|As far as I can get. The game freezes if I try to move one step further east.|
You are going to find this posting truncated for the following reasons:
- Every version of the game I can find has a bug (at least for me) by which once you cross the 180 meridian with a sextant in your possession, you can no longer save your progress. This remains true even if you go back to the other side of the meridian. Both crossing the meridian and tracking your progress with a sextant are pretty vital to the game.
- There is no no-DOS version of the game, so I can't switch to another platform. (Side note: I really think MobyGames users should stop tagging games with "Macintosh" and "Windows" releases just because the game is available for those platforms through GOG. All GOG does is bundle them with a customized version of DOSBox. The same goes for games released on "virtual consoles." If a game wasn't coded specifically for that platform, it shouldn't count.)
- I did download a version of DOSBox with save states, but if I try to load a save state after closing and re-opening the emulator, the emulator immediately crashes. (Yes, I know you have to start the executable first.)
- Even if I load a save state during the same session that created it, the keyboard generally does not work upon re-loading, at least for a few minutes (but sometimes it never comes back).
- Even if I'm willing to play mouse-only, the game simply locks up entirely at certain places. It freezes every time I try to cross the canyon to Noctis (below), for instance.
I know that many of you have played the game successfully with DOSBox, with or without a save-state version, so I'm not sure how to account for the differences. I've fiddled with every setting that I can think of (including increasing and decreasing the CPU speed and changing the emulated machine). Thus, the game is going to have to go on the "NP" (not playable) list until someone comes up with a permanent solution or I try again on a completely new system configuration.
It's been long enough that it might be worth re-reading my first posting for the basic setup. In my re-start, just to defy the game's official narrative and images--and to further distance myself from the "real" Ultima series--I created a female protagonist named Inez after Inez Milholland. I didn't see a good women's suffragist on the list of dignitaries, and I've always liked Ms. Milholland. You probably haven't heard of her, so go ahead and read her Wikipedia article. If she hadn't died tragically in 1916 at aged 30, she would have been the flappiest flapper of the Jazz Age.
|Inez bursts onto the scene in her very plain dress.|
For whatever reason--I guess they were disguised as authentic 1890s citizens before blasting off--Inez starts the game wearing a dress. My first act was to dress her in pants and an overcoat. As before, I talked to the various people aboard the second capsule and stocked up on weapons and utilities before heading off in search of the first capsule that had brought Curie, Earp, Edison, et. al. to the Red Planet.
|Spector responds to the SAVAGE keyword.|
My capsule is at 27S, 146E, and the crashed first capsule is at 28S, 153W. Never dreaming that these coordinates were global, and that I'd be able to explore the entire planet, I set out west to find the capsule only to encounter an impassable canal. Apparently, what I needed to do was go east and cross the 180th meridian. A degree in this game is four steps, so it doesn't take very long to cover large distances. I could circumnavigate the planet, apparently, in 1,440 steps.
Without much trouble and in relatively short order, I reached the wreckage of the first capsule. It was empty except for a single man named Lieutenant Gibbs, commander of the "ceremonial guard" at the British pavilion at the World's Fair (from which the first capsule had been accidentally launched). In a very long bit of exposition, he filled me in as to what happened to the occupants of the first expedition. Apparently, they tried to repair the capsule and build a new cannon to return to Earth, but they ran out of steel. The group split into four expeditions to find iron, but somehow they morphed into four separate factions with their own goals.
|Origin, the British pronounce it "leftenant." They don't spell it that way.|
The first group, led by Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane, set up a trading outpost northeast of the crashed capsule at Arsia Mons. Dibbs suggests we go there next for supplies. The second, led by astronomer Percival Lowell, went to the Martian city of Elysium, where they found a working Dream Machine. (Apparently, all Martian cities have them, but most are in a state of disrepair.) The party had hoped to use the Dream Machine to communicate with Earth, but instead it drove everyone mad.
The third group, led by someone named Jack Segal (I can't find a good historical contender; it's probably not the composer who wasn't born until 1918), settled at Olympus, where construction of the space cannon had begun. They've now fortified the site against anyone "contaminated" by the Dream Machine. The final party, a "secretive" group led by Grigori Rasputin, went to the Martian city of Argyre, apparently in an effort to investigate dangerous Martian technology.
As for the Martian cities and technology, although there's no sign of any sentient Martians, they apparently left behind four advanced cities: Elysium, Olympus, Argyre, and Hellas (they were named by the explorers, not the Martians). The latter is inhabited by a guy named Marcus who split off from Lowell's group. Dibbs also warned me that to survive on Mars, I'd have to learn to contend with the extreme cold and the low-oxygen atmosphere. Fortunately, there exists on Mars an element called Oxium that, when chewed, releases oxygen. It's apparently so valuable that it's being used as currency. I tried to (U)se one that Dibbs had, but the game told me that I will "chew it instinctively" when needed. Sure enough, in the next couple of steps I got a message that everyone "breathes easier," and the penalties to the characters' attributes went away, but 4 of Dibbs's 20 Oxiums disappeared.
Dibbs automatically joined the party and we set out for the trading post as he suggested; fortunately, Dibbs had coordinates to all of the locations and cities. Along the way, we were attacked by "sextellegers," and I found out the hard way that my Belgian Combine, which I had set to "shotgun" mode, damaged any characters in between me and my intended target. This is the first game that I recall that correctly depicts shotgun pellets spreading with distance, although I think perhaps Martian Dreams overdoes it. (It is, to be fair, only the third game I can think of with shotguns, the first two being Wasteland and Captive.) Anyway, we killed the alien beasts in short order. There didn't seem to be anything productive to do with the corpses, so I carried on. A couple more attacks followed.
|Inez has just fired a shotgun at the "creeping cacti" to the south. Note that by the time the blast is two squares away from her, it's already spread out to include one square on either side.|
By the time I reached the trading outpost, Inez was heavily wounded. (I had switched to a saber at some point because the shotgun kept hitting my allies.) Buffalo Bill Cody introduced himself and said that he and Calamity Jane trade various goods for Oxium. Apparently, they're the only store on the planet except for one set up by William Randolph Hearst at Olympus. Jane gets Oxium from Cooter McGee, who's been prospecting "in the labyrinths of Noctis" but has been subjected to raids from Rasputin's band at Argyre. Jane asked if I'd go to Noctis and see what happened to him. They gave me an additional 30 Oxiums to help with the quest.
|Buffalo Bill gives me the next step on my quest. If you've never had a chance to visit his grave on Lookout Mountain in Colorado, I recommend it. The views west from the parking lot are spectacular.|
I returned to my capsule briefly to get healed up by C. L. Blood, then set about following Buffalo Bill's directions to Noctis. I had to go far north to cross a canal bridge before heading back southeast. Apparently, finding bridges to cross the canal network is going to be a significant obstacle to navigation, although Dibbs has given me the coordinates to a bunch of them. I've found levers in some places that might lower other bridges, but there's no power to the network.
|Crossing a canal.|
And that's about all I can tell you. The game freezes every time I reach a particular part of the canyon, in the midst of a fight between some "jumping beans," although I've tried killing all the jumping beans first and it still freezes.
Some miscellaneous notes:
- It might change later, but so far the game hasn't been making great use of these historical figures beyond using their names. I got no particular sense of character from Cody or Jane. The fictional Lt. Dibbs has the most character of any of them.
- Similarly, the Martian landscape is mostly just boring and its creatures unimaginative. Granted, I haven't seen the cities yet.
- There are several books to read. So far in my chronology, I only remember this game and the original Ultima VI having in-game books.
|Apparently, the third Worlds of Ultima title was going to be set in Arthurian Britain. It was never released.|
- In case anyone missed it in the comments, someone created a Wikipedia article for the obscure C. L. Blood (so obscure I didn't think he was a historical figure at all). Despite its recency, it is quite long and well-researched. It was created two days after my first Martian Dreams post, so I don't think that was a coincidence. [Later edit: And it wasn't! The author wrote to me by e-mail and confirmed that the post inspired the article.]
- Unlike The Savage Empire, here you can turn off music independent of the rest of the sound.
- One of the useful objects from the capsule is a spyglass. When (U)sed, it shows you several screens in a given direction. Oddly, using it to look east at the point the game freezes also causes it to freeze--there's something about the graphics on the other side of the canyon that someone doesn't want me to see.
|Using the spyglass to see enemy activity to my east.|
And now, regrettably, the game goes on hiatus, at least until I get a new computer in December. Normally, I wouldn't think that would help, but since the game seems to work for everyone but me, it's worth a try. In the meantime, we'll be finishing up Shadowkeep and moving on to Disciples of Steel (1991).