Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ultima V: Towns and Their Folk

The adventurers arrive in town in time for a Tea Party rally.

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:

One of the few things I remember about this game from childhood.

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.

The Avatar discovers muffulettas.

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 finishing 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:

Little do they know if they get me dead, I'll just resurrect in Lord British's castle.

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.

A barely-perceptible break in the wall pattern behind his bed revealed a secret door.

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.

But I really need that potion!

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 him, 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.

Looking out a second floor window onto the courtyard at night.

I'm not sure exactly what to do next. It seems a bit early to try to infiltrate Lord Blackthorn's castle, so I suspect I'll start working through the towns in some kind of order. I still have to figure out what role the virtues, mantras, and shrines play in this game, and I still don't know how to level up.


  1. I've played this game years ago, but I think you got one quite good hint of where could you go now. You even noted this down above.

  2. You've already written about an event that would have caused you to level up if you'd had enough experience.

  3. You can ditch people in the inns; it just costs money (a certain amount per month, varying by the inn) to get them back later on. The blue-lined doors are magically locked.

    One thing that you could do at this point would be to find the Words of Power and start dungeoneering... It's a good way to level up (much more fun than grinding) and get some treasure (if only to sell).

    PS. In case I haven't mentioned it: the Ultima Dragons fan club has had a sudden revival over on Facebook and is still happy to accept new members. I don't have the link handy, but a quick web search for "ultima dragons facebook" points to it.

  4. Why would you save up for the magic axe? Get thee back to the wishing well. :)

    What does the North/South/East/West Winds at the bottom of the screen mean?

  5. Nikolaj, that's the way the wind is blowing. You use that when sailing.

  6. You don't really need to go around tracking down the various mantras, as you can tell already they haven't changed and the Avatar would surely know what they are by heart.

  7. Any reason my comments keep getting deleted?


  8. Horses disappearing: you need to park them, by tieing them to the appropriate things (I don't remember what they are called).

    Since you will eventually need to explore the dungeons they are the best places for accumulating wealth, and as mentioned above they generally have more interesting encounters than the bridge trolls. But beware of Daemons, Gazers and Wisps - their possession attacks are extremely annoying before you can counter them either with Lord British' Crown or the Charm spell.

    You should also consider going to a Shrine for guidance.

  9. Hey there, glad to see that you finally got around to Ultima (because I never played them)!

    By the way,do you still need a new header?

  10. Hey, how come your blog looks different all of a sudden? I don't like the new look as much, to be honest.

  11. Arkadesh, if you mean Sir Simon, I'm probably headed there next. Acrin1, I assume you mean Lord British's nighttime visits. I guess I just need to grind a little more--or, you know, stop dying.

    Xyzzy, I took your advice, as you'll see in the next posting.

    Canageek, it looks different because the old template forced me into a set width and I wanted to expand the size of the right bar. Tell me what you don't like, and I can probably edit that aspect of it. CremePudding, I do want to design a new header, but when I didn't get any takers on the message, I decided I was being lazy and I should just do it myself.

  12. I have been thinking about that daemon. He's one of the few things I remember about this game. Now, telling that I feel a strong urge to try and play this game... It was my favourite Ultima. I don't like newer real-time engines. Especially Ultima VII is completely unplayable for me, although I keep hearing it's the best game in the series.

  13. @CRPG Addict:
    If you want a new header, mail me at I might be able to help : P

  14. Still sore about the Tea Party running the limp-wristed leftists into the ground, I see.

    "An air of falsehood doth surround thee..."

    Who knew Obama was in town.

  15. Can we not have ignorant Amarican's spouting off about politics please?

  16. Like the ignorant American who created this blog, and drops his political views and anti-Christian bigotry regularly into his posts?

    I come here because of an interest in CRPGs, not to to read some idiot liberal's spouting off about religion or the Tea Party .

    So, then, you are just as offended when the cRPG addict brings his politics into these posts, yes?

    'Cause, you know, otherwise that would make you a hypocite.

  17. Or I could simply not consider him to be ignorant, unlike yourself, whom barely seems able to understand the basic terminology that (s)he spouts off about.

  18. All right, you two. Perhaps the better approach is to not attempt to discern too much about my political views--"ignorant" or otherwise--from a single joke made in a caption.

    Anyway, I'm not going to apologize for occasionally dropping a political or religious comment in a blog posting. These games have themes, and the themes might be relevant to modern issues in modern times. Yes, I'm a liberal and an atheist. Don't like it, don't read. It's not like you're paying for this.

  19. It lacks the colour of the original, the snap.


    Political debate is so rarely a discussion based on logic especially on the internet. Yet too often resembling two kids on a play ground saying "no you are" or arguing who's dad is stronger. It ends up being easier to say no politics, than it is to enforce having no emotional outburst or name calling.

  21. It's weird how all the douchebags are named Anonymous...

  22. Hey my name is not Anonymous!

  23. When you do get around to VII, if you use exult, you should install the mods:

    The shrines being operational again is cool.

  24. The wanted sign in Yew is a great touch. Since I always seem to visit Yew first the wanted sign and the courts set the tone for an oppressive world. I can still remember finding Jaana hiding in Yew back when I played this on the C-64.

    I became very familiar with the jail in Yew having had many run ins with the guards early in the game. thankfully there is a way out even though you don't have any keys...


  25. More from the NES version:

    Shadowlords are never in the overworld. They always hang out at in the beginning of Doom unless you've summoned and vanquished them in front of the flame corresponding to their opposite alignment.

    Yew is a single building, with an additional store down the road. I suppose Iolo's hut, and Dryden's place count as well. Again, Epath Abbey, and all towns, are much smaller with fewer NPCs.

    All the prisoners in Yew are actually interned in British's castle.

    All pretense for keeping up with the virtues has been removed. There are no consequences for taking everything, choosing all dialogue options, or running from battle. Monsters never flee in response. Landon was just sitting in the common room of the large building of Yew while Chamfort was in Empath Abbey.

    There are far less NPCs that can join, and only four can be in the party at one time. NPC locations are all mixed up as well (e.g. Jaana is in Trinsic, and Dupre is in Boardermarch--the town on the mountain isle).

    Secret doors were removed. Multiple levels in towns don't exist, everything is on a single story. Viewpoints aren't used, although doors bar vision from other areas until entered. Inns are broken, you can pay to stay, but they don't advance time or heal the party. The only option to restore health and magic is to use the tent.

    1. @Zenic - pretty sure Dupre is in Bordermarch in the real Ultima V too, along with Sentri.

      Is good to hear your impressions of NES Ultima V. I never had the patience to persist with it for long, but I didn't find it as odious as SNES Ultima VII.

      I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the U6-like viewpoint though (at least, not as of this post)

    2. I haven't played U6 on console yet, so I didn't really have anything to compare it to. My progress through my own list has slowed down quite a bit due to other things taking up my time. I'll get to it eventually.

      As for the viewpoint, I must have missed commenting on that. It isn't quite U6, but they tried to give the game some depth rather than make it strictly tile based.

    3. U6 on SNES is a fair effort, I think. U7 is just execrable though.

      Maybe I need to have another look at U5 on NES. I got the strong impression the developers tried to channel U6's visual style, party movement etc. Incidentally, there was a decent Mega Drive/Genesis RPG that conspicuously took similar visual cues from U6 - D&D: Warriors of the Eternal Sun. Worth a try if you need a palate cleanser.

    4. U5 on NES really isn't worth playing for very long. Strangely, U5's credits don't list any staff in Japan, and it was only released in the US, which leads me to believe it was developed by Origin staff.

      Warriors of the Eternal Sun was fun, but other than the visual style for outdoors, I don't see much in common. At first glance it looks like instead of using the U6 engine for Black Gate, they decided to use the Runes of Virtue one with large scale sprites.


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