As a couple of you pointed out in the comments to yesterday's posting, Ultima V is quite difficult in the opening stages. Shamino and Iolo summon the Avatar to help find Lord British and/or deal with Blackthorn. But after the initial arrival, there is no particular clue about where to go next. I could head off in any direction. And, as I've found, no matter what direction I choose, difficult encounters await along the way.
There are eight major cities in Britannia and a smattering of hamlets and villages. I assume I'm going to have to visit them all eventually, but the Avatar wouldn't know that, and I decided to play it straight. For all my character knows, Lord British has already returned, or at least has sent word. It's not like we have cell phones in Britannia. Thus, the first place to check things out would be Lord British's castle.
If you camp and set Iolo as the watch, he plays a little tune while you sleep. Unfortunately, the watch doesn't gain any hit points from the rest.
I played it smart this time and traveled only during the day, camping at night. This healed Shamino's wounds, which came in handy when we were best by a large party of headless.
We won, but at significant hit point losses. Already, this game seems a lot more difficult than IV, where combat was fairly easy and scaled to the level. Don't get me wrong--I like difficulty. I would also point out that enemy treasure chests--which are usually trapped--hold more than gold. I've found weapons, armor, food, gems, and keys in them as well.
And the bridge trolls are back! Every time you cross a bridge, there's a chance you will disturb one or more trolls under it. They give you a chance to pay a fee to cross, but what kind of adventurer does that?
My trek to Lord British's castle was hampered by my assumption as to my initial starting location. I have no idea why, but I assumed Iolo's hut was somewhere in the left-center of the continent, roughly south of Minoc. It turns out it's more in the western part, south of Yew. What I took for the shores of Loch Lake last night was actually the western sea. Ultimately, I figured it out and made my way to the castle, but by the time I reached it, each character only had 10-17 hit points. Iolo had been poisoned by a trap, but fortunately the game starts you off with enough reagents to mix a few spells, and I was able to cure him with an AN NOX.
I explored as much of Lord British's castle as I could, talking to each character. Dialogue is unchanged from Ultima IV, which means I love it. Here are a couple of conversations with key characters.
- You see a young girl. "I am called Treanna. What is thy name?"
- INVICTUS: "A pleasure!"
- JOB: "I am the stable girl."
- STABLE: "Lord British's stables are home to many of the finest breeds in the land."
- BRITISH: "Alas, he is no longer with us."
- BREEDS: "We have prime examples of most of the major breeds. What's thy favorite breed?"
- PAINT?: Never heard of that one, must be one of Blackthorn's new creations!"
- PLOUGH: "Well, they're well enough I suppose, but they hath not any true spirit!"
- VALORIAN: "Hey, mine too! Ever heard of a talking horse?"
- YES: "What was its name?"
- SMITH: "That's it! I have heard it lives in Iolo's barn, by his hut in the deep forest!"
I remembered Smith from Ultima IV, when he told me nothing useful. I didn't think to check around Iolo's hut for him before I went wandering out. I'll have to remember to check in on him. Maybe he'll say something interesting this time.
Chuckles was dancing about the foyer, but didn't have anything to say but nonsense. Margaret, the upper kitchen chef, thinks Lord British is dead. Her daughter, Desiree, told me about Lord Stuart the Hungry, who travels around Britannia and eats until the castles evict him; apparently, he's working on a magic spell to create food (which of course I should ask him about if I encounter him).
The throne room...
...was distressingly empty. There were several locked doors I couldn't open because I ran out of keys. There were a couple of magic doors that I don't quite yet know how to pass, including one in the Royal Prison, behind which a man named Drudgeworth insisted he "didn't kill her" and that Chuckles had him locked up.
On the roof, I encountered a guard who threw me off:
I will have to come back one of these days.
In the basement, I encountered a shifty-eyed man named Saduj sleeping at the end of a maze of barrels. I waited for him to wake up and spoke to him. He insisted he was the gardener, but when I pressed him, he asked whether I was with "the Oppression," but quickly claimed that he wasn't when I said "no." Odd. All in all, an unproductive visit to the castle.
Next to the Castle were three little towns named East, West, and North Brittany, along with the city of Britain. I figured I'd explore each and see what I could find out. I also had some troll spoils to sell. There were a lot of characters and shops in each town. Here are the more interesting things I discovered through conversation:
- Master Hawkins the shipwright has misplaced hte plans for the HMS Cape, the fastest ship ever designed. One of his employees, Sir Adam the Torch, has discovered a way using gunpowder, sulfurous ash, and mandrake, to make ships go faster.
- Thentis, a farmer, questioning whether I liked Blackthorn's new laws, let a hint slip about "the Resistance" but wouldn't give me any more. Terrance in Britain also mentioned something about the Resistance and said I should ask the owner of the Arms of Justice. I assume that's in Yew.
- An adventurer named Grayson in Britain told me that the Codex is now guarded by a pair of winged stone guardians and that you have to be on a sacred quest to pass them and view the codex. Getting a sacred quest means meditating at the shrines of virtue with the mantra. The mantra of compassion is MU.
- I visited Iolo's bows in Britain, where I thought I might get a discount, considering--you know--Iolo is part of my party. But nothing doing. His wife, Gwenno, though, was happy to join me.
- In West Brittany, I met someone who deserved a slap, but the Avatar doesn't do such things:
- Eb, a busboy in Britain, who knows about fine glassware, told me to ask Malik in Moonglow about glass swords.
- Annon, a wizard of the Great Council, said that the Council used eight Words of Power to seal the eight dungeons. Blackthorn now wants to unlock the dungeons and let the evils within spring forth, so he's been hunting down council members. The Dungeon Despise can be unlocked with the word VILIS.
None of that left me with much for the moment, so I need to think about my next step. The game manual has a journal from one of Lord British's companions that describes, in significant detail, the location where they descended into the underworld, and I think the Avatar would try to explore this location for clues next.
I'll also note before I close that the runic alphabet, laid out in Ultima IV, is used to a much greater extent in this game. Many of the key words in conversation are rendered in the alphabet's code, and in one town, I found an entire graveyard with headstones in runic. I wasn't about to translate all of them.
The game really is a lot of fun, and I wish I had a good solid block of time to devote to it, but I'm stealing 15 minutes here, 20 there, from my crushing schedule. I'm going to work hard this week to ensure I have a nice long chunk of playing time this weekend.