|I'm suddenly hearing Al Green.|
I fear I'm a little behind in posting on Uukrul. Much of what I'm about to relate, I accomplished earlier this week, in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. My power was knocked out for about 30 hours, and I spent almost half that time hunched over my laptops, running down their batteries playing this game off a USB drive. I have to say, it was a little bit eerie, crawling through the dungeon while the wind howled outside, trees came cracking down in the distance, and candles flickered on my desk. When the last battery died on the second laptop, I said, "screw this" and convinced Irene to pack up and head down the road to a hotel that had power. Less than an hour after we rented the room, the lights were back on at the house. Compared to what they're going through in New York and New Jersey, though, I consider my trifling inconvenience a blessing.
After I posted about the crossword puzzle, the game continued to offer puzzles on every level, though none of them quite as hard. It has also continued to be very linear, with every space between sanctuaries a clear and discrete level with its own unifying puzzle to solve.
After finding each new sanctuary, I was able to read a new entry in the archives, which generally told me something about the next level I faced. Plus, there were almost always messages on walls that gave me some hints as to the solutions.
In order, the levels were:
1. A maze in which Uukrul locked me in by yanking on a chain and closing a grate behind me. He said he'd let me leave if I begged...
...but of course I didn't. I found my way through the maze, and at the end, there were three possible exits. One of them required me to find a bunch of keys in the maze. I never found one, so I assume they were behind secret doors I never located. The second was a riddle of some sort ("you need but speak a single word to pass through, assuming you can discover what it is"), but I never found it. That left the third option, which involved three difficult battles, the final one against fire spirits that killed two of my characters. I beat them in the end, though.
|Nice subtle insults.|
2. A level that contained the urn holding Uukrul's dark heart. For a while, I thought I was at the end game already. First, the game taunted me by showing me the heart behind a grate that was impossible to open.
|I don't care how strong that grate is; it seems awfully cocky of Uukrul not to hide the thing better.|
Finding my way around the other side required me to navigate a small maze of dungeon rooms that opened and closed in response to a group of levers. If there was a clue to help me with the levers, I missed it, but it wasn't hard anyway. I just pulled each one in turn, noted what it did, and slowly figured out the right combination. I reached the urn with only four of the needed six hearts, but I used them anyway.
After that, I had to move on to find more hearts. I'm not sure why I couldn't just haul the urn with me.
3. A multi-leveled area in which I needed to find magic cards to ascend. The more cards I found, the higher I could ascend, ultimately getting out and moving on to the next area.
|It was nice of Uukrul to lay it all out for me in the beginning.|
The problem is, the magician had to be holding the cards, something that wasn't clear until I thought to have one of the cards identified by Sagaris. For hours, I couldn't go anywhere but the first level and couldn't figure out why.
Once I had solved that little mystery, the rest of the level was fairly easy, although I kept getting zapped by traps that I think lowered some of my attributes permanently.
At one point, I found a member of Mara's doomed party, indicating that she was still alive.
|"Put him out of his misery" should have been a role-playing option.|
4. An area that had something to do with closing valves, moving carriages, and using a teleporter. Mara warned me that I needed to stay on the level until I found the black hammer that her expedition had lost.
I admit I solved this one via brute force. I just kept trying every option and re-checking the level for new possibilities. I got stuck here for a while because there was a secret door that took me forever to locate. I learned the hard way to travel with TALIS (find secret doors) on as much as possible. It's a bit of a pain, because it burns out quickly.
|A couple of shots from this level. I wasn't really sure what I was doing.|
This level culminated in the finding of the magic hammer at the bottom of a series of pits. It was in the hands of a demon overlord whose portrait scared me...
...but who turned out to be a bit of a lightweight in combat. His one trick was to cast "silence" and prevent my mage and priest from casting spells, but he went down so easily in melee combat I wouldn't have bothered with any spells anyway.
Mara had warned me in a message to make sure I had the Medal of Escape with me (oh, yeah, I forgot to follow-up on this: it turns out that every time you use it, it returns to its original location, and you can pick it up again), and it turned out I needed it to get out. After that, Sagaris filled me in on the hammer's uses, and I went and had the smith repair it.
|That's suitably cryptic.|
Pierce Roth has continued to make updates to his Dungeon Mapper, and has been keeping me current, but I actually stopped mapping this game a while ago. Once it became very linear, there was hardly any point. Each level offers only three or four branches, and between the automapper and simple memory, I find my way through them without trouble. I look forward to using the mapper more on the Gold Box series, though.
Even though the game took a sharp turn towards puzzles around the midpoint, it hasn't stopped being a combat-driven RPG. There are plenty of tough foes, including one "boss" fight, in every level. Still, I've only had to resurrect three or four times, and only suffered one full-party death.
My characters are all Level 12 out of 15 total levels (a fact that a otherwise well-meaning writer spoiled for me). I've got some pretty good magic gear and the ability to create my own food. Plenamujer has a crystal ring from one god (the highest), platinum from another, and gold from the other two. Prufrock has platinum rings in all his Arkanas except for protection.
In general, it feels like the end is near, but I want to get in one more posting about magic, combat, and equipment before I win. Look for that tomorrow or the next day.