Well, that was distressingly quick and easy. All that stuff I had written about last time be damned, I decided it was time. Dupre, Shamino, Mariah, and Iolo had achieved level 7, Jaana and Julia level 6, and Katrina level 5. I had decent enough equipment. Time to go forward. I made one last stop at the Bloody Plains to restock on mandrake, figuring on the need for a lot of resurrect spells, then headed for the Island of the Abyss.
In a comment on my last posting, Lord Quipworthy noted that I had forgotten about the mystic weapons and armor. I had, but I also remember from past games that you don't really need the mystics in the Abyss. Although it's true that non-magical weapons don't work, magic wands, bows, swords, and so on work fine. Since the mystics are not ranged weapons, there didn't seem to me to be any reason to pick them up.
Okay, let's take it step by step. To get to this final dungeon, you'll recall, I had to:
- Achieve avatarhood in each of the eight virtues by conducting myself in an exemplary manner. This included not cheating blind peddlers, not fleeing from battle, allowing wounded enemies to flee, allowing non-evil creatures to escape battle, answering truthfully when people asked questions, displaying humility when people asked if I was best or greatest at something, giving to beggars, donating hit points at a blood bank, and talking to Hawkwind the Seer frequently to check my progress. I then had to find the runes and learn the mantras for each of the virtues and meditate at their associated shrines.
- Obtain the bell of courage, book of truth, and candle of love, each hidden at a different location, by getting clues through conversations.
- Explore the dungeons and find each of the eight stones of virtue, using them in the dungeon altar rooms to obtain the three-part key.
- Obtain the word of passage of three parts from the lords of the three keeps dedicated to truth, love, and courage.
- Build up my experience and gold through copious combat; buy decent weapons, armor, and reagents. Mix spells.
- Learn about the relationships between the virtues and the three principles of virtue.
Once I reached the Island of the Abyss, the magic wheel I found on the ruins of the H.M.S. Cape proved fairly useful, increasing my hull strength from 50 to 99. The cove leading into the island, you see, is crawling with pirates.
Fortunately, I defeated them all and lined up their ships into a bridge in case I had to return. As it turns out, I didn't.
The next stage involved walking through poison and then healing my characters at the end. Amateur stuff.
Ultimately, I came to a large patch of lava and had to wade my way in to the center. I used the bell, book, and candle (oddly enough, in that order--you would have thought that it would have gone book, candle, bell--in the order of truth, love, and courage) and the lava parted to reveal the entrance to a dungeon.
I entered and immediately tried a spell. In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that it didn't work.
Finding your way through the Abyss is a sometimes difficult process that involves wandering through a variety of rooms until you reach each level's altar. The rooms have a lot of lava and nasty critters. Here, for example, is one of the early ones, full of fire and fire-breathing lizards.
Magical mapping gems help a lot. Without this gem on Level 4, I would have wasted a lot of time entering dead-end rooms instead of going through the secret doors.
As I said, each level has an altar at which you demonstrate your knowledge of the virtues by answering a fairly simple question, then choosing the correct color stone.
This Level 4 room was a bit eerie:
This Level 5 room was the most annoying location in the game, full of reapers that cast the "sleep" spell over and over and over again. It took about 45 minutes to get through it one slow move at a time. The "awake" spell barely helps because they put you to sleep again almost as fast.
Level 6 had a series of rooms arranged in a block that formed something of a maze. It took me a while to get through it. Here is one of the rooms--note that nothing connects the east and west sides. Also note that for some strange reason, I'm fighting tornadoes.
On Level 7, the rooms got tricky with the secret doors. It took a while to figure out how to open up the walls and get through this room. It didn't help that the balron in the center kept putting me to sleep.
Finally, I reached Level 8. In a memorable penultimate room, I found myself face to face with my own party. It was pathetic how quickly the doppelgangers died.
At last I reached the final altar and found myself in the Chamber of the Codex, where my three-part key and the password VERAMOCOR gave me access (the image, I emphasize, comes from the XU4 remake, not the original game):
A mysterious voice (discussion question: who is the mysterious voice? God? The Codex itself?) began to ask me again of the virtues. Each correct answer filled in part of a symbol.
Then suddenly the Xu4 remake failed me. I couldn't get past "justice" without it crashing. Fortunately, the save game was transferable to the original. The rest of the screenshots are from the original DOS Ultima IV. To see the difference, here is a shot of one of the dungeon rooms and the altar.
I finished answering the questions about the eight virtues. They weren't very difficult because they proceeded in the usual order: honesty, compassion, valor, justice, sacrifice, honor, spirituality, humility. It would be better if the game tricked you a little by asking them out of order.
Then there were three questions about the principles of virtue, again presented in the usual order: truth, love, and courage.
Finally, the last question. I remember that this caught me off guard when I played Ultima IV as a kid. You find the answer by writing down the letters you see in visions as you achieve your avatarhood in each virtue. I didn't write them down. I also didn't want to go back and do it all again, and there was no Internet at the time, so I called Origin systems and got the answer from a helpful woman on the phone.
I still don't fully understand what "infinity" has to do with it, but there it is. Having given this final answer....
I've always been a little confused about what the Codex actually is. Who created it? Who put it at the bottom of this dungeon? If my quest was to find it, does anyone get to read it afterwards? What does it say? I'm not sure that later Ultimas help much with these questions.
The game at this point tells me:
The boundless knowledge of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom is revealed unto thee. The voice says: 'Thou has proven thyself to be truly good in nature. Thou must know that the quest to become an Avatar is the endless quest of a lifetime. Avatarhood is a living gift. It must always and forever be nurtured to flourish. For if thou dost stray from the paths of virtue, thy way may be lost forever. Return now unto thine own world. Live there as an example to thy people, as our memory of thy gallant deeds serves us.
Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, right? I mean, it would have been nice to get some congratulations from Lord British or something. Oh, well. The game continues:
As the sound of the voice trails off, darkness seems to rise around you. There is a moment of intense, wrenching vertigo. You open your eyes to a familiar circle of stones. You wonder of your recent adventures. It seems a time and place very distant. You wonder if it really happened. Then you realize that in your hand you hold The Ankh. You walk away from the circle, knowing that you can always return from whence you came, since you now know the secret of the gates. [This is an odd line, given that in all subsequent games the Avatar is explicitly summoned to Britannia, with no evidence that he ever used the gates at-will.]
And then it's over. It only took me 82,395 turns and practically two months. Going into it, I thought it might take as little as one long weekend.
I believe that the game's exhortations to "return now unto thine own world" and "live there as an example to thy people" are an honest attempt on the creators' parts (primarily Richard Garriott's part) to instill a codified sense of morality in the players of the game. So I'll tell you what. Here's what I'm going to do tomorrow:
- Confess to my wife that my PhD program is actually costing 50% more than I originally told her.
- Call up a friend who's going through a tough time and spend as long on the phone as she wants to talk about it.
- Give my umbrella to the first person I see walking in the rain without one.
- Lend some more money through Kiva.
That covers honesty, compassion, valor, and sacrifice. Any ideas for honor, justice, spirituality, and humility?
Let's do a final ranking for Ultima IV and then, regrettably, move on.