Monday, March 5, 2018

Ultima Underworld: Isili Thesh

Scenes like this--tables, weeds growing up through the dungeon floor--a clear space for sleeping--differentiate Ultima Underworld from any previous first-person game.
             
The moments I often like most in RPGs are when you set out with a plan, but something happens that sends you off in directions you didn't even know about, and you spend hours just trying to get your life back on track. The Skyrim quest "A Night to Remember" is a brilliant example of this, at least the first time it happens to you. From my experience so far, it appears that the new Kingdom Come: Deliverance is full of such moments.

This kind of adventure is only possible with a willingness to roll with the punches instead of reloading, damn the consequences, but this willingness only comes from trusting the game not to put you in an unwinnable situation. Despite Origin once putting me in a situation in which my characters had to burn themselves alive in a fire, the developers have generally avoided "walking dead" scenarios. So I decided to trust them when a few unusual situations emerged.
          
It was the last option that got me in trouble, but I wonder if calling her "sir" wouldn't have produced the same result.
           
The first was a simple one. I had only finished exploring a small fraction of Level 2 before I fell into some water, swam the wrong direction, and got sucked down into Level 3 by a drain. The game is nonlinear enough that this doesn't really matter. Later, I found stairs down to Level 4 before I found the way back up to Level 2, and I briefly considered pushing downward every time I found a stairway rather than insisting on "completing" a level first, and seeing how that turned out. I may still adopt that approach. (Wouldn't it be more in the spirit of "role-playing" if I was trying to rescue a princess?) Anyway, in the end this meant that I encountered the lizard men on Level 3 before the dwarves on Level 2. I also ended up killing a random gazer on Level 3 before killing the "quest gazer" on Level 2.

The second unexpected avenue came when I encountered a bandit on a bridge. She insulted me, I didn't take well to being insulted, and the encounter ended in violence. Unfortunately, it also turned every other bandit on the level hostile, and I seem to recall from previous experiences with the game that the bandits have some lore and trade goods to offer if you keep them friendly. For all I know, they're essential to completing the game. (If so, now would be a good time to tell me.) I hope not, as I really like the idea that Ultima Underworld gives you multiple paths.
          
The complete (I hope) Level 2. I didn't force my way into the dwarf king's vault in the west.
        
Level 2 was otherwise a fairly straightforward level. I'm not sure I found a single secret door. Friendly dwarves inhabited a large area to the south. They were ruled by a leader named Goldthirst, and true to his name, he was surrounded by little piles of gold. He asked me to kill a gazer that had invaded his mines.
            
Pretty girls, beware of his heart of gold.
        
The mines showed frequent walls with gold veins, and I thought I remembered there was some way to "mine" them, but I couldn't get anything to work and didn't really need the gold anyway. I found the gazer and killed it in a long battle.
              
I enjoyed the death animation.
         
Goldthirst's reward was a gem cutter, which I'm sure will help me solve some puzzle later.
           
Turning in the side quest.
           
An addled dwarf named Ironwit wanted me to recover his blueprints, which were on a high platform and only accessible by drinking a "Levitate" potion. It wasn't difficult, and I suspect the "puzzle" was only there so the player could get a sense of how vertical movement works for later, more complex puzzles. 

The northeast had an area sealed by a portcullis, but I was able to use a pole to trip the lever on the other side. It led to a large room with a couple of skeletons guarding an orb. Looking into the orb showed me a vision of a square room with perhaps some lava in the center and a round object in the middle of the lava. Some slimes were creeping about. I'm not sure what that was about.
     
I was proud of figuring out this solution.
            
A major "find" on Level 2 was a dwarven smith named Shak who has a forge at the end of a long cavernous passage. He not only had a lot of good items for sale but would repair my items as well, and for fairly cheap money. (The most I paid was 4 gold pieces for my breastplate.) When he first told me that repairing my axe would take 23 minutes, I figured I'd walk to the other side of the cavern and back, and he'd be done, but it turns out that he meant 23 minutes real time. I ended up getting most of my items repaired while writing this entry and letting my character stand there in the forge.
            
How about you charge me 5 pieces of gold and repair it in 4 minutes?
        
There's probably a danger in fetishizing pristine equipment. Condition of equipment ranges from "excellent" to "broken" and passes through "serviceable," "worn," and "badly worn" on the way. (I'm not really sure how much the condition affects its utility. Is a "serviceable" long sword worse than an "excellent" short sword? I don't know if there's any way to tell.) The amount of time it takes seems to be a rough bell curve. A few swings is enough for a weapon to go from "excellent" to "serviceable," but it will stay at the latter condition for a long time, as it will at "worn." Once you hit "badly worn," you're in danger of breaking with every swing. Anyway, the point is that if you march out of Shak's forge with everything in "excellent" condition, you get discouraged by how much damage everything seems to take in the very next battle.

Only late in the game did it occur to me to try to use Shak's anvil to repair things myself, but at my skill (11), I only seem to be capable of reliably going from "badly worn" to "serviceable"--never to "excellent." I haven't found any other anvils.
             
Level 3. Big area in the northwest has me concerned. I love the ability to take notes.
             
Level 3 was populated (or de-populated) by the aforementioned bandits plus enclaves of green and red lizardmen. I don't think the creatures have ever appeared in an Ultima before, although the player can turn himself into a lizardman in Akalabeth. The manual says that lizardmen were created by Mondain and were exterminated after his defeat--all except a clan hiding in the Abyss. Intelligent and friendly, most are capable of understanding human language but not speaking it.

Communicating with them meant solving an easy but enjoyable puzzle. Locked in a cell in the lizardmen's area was a human mage named Urgo, guarded by a lizardman jailer. The lizardman asked me questions in his own language when I spoke to him, but of course I didn't understand. Urgo, meanwhile, understood both common tongue and lizardman, but he was mute. I had to give him some food first and then have him pantomime the meanings to the various lizardman words, which I typed in.
             
Urgo helps me figure it out.
        
Using the knowledge from Urgo, I was able to have a conversation with the jailer, whose first question was along the lines of, "Are you friendly or aggressive?" You don't want to get that one wrong. It transpired that Urgo was in jail for stealing food and assaulting lizardmen, but the jailer would let him go if I paid a "bounty" of food. I turned over several items and Urgo was able to go free. I wonder if I'll see him again among the "seers" on a lower level.
          
I'm now bilingual!
     
One lizardman named Iss'leek asked me to bring him a red ruby. He already had blue and green gems on a platform near him, so he must have been looking to complete a set. I cursed because I had just traded a ruby to Shak, so I had to go back up to Level 2 and buy it back. In return, Iss'leek gave me a scrap of paper with the formula for "Water Walk" on it.
            
Pleasing a gem collector.
        
A lizardman named Ishtass asked me to find out what happened to his former leader, Ossikka, who had gone exploring upriver. With the "Water Walk" spell assisting, I found Ossikka's remains in a nearby alcove along with a couple of runes and a clue about the location of Caliburn's blade (see below). In return for this news, Ishtass gave me a sack with some more runes and a wand.
               
No word on what killed the missing lizard man.
              
Other than the lizardmen and bandits, there was a single human on the level named Zak. He said that he was afraid of the darkness and sold torches and candles to protect against it.
           
You really chose the wrong place to live.
           
Encumbrance has been a constant struggle. In the space of a single entry, I went from picking up almost everything to keeping only the things I was too scared to discard, and I still have no extra room. I wasted a lot of time bartering during this session, trying to convert junk into gold pieces or to grab a few choice items from NPCs. Most of what I "bought" was a waste of time, as I would repeatedly spend 10 minutes trading for something like a chain coif only to find a steel helmet on the ground a few minutes later.
          
The kind of cache I would have picked over relentlessly on Level 1, I just leave behind now.
            
The bartering system is still interesting. When you start to trade, you can see up to four items in the NPC's inventory and load up to four items in your "barter" inventory. (If the NPC has more than four items, I think you get a random selection. You have to exit and re-enter to see different items.) You select what you want from the NPC and what you're willing to trade for it and see if he agrees. I find that most of the trades are enormously one-sided towards the NPC, but then again I don't have a high (or any) "Appraise" skill. I might start off by wanting an axe and offer a mace for it. He says no, so I add a shield. Still no. I add three cheese wheels and two gold nuggets. Finally, he says yes, having obtained three pieces of equipment and some gold for one weapon. Fortunately, the dungeon is so strewn with items that the imbalance doesn't really matter.
             
Exchanging two swords and a leather cap for a chain coif.
         
Trying to trade for gold is also interesting. You can only trade for an NPC's entire gold "pile," so if he has 15 and I'm trying to sell a stray short sword, I know he won't go for it. I have to offer the sword plus, say, 12 gold pieces from my own pile to effectively sell the sword for 3 gold pieces.

Anyway, the system is mostly wasted because NPCs rarely have anything you want (at least, so far) and the dungeon is already strewn with equipment and riches. I stopped once I started having inventory problems. First, I discarded my backup items, trusting that I could always find another sword or axe or return to a cache I'm keeping on Level 3. When that wasn't enough, I got rid of all my spare light sources--why waste space on candles, torches, lanterns, and oil when I have In Lor? When that wasn't enough, I stopped carrying extra food. I find edible plants every time I turn a corner, at some point I got a fishing pole that allows me to catch fish whenever I want in any river, and there's always the In Mani Ylem ("Create Food") spell.
           
I suspect this would be harder in real life.
          
But even with that, I'm at my maximum. I have half a dozen potions I'm worried I'll need later, eight keys that I'm afraid to throw away, a variety of tools (pole, fishing pole, rock hammer, gem cutter) that could turn out to be invaluable, and a huge number of things that I suspect are only good for trade value, but might be the object of a quest, including red and blue gems, a crown, two "resilient spheres," a scepter, a mandolin, a flute, and a bunch of gold nuggets.

I also have three wands and a ring that I can't identify. I don't understand the identification system in the game at all. I have a modest amount of points in "Lore," but it never tells me anything useful. If I pay Shak, he tells me only its value, not what it is.

After I cleared out the bandits on Level 3, I set up a room beyond a secret door as my equipment stash. It's convenient to stairways both up and down.

Finally, because I chaffed some readers by indicating that I played with it off, I'll mention the music. I agree that it is well done. There are several "exploration" compositions (or one with several themes) in a minor key that complement the ominousness of exploring a dungeon in the dark. One of the themes is notably sparse, evoking something more akin to background noises--drips, creaks, growls--than traditional "music." When combat arrives, the music shifts to a fast-paced theme that transitions seamlessly to a few cadence chords when the final blow is struck. This isn't the first "contextual music" we've seen in RPGs--among others, Quest for Glory has done it notably well, including leitmotifs for individual characters--but it is rare, and George "The Fat Man" Sanger and Dave Govett deserve the accolades that they have received. Unfortunately, I simply do not like background music whether I'm playing a game or answering my e-mail, and I have turned it off again.

Miscellaneous notes:
            
  • Once you pick up food, the game tracks how long you've had it. When you look at it, it will say "a day-old loaf of bread" or "a fresh fish." I think my character would be more interested in how old it was when I found it. How can an ear of corn be only a day old if it's in a dungeon?
  • If you look at items in the environment, the game notes if they belong to an NPC. If you mess with them or pick them up, the NPC's disposition will drop quickly.
  • Midway through this session, I decided to switch my primary weapon from an axe to a sword because I noted that swords swing faster. Also, I had this idea that when I finally find Caliburn, I'll be able to use it as a weapon instead of carrying a second weapon and adding to my encumbrance. Another factor was that I chanted SUMM RA at an ankh and got sword, sword, attack. 
  • I've found lots of slings, one bow, and one crossbow, but missile weapons just seem too cumbersome in this game to bother with. Any differing experiences?
  • If you eat a mushroom, the screen turns all psychedelic. It doesn't last very long.
  • A few times, I have been attacked by monsters in areas I already cleared, indicating some re-spawning is going on.
           
A pack of goblins that wasn't here before.
          
  • There is more than one ankh per level. I think Level 3 had three.
  • I get poisoned a lot from bats, rats, spiders, and walking over some plants, but I long ran out of the leeches that cure it. I mostly just let it go away on its own. It's definitely not the killer here that it is in the surface-based Ultima games. 
  • Both Level 2 and Level 3 had an inaccessible area in the middle of the map with a circular grate looking into it. On both levels, clicking on the grate lets you look into this central shaft. I don't know if I'll ever enter that shaft, but it may have something to do with a note I found that read, "Go to the very base of the Abyss, then battle your way back up, to find the key to your fortitude."
             
Peering down the dark shaft.
          
My character ends this session at Level 11. I saved up most of my skill advancements (you get two per level) until nearly the end because I was still collecting the mantras. You find them on scraps of paper, books, inscriptions on walls, and from NPCs. In addition to the ones that choose a random selection of skills from a category, I have "Unarmed," "Attack," "Defense," "Tracking," "Charm," "Appraise," "Acrobat," "Repair," "Search," and "Swim." Honestly, I've been putting most of my points into weapons, "Attack," "Mana," and "Casting" with the occasional allocation to "Lore" (hoping it eventually does something), "Search," and "Picklock." I figure "Swim" is obviated by the "Water Walk" spell; I'm really lost on what "Tracking" does; and "Acrobat" (which reduces damage from falls) seems to be wasted if you're just careful.
         
I can't see wasting points on this, but let me know if I'm missing something.
         
My rune bag has Bet, Des, Hur, In, Jux, Lor, Mani, Ort, Por, Rel, Sanct, Uus, Wis, and Ylem. Almost all of my spellcasting has been In Lor ("Light") or In Bet Mani ("Lesser Heal"), with a few castings of Ylem Por ("Water Walk") after I got it. Looking through the list of spells I'm capable of casting, I don't see a lot of others that fit well with my gameplay style. It's too annoying to put the runes together to waste a lot of time alternating between attack and defense spells in combat, and I don't really see how you could effectively play Ultima Underworld as a stealth game. I haven't had to flee from any enemies so desperately that I need to spike doors (or cast "Strengthen Door") behind me. I guess Hur Por ("Levitate") could come in handy for some navigation--I used a potion to solve a puzzle. An Nox ("Cure Poison") will come in handy if I ever find Nox. Finding Flam will also open some useful offensive and defensive options. 
        
"Water Walk" sure made dealing with these lurkers easier.
       
Overall, I'm playing the game primarily as a fighter who uses the occasional spell to assist. I'm curious whether it's possible to play it completely the other way. Do spellcasting classes get enough points that you could cast more than a few "Lightning" spells before having to rest?

Towards the end of the session, I finally got a bead on one of the Talismans of Virtue. Shak had told me that the sword Caliburn had been broken into blade and pommel and that the Shield of Valor had once belonged to Blackthorn. A note on Ossikka's body said that I'd found the blade in the southeast, behind a wall, so I spent a long time searching walls before I found a secret door. It led to an alcove with a switch, which drained some of the water and opened the way to a hidden area.

I was surprised when the ghost fell to a non-magic weapon, but I guess not everyone uses Dungeons & Dragons rules.
        
A spider and a ghost guarded the passage, which led to an ankh and then a large room with the blade by itself on a platform. One-sixteenth done?

I'm guessing I'll need Shak to fix this once I find the pommel.
          
Whew. I think that's the last time I'll try to cover two levels in one entry, but the game is authentically a blast, and it's hard to make myself stop playing to write. As I said in the first entry, this game would have been remembered for its engine alone, but the developers coupled it with an engaging story and fantastic exploration, dialogue, and role-playing choices. It's going to be a tough act to follow.

Time so far: 12 hours (not counting time spent waiting for Shak to fix things)

58 comments:

  1. I think you're okay on the level 3 bandit extermination... From what I remember, you CAN make them non-hostile and get a few clues as a result, but otherwise the same information is available elsewhere.

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  2. I never used missile weapons due to hearing they're borderline worthless, and those resiliant spheres are weapons. Throw them at your enemies.

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    1. Yeah I attempted a ranged weapon playthrough once and it ended very, very poorly. It works somewhat better in UU2 as there's more ammo, but that doesn't change the fact that it's really relentlessly difficult for no real payoff.

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  3. I use magic the same way as you, as utility rather than for combat, but it can be done as there is no time limit in the game so you can liberally rest to regain mana. I always keep a bedroll at Shak’s to rest every time you give him something to repair as well. You must be close to unlocking the identify spell, which is a real relief when you do.

    Back as a 12 year old I remember having huge trouble killing that gazer in the mines, finally killing it with a couple of wands I found and being so satisfied when I downed it.

    P.S. have you planted the seed yet? Haven’t seen you mention it.

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    1. No, I didn't plant the seed. That just sets a location for you to be resurrected when you die, right? I've only died twice, and I just reloaded both times.

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    2. Yes, it means you can’t really lose, making the game even easier than it already is. It can also be used to speed up travel by “suicide teleport”.

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    3. That item would revolutionize commuting...

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    4. Hmm. Would you plant it at home or at work? I guess it depends on whether you want to go to heaven or hell after you kill yourself...

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  4. I presume that fresh corn was left there recently by another traveller, my way of keeping suspension of disbelief anyway :)

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    1. Maybe it grew from corn kernels that were washed into the Abyss? I mean, maybe the Abyss is part of a sewer system and...
      Eeeeeeewwww!

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  5. The central shaft is in the first level too, including the barred window. If you look at the map that came with the game (check the bonuses that are provided with the game on GOG.com), you'll see that this shaft is the conduit of the volcano which contains the Stygian Abyss.

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    1. When you look through the windows, you can see the lava glowing somewhat brighter each level you descend. Small but nice details that add to the immersion..

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  6. It might not be a good idea to keep one cache of spare items because of memory limitations. IIRC each level can only hold a certain number of objects, and once it's surpassed, they start disappearing.

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    1. I mean, I'm mostly just moving stuff that's already on that level to a central location.

      I've heard about this item-limit corruption, and I was wondering: what happens if I toss stuff in the water? Does it still "exist" somewhere and thus contribute to the corruption, or does destroying things that way help prevent it from happening?

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    2. I've heard about this a lot, but never experienced it in the 5 or so times I've played the game. On one of those I made a few sizable item stashes, with no ill effects. I'm not saying not to worry about it, but I think as long as you're not doing crazy stuff like summoning too much food or splitting coins into lots of smaller piles you should be fine.

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    3. And watch out for areas that have infinite enemy respawns. Level 3 is bad because it has lots of random junk laying around, plus that chain that causes skeletons to attack you everytime you pull it.

      But I think that throwing something in the water effectively removes it from the level. I would always do that if things seemed to be piling up to fast and have never encountered this bug.

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    4. Just for clarity -- the blood and bones laying around after combat are counted as items for purposes of memory, which is why farming things isn't always a great idea.

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    5. I've played through this game multiple times, and like Nathan P. Mahney, I've never run into this dreaded item bug.

      And yes, things thrown into the water are gone. So please, please make sure you don't accidentally throw in a talisman (happened to me in my first playthrough, only realised this much later, as I didn't know that a particular object was anything other than a generic light source...).

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  7. The upcoming game Underworld Ascendant got the official Ultima license from EA. They can't use the Ultima name but they can use anything else. So I believe the first real Ultima game since Ultima IX is coming out in 2018.

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    1. The funny thing with that, is that Ultima Underworld was originally just Underworld, and then got wedged into the Ultima universe for marketing purposes. So the series got squeezed into Ultima by executive decision, and now gets squeezed out of Ultima by executive decision. The circle is complete.

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  8. The lore skill works gradually as i recall. You get more and more information about an item as you increase it. E.g. first it is just a ring, then it becomes a magic ring and finally a ring of regeneration. I remember dumping quite a lot of points there after getting my combat skills sufficiently high, because it is much more convenient than other options of identification.

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  9. My experience was similar to yours at this point. I also switched to sword because they were everywhere and seemed easier to use, and despite liking the magic system and finding runes, it still felt like a chore to constantly change the active spell.

    I got caught stealing something from the bandits and was attacked, although one or two of them in other rooms didn't turn hostile - I ended up insulting them later anyway to see if they had anything good. There weren't any bad repercussions as far as I'm aware.

    I don't think the food ever gets older than "day-old". At first I avoided eating day-old meat but didn't suffer any ill effects when I eventually did.

    I loved the note-taking. One map had the full list of mantras on it, and each level had a list of items I was keeping in a stash there. That ended up being pretty useful (you definitely have some items you'll need and some you won't in that list).

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    1. Switching to swords is fine, and you can indeed use the completed Caliburn as a weapon instead of it just taking up inventory space. It's not the most damaging weapon in the game, but pretty close, and much lighter than the higher-damage alternatives. Also, being an artifact, it doesn't deteriorate in quality or break (once reforged, that is).

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  10. "Level 2 was otherwise a fairly straightforward level. I'm not sure I found a single secret door."

    I'm pretty sure Level 2 is the only level without secret doors, so you're good. I mean, there's technically a secret on it but you're not there yet.

    "I didn't force my way into the dwarf king's vault in the west."

    Goldthirst is a businessdwarf at heart. You scratch his back, he'll scratch yours. You don't need to force your way into his vault when there are other ways to make him agreeable.

    "For all I know, they're essential to completing the game. (If so, now would be a good time to tell me.)"

    Not only are the bandits non-essential, but you can get some decent stuff from their hoard and off their bodies. That being said, try not to kill anyone else who's not actively trying to kill you.

    "Level 3. Big area in the northwest has me concerned."

    Don't be concerned...

    "First, I discarded my backup items, trusting that I could always find another sword or axe or return to a cache I'm keeping on Level 3."

    This may be helpful, make a cache on each level. Use your map to then document what you have so you don't have to remember. This helped me out a lot and I never experienced the item-limit bug. Of course, if all you're doing is moving items scattered throughout each level to a single location then you should be ok.

    "If you eat a mushroom, the screen turns all psychedelic. It doesn't last very long."

    You can also get drunk, though I would suggest saving, trying it, and then reloading. Drinking all the booze in the abyss can come back to burn you.

    "...it may have something to do with a note I found that read, "Go to the very base of the Abyss, then battle your way back up, to find the key to your fortitude.""

    That's an important note, but not to the area you're applying it to.

    "One-sixteenth done?"

    If you're legitimately asking if each talisman of virtue has been divided, then no. Most are intact.

    I hope these hints/responses are light enough without becoming spoilery (and thus requiring ROT13). If I went too far on any, please let me know and I'll amend it in the future.

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  11. The bandits are fair game as others have said, but you should be very careful not to attack anyone peaceful in the future.

    Unwinnable situations in this game aren't exactly common but it's entirely possible to make the wrong NPC mad, or to throw a plot critical item into the water, and unlike Morrowind there's no warning when that happens. Serpent Isle is the other Ultima game that's really bad about this sort of thing.

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    1. I don't remember much about the last time I played this game, but I do remember that I couldn't win because a key NPC fell into lava. I'm paranoid about that happening again.

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    2. The exact same thing happened to me, except that I decided to get a save editor, because finding out you screwed yourself an hour from the end tends to make me not care if I'm cheating

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    3. I think my experience might have been pre-Internet. If not, it was certainly before there were plentiful sites offering things like saved game editors for easy download.

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  12. Regarding food: you can definitely find spoiled food in the Abyss, but I do not think it ages once in your inventory. A fun fact is that you can make it age by throwing it against the nearest wall as the game engine uses durability for food quality. If I had to make up a reason for the abundance of fresh food items like Corn, I think it would be that many of the denizens can at least do some rudimentary magic including the Create Food spell.

    On armor/weapon quality: the quality does affect how effective it is. Each drop by a full quality level loses you ~20% of the effectiveness (excellent 100%, serviceable 80%, worn 60%,...). To compare it with type, chain mail is double as effective as leather and plate mail is three times as effective as leather. So worn plate should be slightly worse than excellent chain mail but still considerably better than excellent leather.

    The best source on Ultima Underworld mechanics (armor/weapon values, spell damage, hit chance calculation) is the Cluebook for UW 2. There is a Cluebook for UW 1 as well, but it does not have a detailed mechanics section.

    What I am not certain about is whether the two advancements per level is correct - I think you get advancements at specific XP levels with it being a separate track to character level. So at early levels it might be 1 level = 1 skill points but at higher level you get many skill points for each level.

    It is more transparent in UW 2 where you can see the skill points you are still able to spend, but since they changed the training system I am not really sure it is the same in UW 1.

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    1. It is one advancement per level plus one every 150 exp, if memory serves.

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    2. One important thing to know about the way items take damage: your weapons take less damage the higher your weapon skill and attack skill are, and your armor takes less damage the higher your defense skill is. So it pays off doubly to invest in those skills. Also, to me at least it seemed that chain and plate are sturdier than leather. And then there's an item enchantment that you can occasionally get on your armor which makes that piece of armor tougher vs. damage. Not the best armor enchantment, but it's there.

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    3. Okay. So far, it's seemed like 2 per level, and I know I got exactly 2 with my last 2 levels, but maybe that was just a coincidence.

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  13. "Tracking" is used by pressing F9, and it tells about nearby monsters, if any, and if skill is high enough. A waste of time and skill advancements, in my opinion.

    And by the way, F10 is used to sleep without using the bedroll. The manual or the reference card does not tell if there is some penalty for not using the bedroll. If not, dropping it might aid with the encumbrance problem.

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    1. Wow, when I read your comment, I thought I must have skimmed those parts of the manual, but it turns out F9 isn't mentioned anywhere. (F10, on the other hand, is--and I missed it.) Thanks!

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    2. F9 to use the track skill is mentioned in the "Quick Reference Card" though.

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  14. I don't remember how I found your blog, despite it only being a couple weeks since I started reading it. Probably searching for something related to Might and Magic. Since then I've been hooked; I've read all of the entries for Ultima, Wizardry, Might and Magic, and Magic Candle so far, as well as a smattering of others, and let me just say that this is fantastic.

    I got my start with CRPGs in an odd place: the Sega Genesis version of Might and Magic II. This introduced me to the series, though, and I've been playing them on PC ever since. Your big list of games is fascinating, and there's several I can't wait for you to get to; Spiderweb's Exile series, as well as continuing Might and Magic and Wizardry especially. I was surprised to see Star Control II on the list, and I dearly hope you won't reject it, even though I can't really justify it as an RPG.

    You probably won't hear much from me until you get to Might and Magic IV; that'll likely be the next game you play that I actually have experience with. Good luck!

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    1. Welcome, Max. Don't just read the entries for the well-known games! I had the most fun writing posts for obscure titles.

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    2. Awesome. The Genesis/MegaDrive was home to a bunch of CRPGs, (at least) one of them exclusive (Warriors of the Midnight Sun). The Genesis was also my introduction to CRPGs

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    3. Er, Warriors of the Eternal Sun, I mean.

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    4. I've skimmed through most of the posts and found a few others that I enjoyed reading about that I've only heard of peripherally or never knew about before. I only mention those because they've caught my interest, either because I've played them myself (in the case of Might and Magic and Wizardry, though only 6 and 8 in the case of the latter), or have watched LPs of them (those plus Ultima VII).

      I actually have an incomplete LP series of Might and Magic VI up on YouTube which I've been giving a thought or two of picking back up again (with saves that have survived over 5 years and two changes of computer). Either that or starting it over and streaming it, which will have to wait as I've actually already started a weekend streaming project of The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky which I'm only a month into (about 12 hours total so far).

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  15. I think trying to figure out the words with the Mute was my "(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻" Moment back back back in the day before I tried it without a walkthrough though I do remember it different Oo Didn´t he try to make sounds to guide you to the word instead of mimeing? hmm .. maybe I remember it wrong.

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  16. "How can an ear of corn be only a day old if it's in a dungeon?"

    Presumably dungeon dwellers can access the same food creating magic the player can. In fact, it would be pretty hard to support such a population in the dungeon any other way, even with all the fishing and mushrooms you can find.

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    1. Which is why it's, you know, a pretty stupid place to try to set up an experimental civilization.

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    2. Well, so was Australia.

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  17. I generally didn't get into CRPGs as a youth - they seemed too complex, mathy, and "adult." About the only one I gave any sustained effort was Betrayal at Krondor, which still ultimately lost me. The Underworld games, like the Ultima VII games, were major exceptions - more colorful, action-oriented, in many ways basically a puzzle or adventure game with none of the heavy-duty tactics and stat management that this blog has revealed to be satisfying, rich challenges in games where they were well-implemented. For a 12-year-old mostly weaned on Sierra adventures, they were just about perfect. I LOVED the Lizardman language puzzle, the atmospheric music (sorry!), the filling-in of the map, wrangling with all the NPCs, the paperdolling, the fun of exploring in three dimensions and finding an interesting little out-of-the-way cave or hide-out. In hindsight, it's probably a little too easy (perhaps there are some heavier-duty puzzles on deeper levels which are slipping my mind) but oh the hours and hours of fun I had with this thing just like it is...

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    1. That's a very good summary of the game's strengths.

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    2. As a person of a similar adventure games background, it's interesting to note that for me too, atmosphere and exploration and puzzles were the reasons I got drawn to UU but more than anything, more than the 3d engine, more than any technical achievement in this game what I loved the most was the auto-map with free annotations on it. It looks beautiful, it's super handy, it immersed me in such a way that I got that real feeling that if I were trapped in a dungeon parchment and graphite would be my most important tools for survival.

      This has left me with the idea for some sort of crpg where you don't get xp for killing enemies but you're just a cartographer sent by the king to make an accurate map of a new continent or something, I think I've mentioned this before.

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    3. I would play that game.
      Not only explore and discover new lands but set up diplomatic relationships, find new trade routes.
      I've always wanted the king to give you small companies of men to lead rather than just send you out on a single, grand adventure. As you gain promotions (levels) you are given more men to lead.
      Quests would be like (Head north and clear the orc camp they've set up. Here's a company."
      Wasn't Nobunagas Ambition like that?

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    4. "some sort of crpg where you don't get xp for killing enemies but you're just a cartographer sent by the king to make an accurate map of a new continent or something" - there was a kickstarter project called "Frontiers" that literally had this premise. Unfortunately it's long been in development hell, but apparently still being developed so maybe it'll see the light of the day in a couple of years.

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    5. "some sort of crpg where you don't get xp for killing enemies but you're just a cartographer sent by the king to make an accurate map of a new continent or something"

      In Underrail (not to be confused with Undertale), you can choose either a conventional experience system, where you gain XP for defeating enemies, or an 'Oddity' system, where you gain XP for finding rare items through exploration. I saw someone do a playthrough under the oddity system - he thought it was interesting, but made it difficult to grind if you got stuck.

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  18. In my own replay, the bandits turned hostile for no obvious reason. Otherwise I am almost done with L3, just need to find the blade and walk sone water.


    The only frustrating problem so far is the lack of knowledge of key mantras. I have been training on the general magic mantra because all the results are useful. The general combat and other mantras seem dodgy unless you save and reload. I felt bad about doing that, so I restarted as a fighter who now has decent lore, spell casting and mana. But this inability to train in combat seems wrong.

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    1. I recommend you just look up a cheat-sheet. I know it isn't optimal, but this mantra thing was a terrible idea and it's telling that the second game dropped the concept.

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  19. My first play through, way back when this can out, was a pure mage. I used magic arrow and ran a lot. And died a lot. I would not have the patience for that now.

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    1. Second game is much more mage friendly due to the Bleed Spell plus being able to carry more stuff (3x Str instead of 2x Str carry limit). You still need to sleep a lot.

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    2. I played a mage in that first time too. The combT spells are better too, if I recall correctly.

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  20. Reading through these posts, I'm actually surprised how little I remember from this game: I remember the dwarves (on L2), the human outpost and the goblins (both L1), but not the lizards, or almost anything else you mention here. I do think I remember a few things from the lower levels, I'm really curious to see if these memories are true or if my mind is playing tricks on me.

    I know I liked the game though, since it's one of those games that manages to create a "real" world, where NPCs could actually live while you're not around, as opposed to a collection of places where nothing ever happens - until the player walks by. Ultima VII is another game that excels at this, I'm definitely looking forward to your coverage of that game.

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  21. It's great to read your commentary on Underworld because you're obviously really enjoying it!

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  22. Hello there
    I have a late question for the veterans. What the undocumented CURSE spell does? I cant find any reference on the internet. The only clue is the icon it appears when I cast it. Its makes it looks like insulting but, what is the real purpose?
    Thanks and nice read

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