for there are enough of them to kill me, and escaping doesn't work too well.

How do I still have a dagger then?

So I go back east, where I first fought a goblin, along the way finding an alcove with two more runes. I don't think its anything helpful yet. Heading north leads me to a fight with some gray goblins, who seem to be slightly hardier than their green cousins. Further, weapon damage is a thing in this game and this fellow is dealing a lot to mine. I don't think I've had an encounter yet outside of the first fight that didn't involve multiple goblins, so straightforward isn't working. I don't think a siphoning them off will either, since they have ranged attacks.
Without any better choices, I go back to the area with the red bat. I also put the dagger I've been using away and instead use an axe. Curiously, despite being skilled in swords, I'm doing as much damage and hitting as much. This time I succeed in killing the red bat, with nary a scratch on me. Unfortunately, he was guarding water, and I don't know how well I can swim.

Yes, I need space to cast the game's attack spells

Back up north, there was one path I hadn't yet advanced on. There's a door with the symbol of Cabirus, meaning there are friendly NPCs there. I ignore this at first to kill some spiders I find further down. This brings me to level 3. There doesn't seem to be much point to levelling up yet, but at least there's quick progress.

What charming people
The door leads to the gray goblin village. I talk to the guard and tell him who I am. He says he thinks he's heard of me and tells me to speak with the king or queen. Once inside, its much like the other goblin village, walk around, talk to people. There's some dude in here who is either concerned for my welfare or threatening me. I can't tell with goblins. The game also offers me the option to tell these people I have a message from the green goblins, even though I have no such thing. I try speaking to the queen, but she wants me to have something important to tell her husband. Well, I just needed to sleep anyway.

Its not any less obvious when its closed, which is actually a good thing

One of the interesting RPG elements of the game include thieving mechanics. As a paladin, this is something I probably shouldn't be doing. I'm not entirely sure how this works or even how I'm going to improve it, but the game has traps, locked doors and secret doors. In the room with the silver tree down south, I noticed a secret door in the wall, albeit I didn't check it very far because I heard bats. Well, just outside the gray village is one of those secret doors.
Inside is a lockpick, a fountain that heals me, and another part of the river. If I had any points in swimming I would explore this, but I don't just yet. Actually, I should check the manual, shouldn't I? I can only increase skills if I pass by a shrine and recite a mantra. Mantras are an Ultima staple, but I didn't realize you had to recite them to gain any skills. What an obtuse system.
While exploring the section with the spiders again, I start to wonder if I screwed myself over by drinking a bottle of dark ale I found on the ground. The recipe I got from the green goblin calls for port. Because it is just like a game in this period of time to screw you out of the best ending by not having the ingredients to a stew or something.

I feel like recoloring your enemies to have some special status affect is the best use of recolored enemies

I find a red spider, I guess the differently colored enemies are all the poison variants. The red spider nearly kills me, once again bringing the game's difficulty in a questionable situation. I'm either cruising through things no question or dying horribly. The only reason why I survived this time was thanks to that fountain, hopefully it isn't going to run out or anything.

We're gonna be here a while...
I decide to go through the non-secret doors first. That means trying to kill some of those goblins outside of the towns. I'm out of space already. East, I have just one goblin to fight and he won't die. Seriously, he won't. Apparently he's one tough fellow, because he shrugs off dozens and dozens of blows, destroying a couple of my weapons.
Something tells me if Tomb Raider played like this it wouldn't be very popular
Banking on finding something behind him, I reload and rush past him. This doesn't quite work at first since two of the paths are blocked behind the dude and the one that isn't is locked. I get past him and another locked door to find myself at a Tomb Raider-style series of pillars. Jump across them to reach someplace. Only...there isn't someplace at the end, there's nothing. Further, the west group of hostile goblins is at least a trio, hardly something I am capable of dealing with now.
Limited draw distance and platforming is also fun

Into the southern secret passage, and oh, that's a problem. I absolutely understand why they put this in. Hey, real 3D, and jumping in real 3D. They didn't know that jumping in this game was terrible. Nobody had even done something like this before. I would have done the same in their shoes. Do not mistake this as saying this is good. Its not. Not with these controls. Remember, I have to press S to move forward and while doing it press J to jump. There is no turning or anything during this, and if I hit a corner or hit the J key at the wrong time its a very awkward fall down.

This should be more exciting than it is
Naturally one door is locked and there are quite a few bats here. And a worm. And I'm level 4. Save something for the second floor, game! Normally, I don't say this about RPGs, but there is such a thing as levelling up too fast. The more important thing, at least in the short term, is that I found another key. Nevertheless there's nothing else here except a vision in a orb. Perhaps its useful...probably not. After several failed jumping attempts I am out of that section.
Definitely not a modified green goblin, no sir
That key opens the door with the enemy behind it...and its an imp. Looks an awful lot like the green goblins, but what do I know? He nearly kills me, but fortunately I manage to survive. Unfortunately, the only thing of real value here is a mantra, and now my only path forward is the water and the places with the goblins in it. Again, I realize this is going for the more cerebral type of RPG experience, but this levelling system is awful.
As if I need to know what time it is in a dungeon
Before I end this, I would like to describe the look and feel of the game so far. There's something different about it. Not cumbersome necessarily, but unusual. The player's center of gravity, for lack of a better word, is more like a platformer than a RPG. I walk over things sometimes, and I don't fall over even when I should. Further, whenever I look up and down the view goes weird. The player also bumps back whenever he walks into a wall. Which doesn't sound too bad, but if you hit it at an angle while trying to enter a small area, it can be annoying.

This Session: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

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