|I'm always trying, but he never writes back.|
Another seven hours of gameplay brought The Savage Empire to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion. The major steps were to:
- Finish uniting the tribes, including three I had not yet visted.
- Gain access to the ancient city of Kotl, learn the secret of Eodon, and power everything down.
- Lead the united tribes on a final assault against the Myrmidex queen.
None of the remaining tribes--the Neanderthal-like Haakur, the white Jukari, and the lizardlike Sakkhra--had any particular plot relevance. I just had to visit them, talk to their chiefs, and do whatever quest they gave me with the UNITE keyword.
The Jukari chief asked me to recover a "sacred hide" from a cave that had recently been blocked by the same lava eruption that had killed the chief's father. To get over the lava, I had to use a...wait for it...fire extinguisher. By spraying it on various patches, I made "hard spots" that allowed my party to step across. I don't recommend trying this with real lava.
|Stupid fire extinguisher doesn't even put out an actual fire.|
The Haakur chief, who had some valid points to make about the Jukari's choice of homeland...
...wanted me to recover his dead son's shield from a spider-infested cave south of him. To clear out the spider webs, I had to use torches, which was more of a pain in the neck than you might imagine. Unable to find any unlit torches in the various villages, I had to schlep all the way back to Rafkin's laboratory and the tar pits nearby. Tar applied to cloth applied to tree branches created torches.
It was almost worth it. The torches, applied to batches of spider webs, produced one of the best (and most satisfying) animations we've seen so far in RPG history.
In the cave, I encountered Myrmidex for the first time. I had expected them to be humanoid ants, but they looked more like bees. They weren't tough to kill, but they attacked in swarms.
Anyway, I recovered the shield and returned it to the chief for his allegiance.
I handled the Sakkhra after exploring Kotl, but in any event they needed me to get rid of a Tyrannosaurus Rex who was preventing them from getting to their fruit orchards. I knew from previous experience that T-Rexes can't be killed, but when I got to his location, he fortunately was loafing around under a giant boulder on a cliff. An explosive thrown in the right location brought the boulder crashing down on his head.
|The party kills another member of an endangered species.|
Finding the entrance to Kotl was a matter of putting Aiela's gem on a pedestal, which caused the stairway to open. It took a while to find the stairway at the bottom of the mesa, but it turned out to be conveniently located a few steps away from the teleporter hub.
In the entryway, I found a headless automaton and no way to proceed. I had to return to Tichticatl and talk to the deposed shaman to recall that the head was in the city's treasury. Once I had it, I returned to the hidden city and activated the automaton. It was named Yunapotli, and it joined my party and opened the door to the city. A few steps into the city was a hologram of a Kotl named Katalkotl.
Between Katalkotl and Yunapotli, they filled in the missing gaps in Eodon's backstory: The Kotl were a lizard-like race that inhabited the underground city millennia ago. Harnessing the power of a black moonstone, they created automatons to serve them. Finding that the automatons weren't enough, they genetically-engineered the Myrmidex from ants, trusting that their strength and obedience would make them good workers. Instead, the Myrmidex revolted and carried away the moonstone (which continued to power the city from a distance).
|A lot of grief would have been prevented if you'd just been willing to do your own housecleaning.|
Seeking more servants, Katalkotl traversed the world and lured denizens of various tribes to the city (how his travels brought him in contact with both Neanderthals and Aztecs, who existed more than 35,000 years apart, is unexplained). The human servants also grew discontented with their lot in life and eventually fled, forming the various tribes of the valley. Later, the Myrmidex returned and sacked the city. A few surviving Kotl fled to the hills and became the Sakkhra.
The city was enormous and I'm sure I didn't explore half of it. Scattered around the various rooms were healing crystals, which instantly restore one character to perfect health, black staffs, and "devices" that turned out to be explosive devices. I loaded up on these and used them for most of my explosive needs in the rest of the game, though they had a unfortunate tendency of blowing up in my hands and damaging my party even after I had supposedly thrown them. I think this was a bug.
|Finding items among the debris of an ancient battle.|
In one room, I encountered a wisp, who continued the same story that Ultima VI delivered about wisps being projections from the Xornite dimension. It said it was in the area to study the power distortions created by the Kotl's harnessing of the moonstone. It indicated that Eodon was actually on Earth, but sucked outside the normal space-time continuum by the energy distortions, and it worried that if the moonstone wasn't shut down, the resulting instability would result in "destruction of large regions of the multiverse."
The evil Dr. Spector, invincible in his force field, was guarding a bridge that led to the city's control room. Unable to pass him, I had to go through a maze of teleporters and walls to access the room from another direction. My explorations brought me into combat with automatons, robotic dinosaurs, and "serpent women."
When I reached the control panel, I smashed it. This shut down the generators and all the city's automatons, including Yunapotli. He had a sad farewell.
He was replaced in my party with Dr. Spector, who had snapped back to sanity. I was a bit annoyed, as I had been looking forward to killing Spector and his puppet chief. When I returned to Tichticatl, I at least had the satisfaction of hearing that when his force field disappeared, his own people had ripped Huitlapacti apart.
Anyway, the city started collapsing, so I had to make a beeline for the exit. The entrance disappeared as soon as I left, taking probably a bunch of cool stuff with it. Next time I have to remember to finish exploring before smashing the load-bearing control panel.
|I hate when I turn off the lights in my house and the walls fall down.|
Spector stressed the importance of uniting the tribes and destroying the Myrmidex queen and their moonstone.
|Way ahead of you.|
I finished the other tribal quests in short order, then headed for the Hill of the Drum. Banging on the giant drum that some guy had created for me out of an animal skin, I summoned the tribes to war and triggered the endgame sequence.
I soon found myself in the caves of the Myrmidex. Despite all the build-up, none of the warriors from the tribes appeared anywhere, but I assume they were off somewhere, thinning the herd and making my job easier.
|Battling Myrmidex. Towards the end of the game, I got lazy with equipment. I don't even think Aiela and Johann have weapons and armor.|
The caverns were a huge maze, with the queen somewhere in the middle. Following one wall didn't do any good, and it took me a crazy number of hours to finally make it to the queen's chamber. Later, I looked at a map online:
So it was with great relief that I finally found the queen. There was a quick cutscene...
...and then I killed her in about two blows.
Behind her was the moonstone--much bigger than the Britannian standard--and I attacked it until it blew up. This triggered the endgame text:
You and your companions rain blow after blow down on the corrupted moonstone...and the last mighty blow shatters it into a million glowing shards! The debris showers upon you.
|"Maybe we could have destroyed it with missile weapons? Or by throwing it off a cliff?"|
You hear a cry: "The Myrmidex are driven mad!" The Myrmidex stumble about, confused. With the queen and the stone gone, they have lost all sense of purpose. Now is your best opportunity to escape. And so you do. Battered, cut, triumphant, you emerge from the Myrmidex caves.At the head of a long column of exhausted and victorious warriors, you return to the Drum Hill...to celebrate! Members of all tribes come for the feast....the largest and most important feast ever held in the Valley of Eodon. Kurak sits beside Yolaru, Pindiro beside Barako, Haakur beside Sakkhra, and peace is sworn between the tribes. You know this peace isn't for you. Soon enough, you will hear the call to action again. But tonight, there is time for music and dance, friendship and love.
At dawn, your past catches up with you...and your future beckons. A vision of Lord British appears before you. "You have done well," he says. "But now I must take you to where you are needed. For the sake of the friends you leave behind, I am sorry. Prepare yourself."You say farewell to Aiela. "Aiela does not know your world. Take her there," she pleads. "Teach her of your world." You shake your head. "My world would strangle you. You must stay. My heart remains with you, but my duty is elsewhere...with him."
|"Also, I don't want to have to teach you about feminine products. That would just be awkward for everyone."|
Tears roll down her cheeks. "Abandon duty, and you will not be the warrior Aiela loves. Choose duty, and you must leave. Either way, Aiela loses all...Farewell."You are joined by Spector's former assistant, Fritz, who came out of hiding to fight the Myrmidex, and bears their scars. The moongate appears, summoned by the shade of Lord British. Jimmy, Spector, and Fritz gather their belongings, but Rafkin does not. "I'm staying, my friend," he says. "Someone must. I will stay here...and hope other scientists come. Farewell." Saddened, you follow your friends and allies into the moongate, leaving the Valley of Eodon. Perhaps someday you will return to those you have left behind.
And that's it except for the final screen at the top of the post. Lord British has managed to yank my chain again, ending the first serious RPG romance that I can recall. There was no explanation about Shamuru, Triolo, and Dokray despite Lord British's shade providing an obvious excuse. Origin missed a real opportunity for the three of them to start cracking up at the end of the game, revealing that they'd just been faking amnesia all along.
|Notice that the three pseudo-Britannians are not among those departing through the moongate. And why is the moongate red, by the way?|
When Lord British said that he was taking me "where I'm needed," I assume he means to Martian Dreams, which I'm 99% sure was the next Ultima game.
When the game was over, I looked through my notes and found that I had numerous unsolved mysteries:
- The wisp in Kotl said that if I gave it valuable information, it would present me "with information of true value." What did it want from me, and what would it have delivered?
- I ended the game with a "crystal brain" in my inventory. Fritz had given it to me. I never used it anywhere; is this what the wisp wanted?
|This is going to haunt me, and no site seems to have the answer.|
- I carried a bunch of other things the entire game that sounded useful, but I never found any use for them. They included a digging stick, a key, a vine coiled as a rope, orchids, and a bunch of valuables--a pile of diamonds, gold pieces, a jade neclace, and a tooth necklace.
- There were inventory slots for rings, boots, and helmets, but I never found any of these things. Were there any?
- I believe you can get into the Myrmidex caves at any point from the Haakur spider caves. What would happen if a player started a new game, headed right for the caves, and killed the queen without doing any of the other quests first? Is it even possible? Does it change the endgame screens?
- If the moonstone was keeping Eodon in a space-time pocket inaccessible from Earth, why didn't destroying the moonstone return the valley to Earth?
Looking through some walkthroughs and other material (particular thanks to Dino's Guide to the Savage Empire), I discovered a few things that I missed. First, apparently it was possible to enter into a romance with Aiela's bratty adopted sister, Tristia. If you're dumb enough to do this, she completely slams you during your farewells.
|The Avatar looks appropriately wounded.|
Also, it was apparently possible to find Seggallion, the expatriate from Knights of Legend who appeared briefly in Ultima VI, hiding out on his own plateau. His dialogue doesn't indicate any past familiarity with the Avatar, consisting mostly of Origin in-jokes prompted by various Origin employees' names.
Finally, I'll mention that only two of my characters--the Avatar and Jimmy--ever leveled up, and each of them only leveled up once, towards the end of the game. Character development definitely wasn't a major part of The Savage Empire.
|My one screen shot of leveling up.|
I'm going to see if I can wrap up Operation: Overkill and 1990 over the next few days as I ponder The Savage Empire's final rating.
Like many of you, I've been eagerly anticipating Corey and Lori Cole's Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Corey notified me this week that the project has gone into a second round of Kickstarter funding to make up for a budget gap. If you're keen for a Quest for Glory-style game in the next few years, I recommend visiting the page and supporting the project. The project has come a long way, and the official site has some great examples of artwork, dialogue, and gameplay.