After my underworld fiasco, I traveled overland to Yew, the City of Justice, to seek out information on the Resistance (I'd received a hint in one of the little Brittany towns). To replenish some equipment, finances, and experience, I ground against some bridge trolls along the way. (The game makes it easy to find combats by just standing on a bridge and holding down the spacebar.) Opening a chest and finding a whole pile of treasure and items, instead of just gold, makes combat in this game very satisfying.
Ultima V offers a succinct and perfect description of CRPGs: "Some torches! A ring of keys! A sack of gold! A weapon! A weapon!"
But when I got to Yew, a Shadowlord--likely whichever one is associated with falsehood--was hanging around, and he chased me as soon as I saw him. I fled the town with the Shadowlord hot on my heels. I figured the Shadowlord wasn't always in town--I would have remembered that from the last time I played the game--so I decided to go wandering around for a while until he disappeared. He was gone by the next morning, but the Shadowlord of Cowardice was there instead. Annoyed, I stalked off for Empath Abbey for the day.
Empath Abbey, as you may remember from Ultima IV, is one of three keeps dedicated to the principles of virtue: truth, love, and courage. In the courtyard, one of my wishes came true:
In the Abbey, a small man named Toshi offered to join me; after he did, he turned out to be a bard, bringing my current bard complement to 3. A little while later, I found Julia the tinker, one of my companions from the previous game, in the same place. She joined and brought my party to its maximum of six.
A cook named Cory hand-fed me some fried shark and squid au poivre.
A jester named Hardluck sang a song about Blackthorn, suggesting he was once a good man whose soul was corrupted by Shadowlords, but I remain skeptical. Lord Michael, the castle's ruler, told me that a daemon living in the eastern desert knows of the Shadowlord of Hatred. After finish my exploration of the keep, I mounted my horse (which made overland travel a bit faster) and made my way to Yew.
Yew is the City of Justice and, as such, has Britannia's court and prison. Upon arrival, I was a little distressed to see this sign:
Blackthorn and the Shadowlords are not happy that my old friends managed to summon me here. Clearly, justice has gone awry in Yew, so I had no compunction using some keys to jimmy the locks on the prison doors and speak to the occupants. Because I want you to continue to have a sense of the dialogue, I'm going to transcribe a couple of conversations:
- You see a sorely beaten fighter.
- NAME: "My name is Greymarch."
- JOB: "I once sought adventure on the open range!"
- ADVENTURE: "I've been sitting in this cell now for quite some time, with no word from my son."
- SON: "I fear Froed was killed by the wicked guards that threw me in here!"
- FROED: "My son! Hast thou seen him?"
- NO: "Then why taunt me?"
After talking with Greymarch, I freed the poor prisoner in the manacles next to him, earning me (I hope), a boost in virtue.
- You see a quiet, solitary man. "I am called Jerone."
- JOB: "Well, I used to be an adventurer!"
- ADVENTURER: "Now I'm a prisoner!"
- PRISONER: "I was convicted of heresy!"
- HERESY: "I stated my belief that Lord British was alive!"
- BELIEF: "It happened one night when I was camping out on the moors."
- CAMPING: "A strange apparition arose before my fire!"
- APPARITION: "It was HIM, I swear it!!! Surely thou dost believe me?"
- YES: "Then surely thou must agree, there is hope! If only my brother would hurry!"
- BROTHER: "He is collecting the 500 gold crowns needed for my release."
- RELEASE: "He used to give me keys, but I kept getting caught!"
- KEYS: "I'm sure if thou woudst ask he wouldst give thee a key. He comes by around ten each morning and evening."
- BYE: "I'm sure we'll see more of each other."
Later, I met his brother, Jeremy, donated 30 gold crowns to his cause, and got a key from him, and found that Chamfort knows the Mantra of Justice.
In the third cell, I met a former Great Council member, Felespar, who had participated in the sealing of the eight dungeons. I asked him about the Word of Power to open it, but when he asked if I was with the Resistance, I had to say no (not yet). On the way out, I encountered the Head Inquisitor, Judge Dryden, who asked if I was here to confess or plead for the release of a prisoner. I gave him the names of each of the prisoners, but he insisted they "deserve no pity!" Outside in the stocks was a child named Aleyn, who had been imprisoned such for failing to turn in his father for not donating enough to charity; nearby, his father, Mario, said that he could only afford 40%--the virtues have been twisted indeed. I jimmied the locks and set them free.
As in Ultima IV, the towns, the NPCs, and their dialogue serve three major purposes: to inform you about the game world, to give you quests and clues, and to offer opportunities to display virtue (or lack thereof). I'm not entirely sure what role virtue and avatarhood play in this game, but they must play some role, or Lord British wouldn't keep assessing my progress when his apparition visits at night. Examples of "bad" things I could do in the towns are: lie about my name when asked, tell the jester I don't like his song, tell Greymarch I'd seen his son when I hadn't, tell Jerone I don't believe him, lie to Felespar about being with the Resistance, steal items from barrels and chests, or attack innocent townsfolk. This is all much like Ultima IV, of course, but this game is more expansive: more dialogue key words, more places to explore (and get in trouble), and more decisions to make.
On to the main quest. Chamfort, the owner of the Arms of Justice, helped me in a couple of ways. One was to give me the Mantra of Justice (BEH); the other was to tell me of the Resistance. When I asked me, he demanded "Who told thee to ask me?," and I had to consult my own blog entry for the name of the character who had given me that clue. I'm glad I was detailed. Once I convinced him I wanted to aid the Resistance, he sent me on to someone named Landon with a password: DAWN (not "Dawn is breaking," fortunately). I had already met Landon in a secret passage behind the jail cells. There's a whole network of secret passages in Yew, including one behind a fireplace.
In fact, there are enough secret passages behind fireplaces that you end up having to walk into every one, just to check.
Landon told me that Blackthorn has personally seized Lord British's crown and keeps it in a small room on the top of his castle, and that I should recover it. Its powers apparently prevent the use of magic within the castle. He finished off by saying, "Seek out Sir Simon on a mountain isle, west of Spiritwood," but I'm not sure why. Now, firmly with the Resistance, I returned to Felespar and got the Word of Power for the dungeon Wrong.
Also in the Resistance stronghold, I met my old friend Jaana, who couldn't join because my party was full (I'm not really sure how to ditch someone). I finished up my trip to Yew by buying some more reagents at Madam Pendra's (the game doesn't give you the option to pay whatever you want, as in IV), and selling my extra arms and armor. I found a weapon to save up for:
My horse had disappeared at some point when I went down a ladder, so I exited Yew on foot and began thinking about my next steps.
A few gameplay notes relating to towns and people:
- You frequently encounter locked doors in the game, which you can open by "jimmying" them with a key. If it works, you get to keep the key; if not, the key breaks. The same process works for disarming trapped chests after a battle. I assume success is related to the dexterity of the character. There are also magically-locked doors, surrounded by a blue glow, and I don't know how to unlock those yet.
I can see into this cell because the door has a little window. Look carefully in the wall above the pillow on the bed for the secret door. Also note the difference in icon between the unlocked door (in front of me) and the locked ones (on either side). Finally, see the trap door and grating south of me. I can go down through both methods, but only one doesn't hurt.
- As mentioned above, there are secret doors hidden in walls and represented by tiny breaks in the brick lines. Sometimes you have to (p)ush furniture or plants out of the way to get to them, and then you have to (s)earch to find them. There are also secret passages behind fireplaces.
- You can sleep in any bed--it's not like Oblivion where you can't sleep in "owned beds." However, if the bed does have an owner, he'll show up and boot you out at his bedtime.
- Characters in the towns follow a day/night cycle more complex than in most modern CRPGs. (I was just playing Dragon Age: Origins and noting that it never gets dark, and nothing ever closes.) Not only do NPCs go home at night and then get up and go to work in the morning, they take lunch breaks! Some of them show up at places at very specific times, such as Jeremy, who visits his brother at morning and night and spends the rest of the time in the kitchen of the local restaurant. And some are nocturnal. Functionally, this means that I have to wander around town a few times if I want to be sure I get to talk to everyone. Also, shops close at night and towns bar their entrances--you don't want to get stuck in a town after dark unless you intend to stay.
- There are multiple levels to most towns and castles, accessible via ladders, stairs, trap doors, and gratings. Leaving one level for another causes the first to "reset"--anything you've pushed out of the way gets put back, all unlocked doors are re-locked, and your horse disappears.
- The game has fun with different viewpoints. Torches cast light only on certain parts of corridors; windows offer views outside or inside, but only when standing next to them; and balconies will show you a snapshot of what's below.