Friday, March 23, 2018

Ultima Underworld: Things Fall Apart

You mean "again," right?
I ended the last entry noting that I had all of my runes, and that as such, I would try to experiment more with the game's many spells. I then descended to Level 7, which immediately sucked away my mana and left it empty for nearly this entire session. This was particularly annoying because the level had a lot of creatures of various types, and it would have been a great place to test out spells.

Level 7 was just an awful experience. I mean, more so for the character than the player, but still. In contrast to the openness of previous levels, it had a ton of sectioned areas largely inaccessible from each other and one-way paths and doors. Where previous levels were largely solvable from within the level, solving the main puzzles of Level 7 required me to dip down into Level 8 (which seems to be even more partitioned). And in addition to the lack of mana, there were plenty of places in the level where health just disappeared for no reason, often killing me. I think I had more reloads on Level 7 than the entire game combined leading up to it.
Between the platforms and the lava, it's the platforms that are dangerous. I have boots for the lava; the platforms damage my health for no reason.
Oh, and I may have encountered a game-breaking bug.

When I first arrived, I ran into a fighter named Cardon at the bottom of the stairs. He wanted a bottle of port, which I didn't have, so he didn't offer me a lot of help. Later down the path, I found a goblin guarding a passageway, and the goblin demanded a medallion. Since I didn't have a medallion, any option I chose resulted in combat with the goblin and about half a dozen other goblins and trolls in the area.
Troll massacre!
A few minutes later, I ran into another goblin asking for a medallion behind a portcullis, and also had to fight a bunch more goblins and trolls. At this point, I was feeling like I had messed up and perhaps needed to try harder to find this medallion. In any event, I was so weakened from combat that I decided to return to the previous level and either rest or let my mana recharge enough to cast a few healing spells.

That's when it happened: the dreaded inventory bug message.
This was the first time I'd seen it. Someone told me that it happens because a level accumulates too many items. I thought maybe I could make it go away if I reloaded from a save before I descended to Level 7, then run around Level 6 destroying superfluous items.

It didn't work, but the experience was useful in other ways. First, I found some more incense blocks and burned them, giving me two more visions of the Cup of Wonder--more about that below. Second, I found a bottle of port for Cardon. As for the inventory bug, I don't know if it will prove fatal or not. Nothing seems to have gotten corrupted in my carried inventory. I hope I can hang on until the end of the game.

Thus re-starting Level 7, I gave Cardon the port, and he had a lot to say. The lack of spellcasting ability on the level is the work of a mage who rules over the level and has taken a number of prisoners, including Cardon's brother. He confirmed that the wizard's minions look for a medallion of passage and said that he lost one in the "haunted mines" to the southeast.
These creatures were new on this level and almost comically easy.
I did my best to make my way to the southeast, sometimes leaping high over lava flows, sometimes walking on top of them. I battled through walking trees, giant spiders, gazers, and ghosts, and ultimately found the medallion. In the end, it turned out to be mostly a waste of time. It kept the wizard's guards at bay for a while, but they turned hostile once I escaped the prison, and I had to kill them all in the end.
I prolonged his life a little while.
The culmination of the goblin area was a prison. To get in, I had to bribe a troll guard with a few gems, the last time (I suspect) that wealth will be important in the game unless I want to identify items or have the dwarven smith repair them.
Probably my last barter.
The prison, among several massive doors I couldn't open yet, had several helpful NPCs. A guy named Naruto gave the name of the evil wizard as "Tyball" (has this appeared earlier in the game?) and said that Tyball's orb is responsible for draining everyone's mana and transferring it to Tyball. He suggested that if I could find the material the orb is made from, I can destroy it with that. He also provided the location of an important key.
Learning the name of the bad guy for the first time.
A man named Griffle said that Tyball keeps prisoners to work the mines on the next level, but he doesn't know what they're mining (Tyball seems uninterested in gold). A dwarf named Kallistan gave me a crystal shard that he'd found in the mines and said that it often makes an eerie keening. I think it helped me find a secret door later or something. Dantes, a human, told me of piles of treasure on the next level and showed me an escape tunnel he'd dug. This turned out to be important because the troll had locked the prison behind me, and the escape tunnel was the only way out.

The escape tunnel led to a long river of fire, where I faced about 8-10 fire elementals. I soon exhausted my wands. I never would have made it through them except that I found a stairway to Level 8 about halfway down the river, and I was able to duck down there between battles, sleep, and recharge my magic to cast "Create Food" and "Heal."
Toughest bastards in the game.
Throughout all of this, every time I rested, the same face that invaded my dreams at the outset of the game appeared to blather nonsense, only that nonsense slowly became more comprehensible. He identified himself as "Garamon"--I had been assuming this whole time that it was Cabirus--and indicated that Tyball, his brother, is cooking up some summoning ritual. Has the name "Garamon" appeared before?
His life!
Past the fire elementals, I found a Ring of Levitate, which really helped get around the multi-tiered level. But after that, I hit a dead end. The only place left to explore was a maze in the right-central part of the level, but it drained my health every time I set foot in it.

I took one of several stairways I'd found to Level 8 and soon found a stairway heading back up to a hidden area of Level 7. It was guarded by a couple of golems and an imp, who spoke to me.  He said I could only take a particular crown from the treasure chamber, one that would "open my eyes." The chamber beyond had numerous piles of gold, gems, magic items, and crowns. I investigated the latter until I found one labeled "Crown of Maze Navigation."
Did they think all this extra treasure would tempt me? I have one pound free!
Back up on the main part of Level 7, in the maze that drained my health, wearing the crown showed me a golden "safe" path along the floor. This took me to a large open area with an orb on a pedestal and a portcullis behind it, trapping Princess Arial in her cell. As I investigated, Tyball attacked me. All of this was a complete surprise; I had assumed I'd find Arial and her kidnapper at the climax of the game on Level 8.
Oh, right. I just remembered my primary goal!
I hadn't found anything to break the orb, so I had to fight Tyball without magic. He killed me the first couple of times. The third time, I used a few scrolls I had on hand, including "Monster Summoning," which kept him occupied while I attacked his rear. I also used a couple strategic retreats to use potions in the middle of combat. Eventually, I killed him.
I didn't get a great shot of Tyball. He was floating in the air for most of the combat for some reason.
As he died, he had a speech:
Thou hast just doomed this world, meddler! My ritual was designed to release the creature from its bonds, then bind it to the body of yon young lady. Thanks to thee, however, only the first part was accomplished. It is mine own fault. With my brother gone, only I could save our world. Ironic, is it not? I stood ready to save Britannia, and thou did slay me to save but a girl. The creature, the Slasher of Veils, which I sought to bind will soon escape. And its ambitions are horrible indeed. All Britannia shall suffer. Thou hast earned thy reward, fool. Thanks to thee, I shall not be here to see it.
I don't mind saying I'm a bit confused here. Tyball was trying to "save Britannia"--from a demon he freed in the first place? Why just, you know, not free it? And why go through all the trouble of kidnapping the princess to bind it? Why not just grab some poor fool who was already in the abyss? 
"The Slasher of Veils" sounds like a short story Stephen King might have contributed to Modern Bride.
The answers died with him. He left two keys, one of which opened the portcullis (again, how?) and freed the princess. She fortuitously had an "Amulet of Travel" that she could use to flee the Abyss and warn the populace to flee the island. After a quick speech, she took off.
I wonder why Lord British never gave me one of those.

The rooms behind the orb chamber contained some interesting books and scrolls, including On the Process of Resurrection and Demonic Summoning and Control: Theory and Practice. A scribbled note indicated that Tyball had killed Garamon but meant to resurrect him. 

Before I wrapped up the session, I wanted to clean up a few things, including the Cup of Wonder. The three visions had shown three different pairs of letters on the cup: IN, SA, and HN. I didn't think of them as mantras because "HN" isn't exactly pronounceable. 

I walked back up to the ankh on Level 5 (I either hadn't found or hadn't annotated any on 6 or 7). I had reached max level (16) at some point, so I used my final skill-boost mantras to increase "Lore," "Sword," "Attack," and "Defense." Then I tried combinations of the mantras from the vision--SAINHN, INHNSA, etc.--until I hit paydirt with INSAHN. "The Cup of Wonder is northeast and above you," the ankh said.
As it happened, I needed to visit earlier levels anyway, since I had never collected the moonstone and was now drowning in "Gate Travel" scrolls. I used one to reach its hidden area on Level 2, kill some slugs, and obtain the stone. "Gate Travel" takes you to wherever the stone is. I dropped it near a convenient staircase on Level 6.
This would have been hard to collect before I obtained my dragonscale boots anyway.
The ankh on Level 2 said the Cup of Wonder was below me. The one on Level 3 said it was "west" but not above or below. So I poked around various rooms to the west, playing Cabirus's favorite tune on the flute, until the cup appeared to me in a nondescript room off a river. At last, I had all eight artifacts of virtue. But for what?
That could have been more . . . wondrous.
Back on Level 7, I tried another stairway to Level 8 and found, amidst gold-veined walls and gold nuggets, an "orb rock." This destroyed Tyball's orb on Level 7 and removed the mana-draining effect. I wonder what would have happened if I'd done that first.
It was satisfying how instantly my mana filled back up.
Tyball's keys opened the previously-locked doors in the northwest part of the level. NPCs in those chambers told me of the Key of Courage and the Key of Truth, the former accessible from a staircase in the northwest area. I followed it upward, filling in small areas in the northwest of several levels, killing hostile goblins, lurkers, and mages, until I found a key labeled "Key of Courage" in a small room. This key opened a nearby door, where I found a small object also labeled "Key of Courage." So I'm guessing the first key was technically the key to the Key of Courage.
Walking through walls of fire on the way to the Key of Courage. Note that the error message keeps appearing.
As for the Key of Truth, a seer named Gurstang said he had been looking for it. My dialogue options included a choice to tell him that his "colleague Illomo" was worried about him. He gave me a password to speak to Illomo. Problem is, I can't remember where Illomo is and have no notes about him. I guess I'll search the seers' enclave first, of course. Naturally, there will be a Key of Compassion, of which I've heard nothing, but I'm 99% sure it will come from Judy on Level 5 once I find the portrait of her lost love.
I checked on her briefly to make sure she hadn't fallen in the lava.
Miscellaneous notes:
  • Level 7 has a "mellow earth golem" just hanging around a little dead-end room. It feels like there should be something I can do there, but he won't talk and there are no secret doors.
  • Every level still has central windows looking into the "volcanic core." They're getting brighter.
If you're going to wall off the "core," I'm not sure it makes sense to put windows in it.
  • Although I had been determined to stick with the Sword of Valor as the primary weapon for weight purposes, I couldn't resist replacing it with an "excellent magical black sword" I found somewhere on Level 7 in a room guarded by a "shadow beast." It does seem to outperform the Sword of Valor.
  • I encountered a wisp in one of the small areas near the Key of Courage. He was "mellow," but he wouldn't talk to me. That was disappointing.
I thought he'd have some news from the Xornite dimension or whatever.
At some point after I killed Tyball, Garamon came to me in a dream and said that the Slasher of Veils was unstoppable, but Garamon might be able to help if I could properly bury his bones, which are somewhere on Level 8 ("beneath Tyball's chambers"). I collected all the bones and skulls I could find on the level and brought them up to the graveyard on Level 5 and clicked on Garamon's grave. It congratulated me for giving the bones a proper burial, but Garamon didn't appear or anything, so I suspect I had the wrong bones. I'll have to keep looking.
I "thoughtfully" create a mass grave.
It feels like the game is becoming a bit unraveled towards the end here, but my perception might be influenced by the near-desperation by which I'm trying to wrap things up before the inventory bug makes the game unwinnable.
Time so far: 27 hours


  1. There are hints which should give you the location in game of the bones you need to bury, but in case you have already unwittingly picked them up and can't separate them from others I believe that they are the only ones that don't stack.

    That error message looks concerning, I hope it doesn't prevent you from finishing! Presumably so long as no vital plot items disappear (juvpu V guvax sbe lbh abj pbafvfg bs gur 8 gnyvfznaf, gur obarf, gur gevcnengr xrl naq cbffvoyl n pbhcyr bs bgure xrlf) you can still finish.

  2. There's... wait... am I hearing (reading) this right?
    There's a guy named Naruto in this game?
    Are you sure you didn't mix up with Nippon or, much less weirdly, a fevered dream about magic Ninjas after binge-watching animes on Netflix?


    2. It is an extremely odd coincidence, since it is the only "Naruto" I'm able to find that predates the mediocre manga character of the same name (who debuted in 1997).

      I'm really curious where the developers got the name from.

    3. Jamming syllables together, I'd guess. It's the thing to do in fantasy settings.

    4. It's a Japanese given name? Jeez people, not everything has to be related to something you've heard of before. People are allowed to do their own thing.

    5. If it is an existing Japanese name, I would have expected Google searches to turn up somebody notable by that name. No mater how much I filter the results, I cannot.

    6. Well, first Naruto is a City in Japan and the Naruto Uzumaki (full name of the said manga character) are famous whirlpools near it. So of course its possible somebody at Blue Sky knew of the city / whirlpools.

    7. The word "naruto" goes back to the earliest written Japanese we have (8th century or earlier) and is found in a number of contexts, like the whirlpool or the swirl fish cakes that are often found in ramen and other food. The writers could have encountered the word in a number of places, or it could just be blind luck.

    8. It's not surprising searching for a Japanese name in English doesn't turn up results.

      By the way, please stop using Google, they've gone evil. Use or any other source.

    9. When I search for "Naruto City" I get results for said city. I think my attempts at filtering out the anime/manga character were also filtering out those.

      Still seems like an oddly obscure name for a character in a Western work, but it no longer seems to have shown up ex-nihlo, so to speak.

  3. About that inventory bug.
    - Make sure you don't have containers inside other containers. It is one of the main causes of that bugs, along with hoarding.
    - Check the containers periodically for duplicated contents, it may cause disappearance of the main quest items.
    - Consider throwing away some items, like keys from previous levels, except for Key of Truth and the other two.

  4. The game does feel like it's unraveling towards the end mostly because your main goal changes: for the longest time, your goal is just exploring and surviving, growing stronger in the process. Then, once you (a bit too suddenly...) stumble upon what had been supposed to be the main quest (but which wasn't really meaningfully to be pursued before), you expect more than the game offers. I think Underworld works best as a sandbox game without a main quest, but just like in a Bethesda title, eventually that main quest will beckon just so you feel you "finish" the game. And just like in a Bethesda title, the main quest is rather unfulfilling and not too long. The main difference between Underworld and Skyrim is sheer size.

  5. The tree-looking creature that you fought is a Reaper. You might think they're too easy now, but just wait until Ultima Underworld 2...

    Good job on getting through Level 7 without too much hassle. It's almost certainly the most challenging area of the game.

    1. The reaper in the bottom of the UW2 sewers is the only monster EVERYONE remembers in the game :D

    2. That and the gazers in the same level. The way the designers of the game chose to tell the player:"Maybe you shoulden't be here right now even if important things are here. The Headless were not a cake-walk either XD. But really, they were a way to say: explore more, the game is not linear. Also, in the year that passed since Ultima VII the avatar really got out of shape so level up :p

  6. Can we expect the next two UU entries to be entitled No Longer At Ease, and Arrow Of God..?

    Is there any reason that the princess didn't just use her amulet of travel to escape and warn her father before you showed up?

    1. Tyball did have her chained up, so maybe she couldn't.

  7. The Cluebook does a good job to explaining the backstory, here are some (without spoilers, based on what you have already as info) answers to the above questions, in bullet point:

    - Garamon & Tyball were kind sorcerer brothers researching planes.
    - Their research went wrong, and they let a demon in to our world.
    - They managed to bind him, and worked on a plan to send him home.
    - But the demon corrupted Tyball soul (why he is evil now) and Tyball betrayed Garamon.
    - Now Tyball wanted to make some ritual to control the demon and harness its ultimate power for himselft, but he needed someone virtuous enough for that (for reasons you'll see later), hence enter the princess and not a random dude from the Abyss.

    You'll read the whole story after. I don't remember if all this info is actually in the game as well or not.

    1. No! I was wondering where that all came from. I was preparing information for the final entry, and I found a long summary of the "story" on a spoiler site, but since so much of it wasn't in the game, I wondered what the source was. Thanks for clarifying that.

    2. The clue book contains critical narrative?! DOCK THIS GAME A POINT.

    3. It's not critical narrative in terms of beating the game per se. The necessary clues do exist. It's more... filling in the blanks, really. The plot at the end leaves the player with large questions regarding "Why" and the game doesn't answer them because you killed the one guy left who could have done that.

      This is bad storytelling, I agree. But the Clue Book is not required to win the game.

    4. That's why I said 'narrative' and not 'information required to win the game' :p

    5. I still think it's bad design if you need the cluebook for the entire story--if indeed you do. I don't know. It's POSSIBLE that there are enough NPC dialogues, notes, books, wall-scribbles, and other hints to put it together without the hintbook.

      I doubt it, however. Mostly, the clues seem to be pointing to a DIFFERENT story. For instance, Tyball's library has a book titled Demonic Summoning and Control: Theory and Practice. This suggests that he DELIBERATELY conjured the Slasher of Veils, which goes against the official cluebook narrative.

    6. Maybe he was just reading the text for the control parts?

    7. I had the same thought as Vonotar. I mean, you can explain things, but in the end, it's true that backstory is a bit approximate. But as I remember that cluebooks were a big thing at the time, studios went to lengths to make them more attractive, so that even someone who didn't need the actual clues could be interested in purchasing it: new art, exclusive backstory info, unlocking special "secrets" in the game, original writing (for example, the UU one is written from the point of view of the evil boss, Tyball!), etc.

      It's the equivalent of our current "Deluxe", "Hero" or "Epic" editions which come with an additional story book, maps, concept arts, comics, short novels and so on.

      So leaving unanswered questions in the game to have players buy the cluebook was actually not a far-fetched idea, and as socially acceptable as DLCs are today.

      In addition, inaccuracies and "patchwork-feel" in the story can also be explained by the tacked-on Ultima universe canon to the game late in development.

    8. I don't buy that.
      Or rather you may well be right that they chose to put required information in official hint books, but just because others were doing it does not make it acceptable from a respect perspective.
      It doesn't matter how many modern publishers utilize loot boxes they will remain repugnant. Socially acceptable ... If you mean that they think they can get away with it - perhaps.

  8. That might be the first time I've seen the Count of Monte Cristo as an NPC. I like that he's actually useful instead of just a name drop.

    1. I just finished the Witcher 3 (main quest) 2 days ago, and there's a NPC ex-prisoner who's the only one who escaped from an unescapable-from prison, by pretending he's dead and having his body thrown down in the water - and his name was... Abbé Faria!

    2. I didn't know that, that's excellent!

  9. Ultima 7 also had an infuriating inventory bug, in which items randomly disappeared while the characters slept. Its interface and inventory are so terrible that you will never be able to tell if anything is gone. I always have to cheat to beat that damned game at the end, because the time cube always disappears. Spoony also reported that a bug in Serpent Isle caused an important ring to disappear, but another bug caused it to be unnecessary.

    1. Ultima 7 is probably my favorite in the series but by god it's main quest is far too convoluted and finicky for its own good. I've probably started it dozens of times over the years to play it as a sandbox but only bothered to actually complete the main quest like once.

  10. For some reason I keep thinking of a "Sir Cadogan" when reading your posts on this game. No memory of where that name is from though...

    1. Cadogan West was a murder victim in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", one of the classic Sherlock Holmes short stories.

    2. A-ha! That'd be the one. Thanks, now I can rest easier...

    3. Harry Potter that is.

  11. My brother and I played through both Underworld titles and I think we have been impressed. But I cant remember next no nothinbg about the games. The very few scenes I do remember are from the second part. I wondered why this is the case, since Ultima Underworld was such an original game.
    Reading your articles now, I think it might be the lack of narrative?

  12. I remember having this error message and was scared but in the end it never meant anything for me.

  13. Your response to Georges makes it sound like you've already won and just have yet to compose the entry. If that's the case, early congratulations! If not...

    "As for the inventory bug, I don't know if it will prove fatal or not. Nothing seems to have gotten corrupted in my carried inventory. I hope I can hang on until the end of the game."

    From your stopping point at this entry, so long as none of your talismans vanish, or your Key of Courage (the real one), or the other two important keys you're about to pick up, or Garamon's bones, then you'll be fine for the remainder of the game.

    "Between the platforms and the lava, it's the platforms that are dangerous. I have boots for the lava; the platforms damage my health for no reason."

    If you're talking about the jumping area near the central section of level 7, I believe that's intentional. I also think that there's a safe path, but I could be wrong as it's been a few years since I beat the game. If you were at a different point on the level then I don't know what's up with that.

    "Has the name "Garamon" appeared before?"

    Garamon and Tyball, and the larger plot between them, is an 11th hour reveal inside the game. I'm pretty sure that the intention was to throw a plot twist, but it wasn't handled very well since the initial plot - rescue Arial - is forgotten by most players around level 2. And then there are those who had the Clue Book...

    As an aside, 1994, the first time I played this game, was also the first time I read Romeo and Juliet. I kept calling Tyball, "Tybalt." Am I alone in this?

    "This destroyed Tyball's orb on Level 7 and removed the mana-draining effect. I wonder what would have happened if I'd done that first."

    It would have restored your magic instantly and hurt Tyball at the same time, thus making the fight easier.

    "Naturally, there will be a Key of Compassion, of which I've heard nothing, but I'm 99% sure it will come from Judy on Level 5 once I find the portrait of her lost love."

    Again I'm going on the assumption you finished the game already but just in case... qvq lbh gnyx gb rirelbar va gur cevfba?

    "It congratulated me for giving the bones a proper burial, but Garamon didn't appear or anything, so I suspect I had the wrong bones. I'll have to keep looking."

    Yeah, that whole "beneath Tyball's chambers" annoyed me too because I thought it literally meant underneath. I searched the SE quadrant of level 8 for so long... Anyway, gurer'f n sevraqyl ACP ba yriry 8 jub pna uryc lbh.

    "It feels like the game is becoming a bit unraveled towards the end here, but my perception might be influenced by the near-desperation by which I'm trying to wrap things up before the inventory bug makes the game unwinnable."

    No, it's not you. Much as I love this game it has real pacing issues. I attribute it chiefly to how the game changes its play style. Right off the bat your clear story goal of rescue the princess is abandoned (by most players, myself included) for one of simple survival. Then, as you learn more about the people who live in the abyss and get caught up in the world, the goal turns into an elaborate but leisurely series of fetch quests. From levels 1-6 (three quarters of the game) you never really feel rushed even though you're _supposed_ to still be searching for Arial. Nobody's pushing you. And then you hit the back half of level 7 and it's suddenly, "Oh yeah! The princess! Hurry, hurry, save her! And oh by the way, here's a larger 'Save Brittania' twist we're going to throw at you too but never fully explain in-game."

    1. Yes, I've won, but thank you for the hints nonetheless. I never did encounter the NPC on Level 8. I just figure out the right set of bones partly through trial-and-error and party through the things that are found with the bones.

      You'll learn next time why I had a hard time with the "Picture of Tom" even though I did talk with Bolinard.

    2. About the jumping area near the central section of level 7 - you can find a map which shows this area and that some parts of the room are trapped.

    3. Okay. Yeah, that would have been helpful. There was a place on Level 8, when walking up a ramp, when my health just drained away for no reason, too. There seemed to be a lot of places like that in the game. It left me a bit annoyed. Even if "traps" is the explanation, there ought to be visible explosions or something, not your health vial just emptying silently.

  14. LOL. The Stephen King joke was probably the best you've ever made.

  15. "Why not just, not free it?" - brilliant XD. Also, hmm, the name "Slasher of Veils" instills some dread. Like in, "The Slasher was released... and thus Ultima slashficton was born!" XD

  16. It took me forever to get the hint from Garamon to return his body because I stopped sleeping. There didn't seem to be that much of a negative impact, if any, so I relied on the silver tree to quickly die in order to refill my health and mana.

    There's a locked door near that mellow earth golem to an area of level 7 I never unlocked. I didn't realize I could try to bash doors down. I might try that... there's also an area on level 6, to the east of the Seers that has a weird room I was never able to enter. I have a feeling it's the room where a hint about four emeralds applies. I'm not sure what's actually in there though.

    1. So the area on level 7, warning of Evil Dead Beyond, only has three dire ghosts. Nothing else.


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