Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Martian Dreams: Won!

Screw everyone else in my party, I guess.
The refilled canal systems allowed for easy but slow transportation around the planet. There were a number of barges, previously resting on the bottoms of the dry canals, that now floated freely. Commandeering them was just a matter of boarding and pushing a lever in the desired direction of travel. I then had to hold down the SPACE key to get turns to pass as my party floated gently down the stream.
This is going to get old fast.
I boarded my first barge near Olympus and decided to float it all the way around to Hellas, where I had remembered seeing a cannon. I figured if I could then float from Hellas all the way around to Argyre, I could use the cannon to blast open the front doors and stop Rasputin's plans. This turned out to be the right idea, but I was missing a few steps.

As you float along the canals, you get attacked by large canal worms (one wonders what they were doing while the canals were dry) and whatever beasts might want to swarm your barge from the shores. Nothing that was a huge threat.

You can't sleep on the barge, so when night falls, you have to exit onto land. I learned the hard way that you want to adjust the barge's direction to ram into the land during these times; otherwise, it continues floating down the canal while you sleep.
Sure. Putting on mascara and rouge for a movie is exactly like creating artificial skin for a robot.
During the long trip, I spoke to Chsheket and asked about her new body. She replied that it would work better if she had some artificial skin. Nellie Bly suggested I talk to Sarah Bernhardt, the actress, since she would know about makeup. I suspected that artificial skin involved a bit more than a little powder and rouge, but I made a note to swing back through Olympus at some point.

When I got to Hellas, I was disappointed to find that the cannon I remembered wouldn't budge. This disappointment only lasted a few seconds, however, as I soon found a barge that had cannons on every side. Taking it, I continued my clockwise route around the system, intending to stop in Olympus before heading on to Argyre.
This is more like it.
Between Hellas and Elysium, I noticed that a branch of the canal went off to Syrtis Major, where I hadn't explored since I met up with Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre. I recalled that Dale Carnegie had been looking for iron ore for the new space cannon, and I guessed I'd be sent back to the mine eventually to retrieve it. I figured I might as well pick it up now. The barge, incidentally, had a set of mining tracks on it, so that was another clue.

I parked the barge, entered the mine, and figured out the puzzle after some trial and error. It involved using the drill that I'd previously repaired to mine the iron ore, then using a shovel to load up the mining cart.

When I was done, I pushed the mining cart out of the mines, down the tracks, and...
In my next attempt--using one of the other carts--I remembered to park the barge at the end of the tracks first, allowing the cart to slide right on.
Since the Olympus Mines, where Carnegie was building the new space cannon, were on the way to Argyre, I stopped there first. He gratefully accepted the ore and said he'd send some workers to mine more. All we needed to go home, he said, were the phlogistonite canisters stored on the capsule from the first expedition.
The new cannon, under construction.
Before heading there, I stopped in Olympus and asked Sarah Bernhardt about the cosmetic issue. During the conversation, Dr. Spector said that we were trying to make the mechanical Martians "look human," which is the first I'd heard of that. It also became clear that we were going to have to mix the cosmetics with a "water-repellent substance that looks as it if has the consistency of flesh," already used on the mechanical men "at the cisterns." I remembered seeing some contraption at the pumping station, but I didn't kow what it was for. Bernhardt said that the "rouge berries" I'd need for the project were in Argyre.
Why do we want to do that again? Usually bad things happen when you disguise robots to look human.
The phlogistonite canisters were missing, of course, with only their metal straps left behind. A sub-quest involved taking the metal to Teddy Roosevelt and asking him to analyze them for fingerprints; fortunately, I'd been walking around with a microscope for most of the game. (In real life, a microscope would be too magnified to examine fingerprints, but whatever.) Roosevelt identified them as Rasputin's. Now I had three reasons to bash down Argyre's door.
I should have taken them earlier.
Toward the end of our conversation, Roosevelt said, "I notice that you have partially solved the problem of finding bodies for the Martians. But, really, I don't think that the average resident of Earth will be able to accept them in that state." Huh? Why would they be going with us to Earth? I missed a plot element somewhere.
I'm not sure why Americans of the 19th century would object to gleaming metal robots.
Meanwhile, Admiral Peary piped up that the cannonballs in the Martian cannons wouldn't be enough to breach the gates of Argyre. He suggested we head back to--you guessed it--Dale Carnegie and get some steel cannonballs. I had already resigned myself to constant backtracking so I barely noticed.

With the steel cannonballs in hand, I continued my trek to Argyre. When I arrived, it became clear that my multi-cannon barge was too large to fit down the narrower canal towards the city's gates. I abandoned it, sighed, and girded myself for a long trek around the canal system until I found a smaller one. Fortunately, there was one just a few minutes north of my position.
Can't we just trim a bit off the side?
Returning, I sailed down the canal, loaded the steel cannonballs into the cannon, and blasted open Argyre's front door.
Inside, I had a brief conversation with Emma Goldman, who might or might not have been possessed by an insane Martian. With her, it's tough to tell. She admitted to destroying the reflectors that Lowell's party had been using to communicate with Tesla before our voyage.
Let me know how that works out for you.
Rasputin clearly had been taken over by the tyrant Raxachk. He related that he'd found a way to bring objects into the dream world, and he had done so with the phlogistonite. He said that if I tried to bring them back into the real world, I'd set off a "cataclysm of epic proportions," including "a chain of earthquakes and storms" of such strength that "Mars would be swept clean." He threatened to do that very thing if I didn't leave him alone.

So the dialogue at this point started to assume that we'd be taking the Martians back to Earth with us after perfecting their metal bodies. I feel like the plot really jumped the rails at this point. There was no discussion of alternatives, such as just immediately killing Rasputin and letting the Martians stay on their own planet, and building a new set of reflectors to communicate with Earth to "send phlogistonite." I actually wish I'd tried shooting Rasputin to see what happened.
Whoa, whoa. How did we get here?
Instead, we solved the "Martian body" problem by wandering around Argyre picking up rouge berries, taking them back to Bernhardt, having them made into makeup, taking the makeup to the pumping station, mixing it with the coating formula, and having Chsheket stand in a "transformation chamber" to get sprayed. When it was done, she looked like a human woman. No word on how she got eyes and hair. There was some awkward dialogue with Spector about her nudity, as if the machine had for some reason created breasts, nipples, and other parts as well.
It's amazing what a little foundation can do.
The game made a point of noting that the human-looking Chsheket was the woman who first approached Dr. Spector and I about going back in time in the first place. As if we couldn't have predicted that.
She "smiles"? Did the transformation chamber create facial muscles?
The dialogue now directed me back to Jack Segal. He promised to whip up some bodies for the other Martians while I took care of recovering the phlogistonite. I was skeptical of his ability to create dozens of complex robots in a few hours with a 19th-century education, not to mention finding all that Azurite, but I didn't question it.
What do you mean, "my instructions"? I don't know how to make a Martian robot. I found one.
Back to Argyre. When I arrived, Raxachk had fled Rasputin's body back into the dream world. I hooked myself up to the machine and chased him there.
The next part was kind of dumb. I had to go through three tests "administered" by the three shadowlords from Ultima V. Of course, they were only my mental recreations of the shadowlords, and not the actual shadowlords. Interestingly, Astaroth and Faulinei refer to Nosfentor as their "sister" in the dream. I didn't really think of the shadowlords as having gender, but if I had, I would have assumed they were all male. Then again, I thought Iolo was a woman through my entire youth.
The shadowlord of lies nearly had me for a minute.
The first test offered me two versions of Dr. Spector and made me choose which was real. I guess I was supposed to do it by shoving a mirror in front of each of them and noting whether the reflection was human or Martian. I just guessed and got it right.

The second test was about overcoming hatred. I ran into a wounded Martian spouting racist comments about humans and plotting his vengeance. I healed him anyway and he reformed his viewpoint.
If only it were this easy.
The third test was about cowardice versus courage. I was told my friends were in trouble at the end of a long path, and I kept taking unavoidable damage as I walked it. Ignoring some escape routes, I pressed forward and reached them with only a couple of hit points to spare. I think I had to fight a combat at that point. I forgot to screenshot it.

At last, I confronted Raxachk, who was in a closed-off building surrounded by the barrels of phlogistonite. He offered to surrender if I could win a series of combats. I had to grab a bunch of dream "stuff" and use it to create the weapons I needed to defeat the enemies. Anyway, when I was done, he still refused to surrender. He taunted me saying that I couldn't possibly imagine a weapon strong enough to pierce his sanctum, not "for a hundred years or more." He didn't realize that the Avatar isn't from 1895.
I feel like someone from just about any era could imagine something powerful enough to destroy a wall.
Defeating him wasn't hard. I used some berries, created from various wads of dreamstuff, to see inside the outer room of his sanctum. There was a switch there. I pulled the switch with telekinesis and the door opened. On the other side was a huge sparkling wad that Raxachk called his "dreamstuff hoard." I pulled some wads from it, used them, and found myself in possession of an M60 machine gun.
I can buy that the Avatar has heard of an M-60, but unless he's had a particular background, he's unlikely to have seen one.

Despite the fact that the dreamstuff hadn't given me any ammunition, I was able to use the weapon to shoot Raxachk right through his compound wall. He died instantly.

I agree that there's a certain amount of epicness to this moment. Dude taunts me that I can't think of a weapon powerful enough to kill him, and I come up with an M60. A LAW rocket or some C4 might have worked, too. I mean, I had a couple of Martian ray guns earlier, but I guess they're not as powerful as a slug-thrower. Oh, and I guess in the game's canon, a cannon firing steel cannonballs is somehow less powerful than an M-60. But whatever.

My problem is that the game had just put me through a series of tests that called back to Ultima V; tests in which the shadows of the shadowlords reminded me what it means to be the Avatar. Remember that these are games in which there are no "big bads" and "final battles"; games in which you're encouraged to allow fleeing enemies to escape the field; games in which you only kill someone who is actively trying to kill you; games in which even a daemon can be redeemed. Then, having planted those memories in your mind, the solution to the problem is to assassinate the guy through a wall.
Way to rationalize it, Avatar.
Aside from that, it feels like some other object could have appeared that would have been more in line with the Ultima series. Maybe one of those barrels of powder from Ultima VI. Or Mondain's skull. Or the "Armageddon" spell. But whatever works, I guess. Oh, by the way--how did I get into the room after killing him? Did I keep firing the M60 until I shredded one of the walls? Good thing I missed all those phlogistonite barrels that everyone says are volatile.
A cut scene showed the Avatar contemplating Raxachk's corpse before grabbing the three barrels and somehow returning from the dream world with them. On the other side, one of the barrels is hidden by the dream machine's head, so you had to be paying attention to remember that there are three. I wasn't, and had to trek all the way back to Argyre after bringing only two barrels back to Carnegie.
Do you see a third canister in this shot?
At this point, earthquakes started shaking the planet as I walked. The epilogue involves walking back to the Olympus mines, where all the NPCs in the game were lined up along the corridors, like the final scene of Scrubs. Everyone had a comment or two.

I presented the barrels to Carnegie, which triggered the ending cut scene. The capsule blasts off from Mars via the space cannon in Olympus. Behind them, earthquakes and tornadoes scour the planet and presumably turn it into the barren, lifeless orb that scientists know today.
The capsule splashes down in the Atlantic and is recovered by a ship. Dr. Spector and the Avatar are hailed as heroes and get parades and stuff. They pause for a group photo before stepping back through the moongate to their own time. The final screen sets up Ultima VII or maybe Ultima Underworld.
The moongate will just wait, apparently.

Way to give your game a shelf life, Origin.
I'll have some more thoughts on the plot and its place in Ultima canon for the summary and rating. For now, let's all contemplate that the Avatar canonically comes from an alternate Earth in which the most significant scientific, artistic, cultural, and political figures alive at the end of the 19th century went to Mars in a capsule shot from a cannon, and everyone knows it. The moon landings of 1969, if they happened at all, must have seemed boring in comparison.
Time so far: 34 hours
Reload count: 5


  1. Funny how I don't remember most of this game's "quests". It was indeed more of an adventure than a RPG.

  2. oh boy he's finally grinding through these long/boring games and about to get to the good stuff

    cant wait for fallout! cheers

  3. I'm sure the Avatar could have seen an M60 in films? Like Commando, or Rambo, or whatever. Since it's a dream anyway, it probably wouldn't matter that he'd probably never have actually held or fired one.

    It's a strange old game, that's for sure. It probably would have worked better with a "Stranger from another world" like the early Ultimas, rather than The Avatar, who is more of a specific entity. But then I suppose you couldn't bring in the Shadowlords and so on.

  4. "...and found myself in possession of an M60 machine gun."

    I..wait, what? Talk about a deus ex machina.

  5. Regarding mistaking Iolo for a woman, you weren't alone: the official manga adaptation of Ultima 4 made him one.

    1. That's a riot. Thank you for not providing a link.

    2. As someone whose only exposure to Ultima has been the fourth game, I can say this; the art's pretty nicely drawn, if generic.

      I stopped about 63 pages in; it honestly just felt like a generic fantasy manga.

      You'd have a conniption. XD

      To quote the Editable Codex:

      The story follows the quest of the fifteen-year-old boy Deane, who was adopted in infancy by a druid of Yew after the murder of his mother, a knight of the Order of the Silver Serpent. The story revolves around his search for his adoptive brother Shiva, a druid who went missing in an attempt to become the Avatar.

      Like the first manga, the events of the comic again prove very far flung from the expectations of Western Ultima fans. In Quest of the Avatar, many of the characters have switched genders as they did in the NES port. Iolo, for example, has become the fourteen year old girl "Io." Julia is now a thirty-eight-year-old male, still named "Julia," and Katrina is the ten-year-old boy "Kati."

      No, this isn't someone's fanfiction.

  6. Wow, that third barrel really is hidden. Origin is such a troll.

  7. If I was the Avatar, I would have imagined a Tsar Bomba...Or a Landkreuzer. I mean, M60 are cool and all, but if somebody said to me that I couldn't imagine a weapon strong enough to destroy something I would try to overcompensate, just in case.

  8. Interestingly, phlogiston was, for a while at least, the term used for "the stuff that makes it possible for things to burn."

    So, the propellant for the space cannon is basically elemental fire...

  9. An M60 might have been clever to imagine were 15 Martians bearing down on you. But for a dude hidden in a room, I'm not sure what advantage it offers over say...a medieval cannon?

    1. The only advantage it offers really is sheer amount o hits it could inflict. On a wall...not sure how much use a real one would be against your 15 martians actually. Accuracy would be crap unless you really good with one. Possibly it could be a "thousand cuts" thing where all those hits add up to more than the more powerful cannon strike. Do they ever give a rating on those cannons? assuming they are only 12 pound Napoleons from the Civil War design then...Yes the M60 would probably have more penetrative power. Higher velocity bullets hitting multiple spots more force on a the smaller area of the bullet....yeah it would be more effective depending on the type of barrier. The really funny thing for his "hundred years or more" is that in 1895 elephant guns using modern powders were hitting similar velocities so unless the barrier really , really, needed about 500 rounds to hit it at once there was probably a rifle that would have worked on earth. Me...I just would have gotten a .357 Magnum...gotta love the classics.

      Sorry for the rambling I was working that all out right there while I was typing...lol.

    2. You've both done a good job fleshing out my problems with the episode. I'm not much of a gun person, but you don't have to be to know that the M60 isn't quite the right tool for the job. I suspect they chose it because it's the one high-powered weapon that everyone knows from watching First Blood.

    3. I've noticed throughout my life that certain guns get a go at being the new, cool thing. When I was in elementary school it was all about the Uzi. They were in every TV show and movie. They cut down hundreds of men, blew up cars and tore buildings in half. As a teen, it was 9mm and .45s. Then the M60 was the go-to gun for winning wars. The late 90s saw the P90 take the movies by storm. Lately it seems like the .50 BMG is the weapon of choice. Out can't be a sniper without one, even though most shows and movies have the sniper shooting a man at less than 100 meters when a BMG will reliably reach out over 1000 meters.
      It seems like the M60 was chosen because it was the fetish gun of the time.

    4. Heh thinking about it a little more...since this is technically the Avatar if I had been the devs I would have gone in the opposite direction. Had the Avatar pull out the Mystic Sword from 4 and slice into the room that way. Then have Notsputin go into shock at a sword getting in and he surrenders.

    5. I feel like the M60 was *everywhere* in movies in the 80s and 90s.

      Rambo is one example, but since it was the standard SAW of the US Military during 'Nam, it was in Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Jacob's Ladder.....

      So it was very present in the public consciousness then as "that big powerful cool gun badasses use."

      I remember it feeling very....right....to my pre-teen brain.

    6. Haha, no I wasn't quite thinking about Napoleon's field guns.

      More like this baby from Edinburgh castle, that our plucky young Avatar may have seen on a school trip.



    7. Yeah but that things a siege cannon...may as well summon a tank then. The only reason I used a "Napoleon" is that that was what the 12 pound cannons we used during the Civil War were called. I'll agree...thing woulda worked though. Course....evrything would be gone in the room if you used THAT in a small enclosed space.

    8. Mr. Pavone: Heck, a good 30-06 is effective at 1000m. The .50 BMG is for when you want to destroy vehicles at that distance.

    9. Yeah, true. Even a Mosin-Nagant can do that. My point being curbstomp level overkill on the part of clueless writers.

    10. I think y'all mean the Barrett Anti-Materiel or similar rifles. A Browning Machine Gun would be a silly weapon choice for a marksman.

    11. Yeah,tht too but I was a good marksman with the BMG on Single shot.

    12. Oh you just mean a .50 Cal rifle. Sorry I misunderstood from the usage.

    13. Specifically a .50 Cal rifle which uses the same cartridge design as the original .50 Browning Machine Gun.

    14. You know, there is another way of looking at this M60 thing. If this felt right to people at the time - and that seems to be the case - then it was the right decision, full stop. It may feel wrong in retrospect, but surely it's wrong to criticise Origin from the perspective of what today's audiences know? While I've pointed out in another comment that there was no problem with the Avatar knowing about the M60 because there were still many military-themed publications in the pre-internet era, the fact also remains that most people - kids, teens, and adults alike - were blissfully ignorant of such details, and did not have a quick way of looking things up. There was no Google to search for "what is the most powerful gun".

      So, all in all, I think you gotta give the designers a break :). Yes, they went for the easy, pop-culture-based solution. And yes, they probably did so mainly because they didn't know any better. But in the end, it was the right decision for the audience they had at the time.

    15. Meh For me I think its just the capping of "Do you even research Bro" problems I had since like I mentioned above...there was an even better pop-culture weapon to use ....and the M-60 isn't appreciably better than choices that ACTUALLY EXISTED in that era. Basically they "Rule of Cooled" it....cept...it doesn't even come off as cool. Just kinda a "hunh well thats done". And aslo like I sstated above they had an even easier out if they had gone with a "nothing in this world" statement instead since they could have had The Avatar pull a magic weapon out of the dreamstuff as a callback. Sorry I can't help but see it as the "lazy" call. I honestly think if they had cut a lot of the cameos and tightened up the structure so that you weren't bouncing back and forth so much it wouldn't be so distastefull to end it on "and then you went all Rambo on his buttocks". Even Notsputin deserved better.

  10. Congratulations on ending the game! It has been fun reading about it, particularly as your somewhat-hostile approach to the game allowed you to point out many flaws that I'd normally overlook. I've always been more than aware of the fact that however much I might like Martian Dreams, it's a very flawed game particularly as a representative of the RPG genre, but many of these flaws that I've only vaguely sensed, you've helped to put into words.

    Speaking of flaws, though, I'm surprised how little (relatively speaking) you complained about the barges. That part of the game really did get very old very quickly.

    And the phlogistonite-induced destruction of Mars is indeed a major plot hole. Although I will say, it's not something most people would question, because it actually feels very natural: all throughout the game, the question of "why is this Mars different to our Mars" is sitting at the back of your head, so when you're told about the possibility of a planetary cataclysm, it's very easy to make the leap from possibility to inevitability. Another burning question is: if 1895 expedition had no idea what was left of the 1893 expedition, why did they not bring any phlogistonite?

    The time-compression of the game doesn't help. Clearly, weeks must have passed from the moment you turned Chsheket into a woman to the moment you pull the phlogistonite canisters from the dreamworld, as all the Martians have bodies now (I'm not sure if you noticed them in the NPC line-up?). But the game doesn't show that time has passed. Nobody tells you, for instance, to not trigger the cataclysm until X and Y has happened, so that all will be ready. This would actually have been a good place for optional side-quests – if only the game’s RPG mechanics still provided any challenge at this point.

    Regarding where the Avatar might have encountered the M60 - surely, you still remember the pre-internet world? :) There was dissemination of knowledge before the Wikipedia. Films, books, encyclopediae... it's really a non-issue. But yes, it is a surprisingly weak weapon given its plot role. I guess the M60 is meant to *represent* the most powerful military technology of the late 20th century, and Origin simply didn't know better.

    All the flaws aside, I really like the ending of the game. It feels grandiose. The line-up of characters is a brilliant and memorable thing - I don't think they're quite all there (I don't recall Emma Goldman or Rasputin slinking around the corridors, for instance), but still, what other RPG game has ever tried to assemble all of its NPCs in one place? I also love the attention to detail in the cutscenes (look at that screenshot of the flying capsule - they even matched the geography with the map). Actually, in general I think Martian Dreams had some of the finest 2D cutscenes produced at Origin. This is not owing to the game or its subject, but simply to the fact that it was the last in a sequence of several hugely important games that all gave Origin's artists a massive skill boost. You can really see it if you look back on Origin's 1990-1991 efforts- from U6, through Wing Commander, Savage Empire, to Martian Dreams, the 2D animations progressed tremendously. And so much experimentation - Wing Commander, I think, was the first one to try using rotoscoping (with an action figure!), but Martian Dreams pushed the technique to its extreme by basically digitising live actors. Now, even at this point, the animations don't hold a candle compared to, say, Westwood's Lands of Lore, but nonetheless, it's possibly the finest effort made by Origin with 2D technologies. The games that followed, starting with Wing Commander II and Ultima VII, started experimenting with 3D rendering, which was definitely amazing at the time, but has aged poorly compared to this.

    1. BTW, I'm sure you wouldn't welcome a third game in this particular series, but personally, I've always wanted a Martian Dreams 2, where the avatar helps the Martians restore their civilisation in some corner of the earth where they will not be known to other people - like, saaay, the Valley of Eodon. You bring them in there, take care of various quests to allow the locals to accept them, and then you help them grow new bodies (from seeds you had brought over from Mars - because of course you would have) and build a new dream machine in order to transfer their minds. And then of course, for no really good reason, you'd also start growing plantimals and trying to integrate them into Eodon's dinosaur-infested ecosystem. I'd probably be the only person in the world waiting for such a game, but - oh, well :).

    2. "I'm surprised how little (relatively speaking) you complained about the barges." It would have been annoying, but that part of the gameplay didn't really last very long. At least there was no way to get lost.

      I appreciate your defense of the game's strengths. Your comments provide a nice addendum to my more negative ones.

    3. "... but still, what other RPG game has ever tried to assemble all of its NPCs in one place?"

      The only one I know is Dragon Age: Origins, which postdates this game by about 20 years. It's very well done in that game, as I generally end up feeling both satisfied and a little sad for that adventure to be over, which always surprises me.

  11. The Avatar is from the action movie era, right? So isn't it possible that instead of a real M60 he summoned forth the version of it he had seen in an action movie, with no recoil, unlimited ammunition and so on?

    1. That would HAVE to be what he summoned, right? Unless he's a gun nut and knows how all the parts work. I mean, I fired an M60 once in PLDC but I wouldn't remember enough about it now to conjure a working one from memory. I'd definitely remember the tripod, though. Those bastards are heavy.

    2. I could see three ways of it working.
      1) The person just thinks 'give me an M60' and poof, an M60 appears.

      2) The person has been in the military or such, summons something that works roughly like an M60 based on their experiences even if none of the insides are the same. Might not fire at exactly the right rate or whatever, but has roughly the same effect.

      3) The person summons an M60 based on seeing it in some 80s action movie. It weighs nothing, fires a million rounds a minute, and never runs out of ammunition. Oh, and can cut a car in half.

    3. That last one seems most likely, since the final part of the game runs more or less on literal dream logic.

  12. Also, on the plus side at least the game gives you a cool win screen. The background seems kind of off though, is that just me?

    1. That's probably because the background seems to be composed from digitized photographs and the foreground is hand-drawn.

    2. It's more of a denouement than most games give you.

  13. I guess you missed the Ruby Slippers? One of my favorite game easter eggs.

    Somewhere on the map, I no longer remember exactly where, there are three rocks arranged in a triangle around a single square of disturbed earth. If you dig there with a shovel you find a pair of Ruby Slippers. If you equip them and use them three times you get taken to a Kansas wheat field, then to the endgame screen. It sounds like that could have saved you a lot of time.

    1. "Missed" is a bit of a stretch, isn't it? I mean, you'd have to have some existing knowlege of them, or you'd never have a reason to be in that area or dig that patch of ground.

      In any event, no, I did find them. I was going to talk about that in the final entry. You get the same ending as above, so it makes no sense in the context of the game. It would have been a better Easter Egg if they'd provided an alternate ending in which the Avatar returns home but everyone else is stuck.

  14. Great writing in this post. You are like the Mark Twain of crpgs. You captured the absurdity of this finale really well, I was laughing through the whole article.

  15. For me, that is one of the worst games you played. Sure, the interface works and graphics are ok and everything, but the whole gameplay and story are stupid. Also combat and character progression seem to be the worst you can do with the system in Ultima, which I personally don't like too much, too.

    1. "Also combat and character progression seem to be the worst you can do with the system in Ultima." It's the worst of the U6 engine games in combat, but Savage Empire was worse in character progression. I think I leveled up once in that game.

    2. Three comments regarding the combat system...
      1. The big problem Martian Dreams had wasn't so much the way it used the combat system, but the inherent limitations of the U6 engine. The equipment the game offered was initially very exciting - a relatively broad range of firearms, from tiny derringers to powerful elephant guns, plus a range of more or less improvised melee weapons - but it just could not work when you have the limited visibility that U6 offers. To make firearms truly valuable - to justify the trips back to the only place on Mars where you could buy ammo - the guns would have needed to be much more useful. This could be achieved if the player had at least 50% more visibility. That would mean that for many critters, you could cut them down significantly before they got into melee range. As things were, however, I think most people switch to sabres and sledgehammers sooner or later, which is unfortunate.
      2. Surely, some excuse could have been found to provide at least some armour-like options on Mars. For instance, allow the player to scavenge the shell off the many janitor robots, and then have Carnegie craft a plate armour or something out of it. Or Buffalo Bill could make a couple of different types of armour out of plantimal hide... err, bark.
      3. Generally, combat, and item management in the broader sense, could have been much more interesting had they carried over some of the crafting from Savage Empire. Surely, the expeditions didn't have quite so much ammo with them that you can just keep on buying it from Buffalo Bill? Surely, there would be a need to produce gunpowder and the like?

      I suppose the relative lack of attention to combat and combat equipment is just further indication that Origin saw this as an adventure game first, and complex RPG second. This may have been a reaction to the poor reception Savage Empire had.

      ...All this having been said, I will also insist that neither U6 not SE has any combat even remotely as epic as fighting the leviathan on Mars. And the fact that outside of the end-game sequence, you could go through the whole game without encountering a leviathan just made them all the more epic. It was this thing, that's out there, and eats your party for breakfast if you encounter it early on...

  16. Am I the only one to absolutely dig this absurd, fun and original background ? And the adventure-y take ?
    Of course it can't be taken seriously, but, come on, does somebody take heroic fantasy seriously ? Oh. Some do...

    1. I think not every one will object to a purely humorous CRPG. It all boils down to the gameplay really.

      Penny Arcade's CRPG was nonsensical but fun for one thing.

      I'm still waiting for a CRPG built on the Discworld setting.

  17. I know that the "what?" is some kind of look command, but I'm amused to think it's what your character said in response to the nonsensical thing the NPC just said in each of your screenshots.

  18. For me as well the M60 was always such an anti-climax. It's just a big gun. Imagining one would be well within the capabilities of a 19th century mind. Even the automatic firing wouldn't have been new, since Gatling guns were in use since the US civil war in 1860s.

    A person from 1991 would be able to imagine a weapon with an actual paradigm shift. A nuclear bomb? An industrial laser? Cutting with *light itself*! You could even shoot him right through his transparent barrier. How about that for a surprise?

    But no. Just a big freaking machine gun. The M60 doesn't even have exceptionally high muzzle energy, the individual shots are only about two and half times more powerful than a civil war era musket.

    Actual cannons aren't even in the same league. Even a light 12 pounder deck gun from age of sail (same size as the canal barge cannons) packs 150 times the energy of the M60. If an M60 can breach the barrier, then a 19th century person wouldn't have had any trouble of conjuring a weapon big enough. Heck, even a 16th century person would scarcely have any trouble.

  19. Evil Midnight LurkerApril 24, 2021 at 9:40 PM

    I headcanon that this game's Avatar's parents named him/her after the hero of the Second Martian Expedition.


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