Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ultima IV: Travel

My Ultima IV gameplay today mirrored the last four weeks of my real life: I traveled all over the world and visited a bunch of different cities. Of course, in real life I did it by airplane instead of by pirate ship.

I got some immediate luck as I started playing, encountering a pirate ship nearly immediately. So many locations in Ultima IV are accessible only by ship--Buccaneer's Den, the town of Cove, the island of the Abyss--that having one is absolutely essential. But I forgot how much of a pain in the neck it is to fight from them, especially if your characters don't have missile weapons. There are only a couple of points from which you can attack.

When cannons fail...

My ship gets attacked by creatures constantly--much more often than I remember from earlier Ultima IV plays. The battles are annoying because water creatures don't drop any treasure and, being non-evil, you're not really supposed to kill them anyway.

Nonetheless, between ships and moongates, today I visited the rest of the eight major Ultima IV towns and the four minor villages (Buccaneer's Den, Cove, Vesper, and Paws). Some notes from a few of these towns:

  • Continuing our analysis of famous quotes, I have met a wizard in Moonglow named Shakespeare who tells me that "corruption wins not more than honesty!" This, of course, is a quote from Shakespeare's Henry VIII. In the play, the line is delivered by Thomas Woolsey, and the full quote is: "Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee; Corruption wins not more than honesty." This has implications for several of the Ultima IV virtues.
  • An old gypsy named Inoo tells me that my destiny is to descend into the Abyss and read the codex.
  • I learn that Nigel at the Lycaeum knows the "recall" (also known as "resurrect" spell). This is important because the Book of Mystic Wisdom does not give you the reagent combination for this spell.
  • A sleep spell requires only one part spider silk. The book says you need two.
  • The blue stone of honesty is in the dungeon Deceit (note how the dungeon names always suggest the opposite of the associated virtue: compassion = Despise; honor = Shame; etc.)
  • A paladin named Cromwell tells me that the mantra of honesty is AHM. He also tells me that "a few honest men are better than numbers," which of course is a real Oliver Cromwell quote and fits perfectly with the Henry VIII theme established by Shakespeare. Wow, am I glad I started looking these things up.
  • A wizard named Rebelias tells me to "speak the truth and shame the evil forces." This is a paraphrase of a quote from the French author Francois Rabelais: "speak the truth and shame the devil."
  • There are a bunch of chests in a room occupied by a "starving journalist" named Tracie. I do not steal them because this would be dishonest. Tracie wants to quit smoking. I assume this is an in-joke of some kind.
  • I meet a jester named Dekker, probably an allusion to Thomas Dekker, another Elizabethan dramatist. A little Googling also informs me that there is a character named John Dekker in Origin's Wing Commander. I hope no one is getting sick of this kind of thing, because I find it a lot of fun.
  • The mage Mariah joins me.
  • There's a kid named "Short Round" who works for "Jones."
  • I ask Calumny about mandrake, and he tells me it can only be found in the Fens of the Dead or on the Bloody Plains. I seem to recall never being able to find it in the Fens in previous games.
  • By being honest about having committed crimes, I got a clue as to the location of the rune of Justice: in a cell in the jail with a criminal.
  • The mantra of justice is BEH
  • Jaana the Druid doesn't join me because I'm not experienced enough. I had forgotten that you're limited in your number of companions by your level. I'm level 4. Having already picked up Shamino, Iolo, and Mariah, I will need to wait until I level up before I can collect anyone else.
Finding the rune of justice in the cell of a violent criminal. Irony.

Buccaneer's Den
  • Visited the guild and bought a slew of torches, gems (they allow you to automap areas), and keys (for jimmying locked doors).


  • Magincia was founded on the non-virtue of pride and was destroyed by daemons for its sins. This has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Why would daemons care that a city was proud? This is especially puzzling given what we found out about daemons in Ultima VI.
  • The rune was banished from the city. I should ask Barren in Paws
  • I need a silver horn to pass the daemons guarding the shrine of humility on the north bank of the isle of the Abyss. I can find out about the horn from the Queen of Love's lady-in-waiting. Presumably this is in Empath Abbey.

I finished off the day with a visit to the town of Cove, where I talked to a seahorse and an inanimate ankh as well as Paul and Linda McCartney spouting some nonsense about teaching children songs of joy. There is also a man named Rabindranath Tagore, named after the Indian writer, who issues one of the real Tagore's quotes: "In love, all of life's contradictions dissolve and disappear," a line used by--you guessed it--Paul McCartney.

My plan for the rest of the game now looks something like this:

  • Visit the Lycaeum, Empath Abbey, and Serpent's Hold (the three keeps devoted to the principles of virtue: truth, love, and courage).
  • Re-visit each of the major towns, collecting all of the mantras and runes, resolving clues I got in other towns, jimmying doors that I previously found locked, and dispelling fields blocking my path to characters or places.
  • Pray at each of the shrines.
  • Visit each of the dungeons and collect the stones.
  • Do any other items on my list before the end game.
  • Descend into the Abyss.
In my next post, I'll discuss the magic system. In the meantime, here's a role-playing question. You're sailing along and you come across something like the image below. Clearly something is to be found in that little patch of water, but so far I haven't received any hints--I just happened to stumble on it. Do you search anyway, or wait for the appropriate hint?


  1. Hurray! I'm so glad you're back! Keep up the good work, especially the inter-textual connections. Great stuff.

  2. Just a quick suggestion, but perhaps when you start the next game, you could put the year of its release next to the name in the post title? Eg, "Game 16: Ultima IV (1986)". Or if not in the post title, at least somewhere early in the post, just to help some of us that are less familiar with the history of CRPGs to keep track of roughly where in the chronology you are. That said, I've really enjoyed reading about the older games I missed by virtue of not existing yet, it's interesting to see the gradual (sometimes sudden) changes in gameplay, character, and story depth over the years. I'm looking forward to when you reach the mid-late '90s, a lot of my favourite RPGs are from that era.

  3. Excellent idea, SCF, and implemented.

  4. This is especially puzzling given what we found out about daemons in Ultima VI.

    Do we learn something about daemons in Ultima VI? It's got the Gargoyles, which people mistake for daemons, and it works with the "the daemons were Gargoyles all along" angle by retconning a peaceful daemon from Ultima V into a Gargoyle hermit. Problem is, Ultima VI also has the traditional, evil, summoned-from-a-pentagram daemons, who look a lot like smaller winged Gargoyles.

    The later games don't really manage to take a stand on this either. Ultima Underworlds mention Gargoyles, but have nasty horned, winged daemon critters from a netherworld. Serpent Isle has daemons having been Gargoyles all along, then Pagan's back with evil horned demons being raised from pentagrams.

  5. Anon, I WAS referring to the fact that "daemons" turn out to be "gargoyles," but I agree with you that there's enormous confusion on this point. I'll address it when I get to that game. I'm looking forward to seeing (or remembering) the retcon you're talking about.

  6. I don't think there's anything incongruous in roleplaying curiosity. If I lived in a magical world filled with blatant symbology and hidden artifacts and was sailing along and found a perfect "circle" of shallow water surrounding a deeper portion, I'd steal peek, for sure.

  7. I always thought that the gargoyles were mistaken for daemons because they looked similar, but that daemons still existed in their own right. So some (most?) daemons encountered were actually gargoyles, but the rest were real daemons. As anon said, there were actual daemons in U6. And don't forget the Slasher of Veils in Ultima Underworld (set after U6) and Arcadion in U7 & Serpent Isle. Demons were also planned for U10:

  8. RM, I concede your well-argued and well-referenced point.

  9. This has probably been thoroughly figured out by now seen as I'm reading (and greatly enjoying) these posts in chronological order but I'm assuming actual Pride brought down Magincia.

    The biggest mistakes are usually made through carelessness and/or arrogance, both resulting from an over-abundance of pride, or lack of humility if you prefer.

    My guess is a cadre of mages got a bit too cocky and forgot to light the seventh candle at the apex of the fifth uh... "pent" in the pentagram. You know, the one covered in bat wing oils. Or maybe someone forgot the salt.

    Anyhoo, the binding failed and a portal was opened. Seen as they didn't have any Doom space marines handy, they all got served, except for whatsherface.

    Also, Daemons were present in Ultima Online from the get-go (as were Gargoyles). A level 8 spell if I remember correctly? The ones reporting to their Team Leader, Pyros, in Ultima VIII I don't count seen as it's a different dimension in the Guardian's 'back garden'.

    Although having said that, it neatly links Pagan with Britannia by proxy...

  10. Hmm... I remember finding the Bell from that patch. Could be wrong though... Ages since I last played it.

  11. More combat: I forgot to mention something that changes the dynamic of battles. Ranged weapons and spells in the NES version can target any enemy. No longer was I restricted to straight lines. This made combat a heck of a lot easier. The last bit of difference is the only enemy you can see on the world map are pirate ships. All others are invisible random encounters. The concept of not killing non-evil beings isn't incorporated either. I can't speak for this last point in the SMS port, but it parrots the PC game so much I doubt they'd miss it.

    Spells: The NES version has herbs, but there's no mixing of reagents. A separate inventory window is used to keep track of them, and they're used automatically as you cast the spells.

    On the NES, you only need a single key to unlock all the doors. It costs 2,000 gold to offset this great utility.

    You wrote about dispelling fields, but I'm not sure what you're talking about. Probably another difference.

    For myself, if I ran across a patch of terrain that looked different, I'd definitely investigate. I really don't see a reason to pass on an opportunity for a bit of adventure for the sake of trying to piece only the clues given by characters. The land speaks just as much.

    1. Oh, I forgot to mention this since it was the same in Exodus, but there's no firing a broadside barrage from the ship. I'd say it was because you can't see the enemies, but you could see them in Exodus. I'm not sure why they removed this feature. A ship in the NES port is purely a means of travel.

  12. If it was me, I'd definitely check out the circle anyway, even if nobody had told me about it. I can see with my own eyes that there's SOMETHING going on there; I don't need somebody else to tell me that for it to get my "I should probably take a closer look at this" senses tingling!


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