Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ultima Underworld: Paragon of Virtue

South turned out to be in the main office, which was west of the entrance. Joining up with the knight order is tricky, because its a dialog puzzle. Say the wrong thing and you'll have to get someone to sponsor you into the knight order. Most of these are obvious, some are not. For this I am asked to find the writ of Lorne.
I also ask him about the Talismans and he tells me what all 8 are. A book, a bottle of wine, a shield and sword, a taper, a standard, a cup and a ring. The taper being a candle and the standard is a military flag. Each one is imbued with a virtue, and one achieves that virtue in both the seeking and the finding. Now where do I go?
Trying to open a chest with a little percussive lockpicking, didn't work

Without any other real options, I try jumping up some of those waterfalls. I succeed, despite taking damage, and all I see up here is just a chest and a few new monsters. Guess all that's here really is two camps and a banquet hall. Well, since the only places I can explore are the knight camp and the troll camp, downstairs it is. Something tells me the trolls aren't going to be to friendly to me now.

Ultima Underworld is just the kind of game where you have to check before stabbing something

There's seemingly even less to do on the 5th floor than there was on the 4th. From the stairs there are two paths, one leading to a camp, and a long winding corridor leading to a dead end. Ah, guess that inspired a few Wolfenstein 3D levels. And what is in the camp but ghouls? Not like Fallout where they're using a standard term to describe something that isn't quite the standard. Ghouls, if you don't know, are Arabic mythological undead who eat corpses. You know, what we today would call a zombie. Quite the collection of friendlies we've started picking up here today, fellas. What's next, my friend the necromancer? And this ghoul's a tailor too.

This does remind me of a mediocre band I once listened to, can't even remember anything about it beyond being funk and relating to bad brain (but not the band Bad Brains)
Exploring around some more, and I end up meeting the leader of the ghouls. She'll tell me where the big troll took the baron's daughter if I help her with a ghoul who ate bad brains. Not beating around that bush. Sure am glad to be helping out my fellow sentients. There's definitely a reasonable point to be made that moralizing traditionally fodder monsters doesn't really work out that well. I mean, I already know that they eat other sentients' brains. These may be humans who degenerated into cannibals, but the point still stands.

Since they can and presumably do still talk to each other, shouldn't their language skills not have degenerated this much
Anyway, I tell the ghoul leader to make a trap so she can find the ghoul who gave out the bad brains. The troll went down to the wizard. Didn't I already know this? Eh. Exploring more, since I have yet to find the path down, I talk to another ghoul. Who tells me their backstory. It seems that once they were normal humans who turned to cannibalism after the abyss was sealed. Slightly less questionable than before. He also tells me that he used to be a flutist and that he can teach me how to play Cabirus's favorite tune should I find a flute. And another ghoul who for ten fish will tell me the combination to the mine dispatch chamber. I don't even know what the hell the point of it is, but I'm sure its important.
I feel like there's very little effort needed to make a ghost scary-looking, and yet most people fail at doing that, this is not one of those cases

After that, I seem to find my way out of the camp. This floor is on the mazy side, and by the time I realize I'm out of the area I'm already fighting a hostile ghoul. Yeah, figures. Then a hostile ghost. Who I can somehow stab with my sword. On one hand, I shouldn't complain, on the other, what's the point of a ghost then?

Its here somewhere
It doesn't take before I end up fighting another ghoul, and he's joined by a black ghost. Its awfully weird how many enemies this shares with Pathways into Darkness. Awfully weird, not that you can really copyright a black ghost or a ghoul. The beauty of this encounter is almost destroyed by my health getting dangerously low. So I retreat, once again back up to the 2nd floor. Clearly, this is just going to get more and more tedious, so I decide to try finding anything else on the 3rd floor. There's gotta be another fountain, right?
I feel like a lot of screenshots in this entry are becoming, spot what's wrong here?
There were a lot of potential locations for the hidden fountain, but it seemed to me that the most likely locations were in the northwest or southeast. No dice. After the southeast location I found myself near the friendly bandits. Hey, maybe there's a hidden door here. Because the developers were probably banking on a player acting like the Avatar and not gutting them. I do try being friendly with them, but they get ticked off regardless and afterward I can search the whole place. It isn't until I'm checking the map afterwards that I notice this secret door. Guess they're getting better at hiding them.
Still, all this is just a treasure room. The only thing I got out of this was a few more swords and some XP. And no closer to uncovering more of this floor. You know, I didn't know how annoying this engine makes it to search for secret doors. Wall distortion at the edges of the screen means you have to look directly at each wall in order to check, and hoping that you can walk through a wall is worse. I don't know if I mentioned it before specifically, but you walking against walls here is weird, like Highlander - Last of the MacLeods*. If you walk dead into a wall, you stop, but if you go at an angle, you turn until you no longer face the wall. It was a nice thought, but it doesn't work well.
*Why, yes, I went there. Funny how vast the comparisons one could make of this game are. From RPGs, to TPSes to FPSes to survival horror games. Truly, anyone can find something out of this game.
Its out of place too, clearly its some kind of secret
A couple of times through the level, and I notice something in the southeast. A wall that doesn't cause a "You can't use this" message. I can't move through it, or open it or even damage it. I think I'll fireball it but I don't have the runes for that. How do I not have the runes for one of the most basic spells in any game? Well, I don't know what else I could possibly do here, so I guess I'll come back when I have that. I guess instead I'll try to find a fountain on the 4th floor, and I begin by searching the knight camp.
One of the knights talking about the olden days
At first, all I find here is more info. I'm the first new person down here in a while, as in, down on the 4th floor. There are also a lot of notes for a maze, that doesn't seem to be on this floor. But there's also a backdoor out. Where does this lead? Why, to a knight who tried to take out the chaos knight and is currently resting. As per the rules of our order, we can't all attack at once, so one was sent. The chaos knight snuck up on him and as a result he was lucky to escape with his life. Who's going to help him out? Why, the new blood...assuming his level is high enough.
Not sure what's so chaos about living in harmony with wildlife, even if it is vermin
The chaos knight turns out to actually be in the northernmost part of the map, you can't reach it at all without going through a camp in the south. He's surrounded by mellow wildlife, except for some worms that are hostile. He takes a trip to the fountain midway, but he's beatable. He drops a jeweled sword and a key. Hang on, a fancy sword? Didn't this guy go mad? I wonder if its cursed? I think I'll leave it for now.
Can you spot what's wrong here?

Rather than go back to the wounded knight, I decide to examine some secret doors behind the guy. Yeah, two of them, and as you can see we're actually getting into secret territory. I was tipped off in this case because of my map. More effective than any points in detect secret. What's amusing is that this is a secret door, into a locked door, and inside this area is another secret door. Possibly containing the cup of virtue, I don't really have a reason to get such things yet.

On the other side is a sign that says "Great Staircase" that leads nowhere and another passage with two levers and two buttons leading to a lake. Hmm, you know, I think this game is limited exclusively to lever puzzles. I would guess that this is supposed to lower a platform on the other side, but nothing seems to do anything. I can come back later anyway.

Though maybe they could have called them headless trolls
The banquet hall also leads into the troll area. I say troll area and it starts off pretty empty. I open up a door and suddenly headless start pouring out. Why do trolls have the undead here? Oh, wait a minute, headless trolls! I get it. Two interesting things happen here. Firstly, I get to level 12, which took as about as long as the previous levels combined, and somehow despite having a good chunk of life left, I got killed. It was a while since I last saved, so I just rolled with it.
The descriptions of enemies, despite being useful, borders on absurdly obvious at times
After walking back, and taking out the last headless, I head to the next room. Luckily I don't walk straight through after opening it, because its a drop onto pavement. Gotta love that ol' gag. Seems like the troll's half of this area is mostly divided into areas with the hostile kind. I find a "feral" troll in the southwestern door, he's easier than the last bunch. Another troll and I find some more magic items. You know, I'm finding these things quite useless. There are just enough potions and plenty enough fountains that its not really worth holding onto, and I'm finding magic useless enough that the complex quasi-Dungeon Master system feels pointless.
I would think it wouldn't matter if I had a recipe or not, but what do I know?

Finally, a friendly troll. Ah, worm stew, guess that's come back to actually matter. I thought I would need it to make peace, no, I just need it to please a random troll. This is just another thing I'm going to come back to later, since I don't know how important this is. Meanwhile, the quest for the writ goes well, I just needed to give the one guy who doesn't remember my name a red gem and I can enter a shrine. This, along with having slain the chaos knight, gets me some sweet stuff from the head knight, and grants me full knighthood.
At this point, it occurs to me that maybe the levers and buttons I don't know the use of are related to the door that drops down into the room. No dice, but since its the only place left I start to explore it. And after killing some skeletons, I find a secret door to a path where I just was. Guess there really is nothing else I can do here now.

Ah, yes, how romantic, staring into lava
Downstairs, I find myself fighting a bunch of poisonous spiders. Gotten pretty good at dodging their attacks. The section down from the banquet hall consists mostly of areas with vermin to clear out. Well, vermin and spiders. Lots of vast and long hallways that look impressive because you have a sight range of around 10 feet. The south eventually breaks into the lava river that the ghouls live near, and with it, a strange woman in a robe. Incidentally, the lava river looks kind of crap in this engine, since every square a certain distance away warps in, since it isn't always there.
Judy...wait, that random wall scribbling isn't related to a bandit and actually effects something? Huh, I would have thought this would be like Ween: The Prophecy and it was something that happened a long time ago. Well, one member of the romantic pair is dead, and the living one wants me to find the photograph of her dead loved one. Wait...photograph? Are you kidding me?
I end this session by finding myself talking to another mage. This one wants to be able to mine a rare material found in this section of the abyss. The only issue is that I need to convince the mining ghoul to tell us how to operate the machine. I guess I did need that spare fishing pole. Guess I'm off to finish the first fishing mini-game sidequest. Now there's something I never wanted to say.

This Session: 2 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes

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