Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Ultima Underworld: At Least It Works...

Two major things happened since last entry. The first, is that I got MT32 emulation going in DOSbox-X, which means that I get superior music. Not really any sound improvement, but I guess that's to be expected. The second, is that I had to restart and run the game from a CD copy. Yeah, turns out the original floppy version had a horrific glitch where all your items start turning into different items and eventually disappear. This wasn't supposed to happen til the end game, but it happens if there are more than 724 or so items throughout the game. Seems like bad game design when you have enemies that throw lots of single items.
Side note, while this doesn't affect the CD version or the sequel, it does affect the Japanese-only PSX version. Part of what I'm planning on doing when I finally understand Japanese is going through all these effectively remade versions of western games. Not really something that's going to appear here very often though.

To bring you up to speed on what I found before the game forced me to restart, I found the human settlement, which was not far from the human who told me about it. I just didn't notice it since the game has a short draw distance and the place I'm supposed to jump to is lower. Its not a big settlement, containing four people. There's not really much new information. Humans here were all surface criminals; The goblins hate each other and the kings can barely hold on; There's a shrine on this floor I should go to; The baron's daughter is further down. Probably would have been helpful if I found them before I met with the two groups of goblins.
Note the damage log there
There's one thing that section gives me that's a big advantage, a shortsword. Its not in the best of shape, but its the first weapon I've got that actually deals some damage. Seeing as how many goblins on this floor that want me dead exist, its not for use against random wildlife. Incidentally, I didn't notice this the first time around, but exploring actually increases your XP. Probably not the first game to do this, but I don't think these things happen often in the more action oriented RPGs. There's also some item randomization, though enemies seem to always be the same.

Two more interesting things I discover on my second way through. The gray goblin king is having trouble with a she-spider. Doesn't seem like a quest, since clearing out the spider section of the map does nothing. I also discover a way down in the southwest section, a jump over a river south of the green goblins. I can open it, but I prefer to hold off until I find that shrine.
It doesn't take too long until I get back to roughly where I was. I think I'm missing a couple of bats and spiders, but otherwise I should be where I was. Here's the thing, just before I had to restart I was taking out the goblins. This wasn't a lucky shot either, I pretty much always succeeded in taking out the goblins. Now though? My shortsword just gets destroyed, guaranteed.

And the same thing happens yet again

Further, there was a skeleton, who last time, I had slain quite readily. Here though, it took some time. I really hope that healing fountain doesn't run out, because that's the only reason so far I can actually kill some of these enemies. We'll get to that in a bit, but I felt it was important that I made it through these fights with two shortswords and full armor. I'm missing boots but I don't know where a pair is yet.

The perfect person to graverob
North of the lone gray goblin is the pillars that didn't lead anywhere from last time. Turns out there was a door I needed to unlock that controlled the height of each pillar. Yes, a Tomb Raider puzzle four years before Tomb Raider. I'm starting to suspect that the people behind Tomb Raider really liked RPGs. This puzzle leads to the tomb of the master builder. Robbing it, like the mighty paragon of virtue I am, and there's some leather armor, but seemingly more importantly, a sceptre and a sphere. What they do? I don't know, it just seems useful. Perhaps the game will acknowledge that I'm not acting very heroic, but for an immersion sim, we're not getting a lot of immersion.

So I go west to take out that trio of green goblins, and wouldn't you know it, they go down much easier now that I'm level 5. So, what we have is level gating. On one hand, my least favorite aspect of RPGs, on the other hand, I expect to be at level 16 long before the end of the game. I find a more standard path downstairs and another key. Unfortunately its just a copy of one I already have. Since bashing doors is a thing, I see if I can bash the one door I don't have a key for, but no dice. Maybe it needs a special item? I guess I go downstairs?

The next level down starts very...genericly. Corridors full of the worm enemies, I take them out with one strike and then try to find something that makes sense. I find a shrine for once. Firstly, I start off trying the scroll I found last time, but that turns out to be a spell, not a mantra. Instead I can just use one of the three generic mantras from the manual. Here's the thing, they give random stats. So I take three attack mantras, one magic and one other. I can swim now, which is good, but I have no real consistent combat advance. Its official, I hate this game's RPG aspect.

If it quacks like a duck
Once I find a proper way out of the retro-inspired part of the dungeon, I pretty quickly find a dwarf behind a gate and a sign of Cabirus. Guess these are the mountainmen. This is bigger than the "towns" last level. I quickly find out that a monster is in their mines and they need me to save them. Not very original, but a better quest than I presume getting the two goblin tribes together on the pretext of lies.
I guess I should talk about trading. I'm not entirely clear as to how the system works, beyond the person I'm trading with having items I want and me having items I don't need. That's really befitting of most RPG barter systems.
If RPGs have taught me anything, this man is perfectly trustworthy

Not too far from the mountainmen town is another mountainman, who seems to be slightly mad. This one is interested in finding his "blueprints". A map judging by context. The map is in the storage room. Which I go back and check, but it is locked. Curious, since it says free to all. Anyway, once inside, I need to use a flying potion to reach his item. Only problem is he knows where there's a flying potion, and a poison potion, but he doesn't know which is which. So I decide to ignore this until I find a key and a potion. Hey, saves!

Not that this was the most original aspect of Pathways anyway
Past the guy lies a golden spiral staircase. I believe he told me about this. At the end there's a locked door, but there's also a lot of corridors down here, because there were pits solely to screw you over climbing down. There's a new enemy here. Headless. I wasn't expecting that that had been done before Pathways. More importantly, this here fellow is too tough for me to kill, so I reload.
I expect by the final floor I'm going to have to cut down hundreds of goblins just to go 10 feet
East is a series of corridors, and basically the rest of the level. Reminds me of the ones from Shadowcaster, but that's probably just because you can't really depict a mine in too many different ways in 1993. I find the next stairs down fairly quickly, which I decide against taking. Next to it is a passage above a river. I'm sensing a theme in this game. I encounter three goblins here. They're slightly stronger than the ones from the last floor. Naturally, I have to retreat. As I'm retreating, through the same path I took to get here, I see two more goblins. Which is to say the game has decided now is the time to start spawning enemies against me.
You couldn't tell me that before I came here?
I take this opportunity to return to the first floor to see about getting the goblins to agree to peace, but it seems whatever chance of that I had has passed. I reload an earlier save and instead explore the 2nd floor in a different direction. Two skeletons, which I can take out, and I have a lantern and plenty of swords. No more slumming around with axes for me!
Trying to mark something important down

Incidentally, let's talk about the map. As I mentioned the first time, its an item. One you have to find, albeit quickly, but still not some default icon on the HUD. It works mostly well, the distance it marks down is shorter than the distance I can see, so filling it out is sometimes annoying. What I'm not finding truly awful, is that the game has a note feature. Not unusual today, but unusual for the time. Thing is, that note feature just puts text on the screen. I'm not sure what I expected the game to do, but this is awful.

I think I need more than a helmet for this one
The mine is right next to the back door of the mountainmen settlement, which is funny since that's locked. There are two paths here, one north and one south. The monster is north, so I decide to take the south way. For exploration XP. The amount of space here isn't that much and I have a good running speed, but it feels like there is a lot of space here. A lot of free space.

No substitute for practice? Maybe if this game didn't make me chant in front of an ankh
So in this southern section is a mountainman just chilling behind a door. He's a proper smith, and tells me about two of the Talismans that Cabirus had made, a sword and a shield. He knows where neither of them are, but he does know that the sword, Caliburn, was broken into two pieces. I also trade with him for a chainmail shirt. I don't know what the deal with repairing items is in this game, but I suspect this guy isn't going to appreciate me using any of his stuff. In another section of this cavern there's a miner mountainman who tells me that they caved in the north half of the mine to contain the monster and that I should use a rock hammer to break up those weird rocks.
Is this the she-spider?
I decide that I should take out the monster later. If the headless won't fall to my sword at this stage than neither will Mr. built-up monster. I find another way back up and a key I don't know the use for yet. This allows me to get to that fountain relatively quickly. Back in the endless hallways that make up floor 2, I find a locked gate and a maze. I find some scrolls with mantras/spells on them, but none of them are for things I actually want to improve. As its doubtful that I wish to improve my bartering skills.
What's it take to have a fight that doesn't break every item in my inventory?

The large group of goblins just needed a couple of levels to properly take out. I am doing some moving around, but it seems like if I can actually deal damage to an enemy, I'm going to win the fight. Except if they can poison me. They're not really guarding much of interest. Hmm, this is everything except the monster and the headless. Looks like there's a lot of empty space on the river. Including an area where there isn't anything connected above. It turns out to be where this floor's healing fountain is. And after killing a squid, I have free access to it.

Poison is a very mild annoyance so far
Back at the downward golden staircase, I take a path I didn't last time and find myself in a trap room. If you step on the black part of the floor, you die. I figured that trap would show up sooner or later. There are also poison worms here, but they're hardly any trouble. The trap is guarding yet another key. Well, let's try some of these keys, shall we?
This seems like especially bad game design
Hey, wait a minute, these are just two potions. What's even the difference between these and the ones I already have? Well, one's a red potion and one's a magical red potion. Hmm...I think I get it, the green potion is poison, and the red potion is levitation. Since I remember drinking that green potion before restarting and it didn't allow me to fly. And that's a lot of crap, the red potion heals, and the green one poisons me. The last, note, mostly undistinguishable green potion allows me to fly.
The headless are still too powerful for me, so I guess I'll come back. Back at the settlement, one of the keys opens the door. Only, there's nothing really worth getting in here beyond food, and there's certainly nothing I need a potion for. What exactly am I supposed to be doing for the crazy dwarf, anyway?
I get that its intending for me to backtrack, but it feels really cheap this way
That left the monster the mountainmen needed dealt with. Its a gazer, one of those legally cool names for beholders. And you know what? He's also practically invulnerable. Which is unfortunate, because that means there's nothing really left for me to do on this floor. I guess I'll come back to mop these guys up, but I'm already halfway to the max level and I'm just about to reach the third floor. Actual character skill seems irrelevant compared to whatever level my character is. I expected this game to be slightly lacking in the FPS department, but to be lacking in the RPG department? Huh.

This Session: 1 hour 40 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

1 comment:

  1. I hope you eventually found out that the Lore skill is useful.