Thursday, April 6, 2023

Serpent Isle: Scorch'd, not Killed

When the story is written, Shamino, I'll be sure to include the "Aiiieeeee!"
As I start this session, I haven't played in a couple of weeks, so it's a good thing that the linear nature of the game hasn't left me with many options. Having survived the Mountains of Freedom and reassembled my party, I have precisely 0 leads on how to get off this island. I decide to start with a loop of the city to see who has new dialogue. Also, there are some people I'd like to kill, though I don't expect that they've stuck around.
  • Bucia had no new dialogue options. I rather hoped she'd apologize for testifying against me. Also having no new dialogue: Mosh, Julia, Pothos, Fedabiblio, Flindo, Freli, Andrio, Melino, Rocco, and Petra. Kane has nothing new to say, but he's hanging out at Gustacio's now.
  • Mortegro, Frigidazzi, and Filbercio are nowhere to be found. I wasn't done buying spells from Mortegro, but Torrisso tells me he's gone missing, zapped away during a magical storm. Torrisso has joined the Council since I was imprisoned. 
  • Columna claims that since Stefano has returned to Moonshade, she's going to have him executed. Stefano has nothing to say about that. There's a "join" option when I talk to him, but he refuses, even if I drop other party members.
  • Ducio says that aside from the demon being missing, my Black Sword has been damaged beyond his ability to repair. He suggests I check with Gustacio.
  • Gustacio has the most new dialogue. He apologizes for the sham of a trial but says he couldn't contradict the MageLord. He says he could repair my Black Sword if he had his flux analyzer, but it was stolen years ago. He confirms that Mortegro disappeared from Gustacio's own cellar, replaced by a strange altar--"like something from a Serpent temple."  
I confirm that there's a stone altar in Gustacio's basement. A naga attacks me when I enter. I don't know if this is the same naga that I freed from Rotoluncia's house or a different one. Rotoluncia's is gone, in any event. 
A) How did lightning strike in here? B) What was Mortegro doing standing in a cave against the wall?
Gustacio asks for my help analyzing the teleportation storms. He thinks the color of the lightning has something to do with its properties--teleportation, transmutation, and transposition. He wants me to take an energy globe to a tower he's erected in the valley north of town, fiddle with the levers to summon a storm, and watch the effects. Yay. I just love puzzles involving colors.
"My report: Red, yellow, or green lighting transmutes things; red, yellow, or green lightning transposes them; and red, yellow, or green lightning teleports them."
As I head up to Gustacio's tower, I find a couple of things I missed before, including a chasm in the ground with a bow next to it and a ruined house with a locked door. There seem to be stairs heading down in the house. My lockpicks don't work on the door, and gods know if any of my million keys will open it. 
I reach the tower, install the globe, and start pulling levers. To the best that I can tell:
  • A yellow, orange, or green bolt replaces a plate with a pinecone. I don't know if this is transmutation or transposition.
  • A yellow, orange, or green bolt replaces a helmet with a cat. I hope this is a transmutation, or else some poor family has lost a cat.
Honestly, guys. Sometimes I feel like I'm on my own here.
  • A red bolt--thankfully, Dupre speaks up--makes a shield disappear.
  • A red or green bolt turns a hoe into a small rock.
  • A red or green bolt destroys a cup.
  • A red or green bolt destroys a pumpkin. At this point, Iolo says that all the bolts have been red, green, or yellow.
  • Two platforms have nothing on them. I pull their associated levers, and my party members identify the bolts that struck them as yellow and red, but nothing happens in either case.
Glad we cleared that up.
Could you maybe tell me which bolt did what?
Rolling the winch to open the gate causes the energy globe to explode. The Avatar wakes up next to the chasm wondering where he is. The party members are gone. For $&*#'s sake. I just went through this. I find them hanging around the tower and have them re-join, but of course I have to re-equip them with all their stuff.
Back in town, Gustacio sends me to Fedabiblio for the "answers." (Man, am I going to be glad when I no longer have to remember how to spell these names.) He says I should consult his crystal ball to solve the mystery of "the missing brother." I wasn't aware that was why I was doing all these things, but I guess it explains Kane in Gustacio's house. The crystal ball shows Edrin, Kane's brother, trying to escape a teleportation storm and getting transmuted into a parrot, which was the solution I'd figured out when I first met the damned thing. 
Technically, it's a "transmutation" storm.
I bring the news back to Gustacio, who tells me to take Ale (the parrot) to the tower and "place him where the lightning can strike him." He gives me a cage to trap Ale and a new energy globe. This might be my imagination, but Ale seems to be trying to run away and hide as I approach him with the cage. I have to chase him down the street.
On the way back to the tower, I accidentally fall into the chasm. The corpses of those who have done the same litter the floor. A short corridor takes me up to the interior of the ruined house, but I can't find a key anywhere and have to reload and replay the entire tower sequence again because I stupidly didn't save after I finished it the first time.
Which is why this screenshot contradicts what I said two paragraphs ago.
Back at the tower, I pick one of the platforms at random, pull the lever, and cross my fingers. Fortunately, Ale is transformed back to Edrin. He thanks us and says he hopes to book passage home to the mainland. The farm that he and Kane tend is apparently south of Fawn. I think the only farm I found in that area showed signs of a massacre. I don't have any dialogue options along those lines. Edrin also mentions that when he was a parrot, he had dreams of a beautiful woman named Siranush. "Oftimes, I would only see her from afar . . . other times, we would be together, swimming, gardening, walking . . . ." I don't know what to make of this. 
As I leave the tower, let me note that it's a real pain in the neck to take stairs in this engine. Movement in the interface is difficult when you have to aim for something as narrow as a staircase. Half the time, you end up walking alongside the staircase and jamming yourself in a corner, or somehow getting yourself caught on the risers next to the staircase, or what have you. I spend a lot of time bumbling around trying to get the party unstuck. Later in the game, I somehow wind up on top of a pile of rocks, and it takes about 10 minutes to get off of them.
As a bird, you could have flown off this island.
In town again, Gustacio gives us the Mirror of Truth as a reward for helping in the experiment. I don't know what to make of this, as I've never heard of the Mirror of Truth before and don't know why I need it. He also teaches me the spells he knows for free. I'll have an entry on magic at some point.
The serpent earring speaks to me briefly as I leave Gustacio's house: "Who art thou, stranger? Why can't I see thee? Curse this imbalance which veils my mind . . . ." I don't know what to make of that. ("I don't know what to make of that" would have been my subtitle for this entry if I could have made a snake-related pun out of it.) Kane and Ale both talk about booking passage off the island, so I go and talk with Captain Hawk. He still refuses to sail, but he says that there are caves in the southern mountains and Julia has a key to a door that will let me in. 
Hold me back, Boydon.
Sensing an imminent departure, I spend the rest of my guilders on reagents and then head to the rangers' winery. Julia gives me the key for 40 guilders--thankfully, I had just about that much left--and warns us about the dungeon's heat and its dangerous "rat-men."
A ranger is guarding the dungeon entrance. We unlock the door and enter. We are attacked by giant rats in the hallways, which lead us to a "village" of larger rat-men. As they're hostile, we kill them and loot their cheese. Past their village, we find a corridor where the rat-men seemed to have piled up furniture to block a group of undead from entering their village. The undead area has an altar with gold, potions, and a Sword of Defense.
These little "houses" are kind of cute. I don't know why the rat-men had to be hostile.
Beyond the undead area is a door with a "flaming man" (I wish I knew their real name) beyond it. We kill him after taking significant damage from his explosions. This turns out to be a dead end, so we have to head back through the undead area (the creatures of course have respawned), past a house where a couple of trolls live, and up some stairs to the dungeon Furnace.
We come immediately to an open drawbridge. A gargoyle patrols the other side next to a lever. I try casting "Telekinesis" on the lever, but it's stuck, so I hail him. He introduces himself as Zhelkas, "ruler of the gargoyles." His people have lived in these Ophidian ruins, which he calls the "Lost City," for a couple of generations. What sounds like Knights of Monitor have harassed them, calling them "daemons," but they usually die from the heat before they can do much damage. He's thus wary of us, but he also thinks I might be the "Hero of the Dream." The gargoyles apparently have recurring dreams about a hero from another world who will kill the Trinity of Evil and "triumph through virtue." They have a Ring of the Serpent to give to him. My companions all assure Zhelkas that I must be the hero, but he says I'll have to "submit to the Test of Purity" to prove myself. I agree to submit and he lowers the drawbridge, telling me to go to the Place of Purity and grasp the Pillar of Fire.
I've always thought of myself as the only "man" in this group; I just didn't know that Dupre did, too.
A couple of things happen on the other side of the bridge. First, the Serpent Earring speaks to me again: "I know we have met before, Stranger. Dost thou recall?" No, not really. Second, my companions start complaining about the heat and taking damage, so I cast the "Chill" spell that Frigidazzi gave me. I note that I only have enough reagents for 9 castings of the spell. I hope it lasts.
We enter the ruins of the city. Most of the ways are blocked by iron bars, opened by levers that we're not strong enough to pull, but a button opens a path to the south. We cross another bridge to an island, where I pick up several handfuls of sulfur ash. Another bridge takes us to what I guess is the core of the city, with numerous multi-leveled buildings connected by stone bridges. They're mostly empty. Serpents with globes in their mouths look like they served as street lights, which suggests the place wasn't always covered in lava. There are some interesting scenes in some of the buildings, but they're almost all empty.
Did any of the Ophidians ever say, "Maybe we're overdoing it with the snakes"?
One section appears to be a market area with stores still displaying their wares. There's an obvious tavern, an armory, and shops with grandfather clocks and shelves full of ice wine. "Chill" runs out as I explore, and I have to cast it again. I need to get moving. There are a number of locked doors, including magically-locked doors, but I don't want to waste reagents on them. 
We find a few gargoyles sleeping on stone beds. Zhelkas had warned us that he was the only gargoyle not "trapped in the dream." When we encounter the first one, Shamino says, "'Tis reminiscent of the problems that are occurring in Britannia this very instant!" and then "The emps...." I have no idea what he's talking about. 
How do you have any idea what's occurring in Britannia "this very instant"?
We come across a room full of bales of wool, spinning wheels, and a loom. I'm reminded that in this game, you can use bales of wool on a wheel to make thread, then use the thread on a loom to make cloth, then use shears on the cloth to make bandages. It might be worth making some, but I'm more concerned about the "Chill" spell running out. Fortunately, I find an alchemy lab full of reagents that give me half a dozen more castings. Later, we find an entire drawer full of "Chill" spell scrolls.
Who needs yellow potions?
We find a library, where the "Translation" spell lets me read the obsidian script. There's a book that describes how the light posts were created by a mage named Eshalveras. A book called Civil War on the Evil Forces of Chaos, barely visible in some rubble, suggests that this must be the City of Order. We find a key on a corpse and a stairway down. The key opens a door in the basement, which leads to a room with four chests. They contain spell scrolls for "Serpent Bond," "Invoke Snow Serpent," "Telekinesis," and "Create Automaton."
And there was a giant spider.
We come to some kind of arena. While exploring it, the gates open, and a bunch of automatons come out and attack us with serpent swords. Shamino goes down and has to be healed. Elsewhere, we're attacked by snakes and more "fire men."
Well before we've finished exploring the huge city, we find what we're looking for: The Test of Purity. It's in a small temple with two pillars. The ice pillar is broken, the fire pillar intact. I grasp the fire pillar as Zhelkas said and find myself teleported to a new building with no items. There are three doors leading from the room.
It's annoying how often this question comes up in this game.
I take the east door and find Dupre. "Zhelkas has appointed me moderator of the Game," he says. He explains that I'm about to face 10 worms, one after the other, and I can't leave until the last one is dead. I have to kill them with a hammer found nearby. Dupre leaves and the worms start popping out of the ground. I swing away with the hammer--frustratingly, because the game keeps insisting I'm "out of range." After I kill a few, Dupre comes running from the north, saying he's just found an amazing treasure. After every few more, he comes running back with more hyperbole about what he's found. After the ninth worm, he insists that I come with him to see the treasure. I refuse, which causes him to run off, cursing my name. I finish destroying the final worm and appear in the main foyer. 
I've never felt so connected to my player character.
To the north, an apparition of Iolo stands next to a moongate. He tries to convince me that after I left, Dupre tried to kill Zhelkas, the Guardian invaded, everyone concluded that Serpent Isle is already doomed, and a horde of trolls is about to overwhelm the Lost City. He further says that the Guardian said, apparently directly to Iolo 'cause they're old friends, that he intends to go to Earth next. Iolo encourages me to take the moongate, which conveniently leads to Earth, to Earth. I refuse and end up back in the main room.
No. Stop. Don't.
The final test is really creepy. I find Shamino in a western room surrounded by gamboling women. There are two pillars with buttons. Shamino explains that if you press the left button, the women become randy and the lot of you can retire to the nearby bedroom. Notably, however, they shout things like "No!" and "Curse the buttons!" while doing so. If you press the right one, they praise you for setting them free, although I'm not sure they're real in the first place.
You're overdoing it, Shamino.
These iterations of Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre clearly aren't real. They make racist comments about gargoyles and all say "Damn thee!" when I choose the correct solution. "Shamino" is clearly okay with human trafficking. On the other hand, the real versions of the three of them are pretty mean to Boydon; Shamino hates cats; and Dupre is too stupid to keep his mouth shut about Lord British, so maybe I'm overestimating them. 
Were they your friends or something?
I get teleported back outside the test and have all my stuff again, except of course in the wrong places. As I get it all straightened out, Zhelkas acclaims me as the prophesied hero and gives me the Serpent Ring. He says that I passed the tests of ethicality, discipline, and logic, which were the virtues of the Forces of Order. I guess if the other pillar hadn't been broken, I would have faced a test where I had to prove tolerance, enthusiasm, and emotion. This was all very cute, but if you tell someone ahead of time that he's about to face something called the "Test of Purity," he's going to be on the lookout for obvious traps. It would have been a better "test" if Zhelkas had just let me wander into it.
I absolutely always am. It gets tiring sometimes.
Passing the test doesn't get me any closer to leaving the dungeon, so we continue exploring. In a large cavern full of mushrooms, I find a corpse with a Key of Ice and a serpent's tooth, which immediately goes into my jawbone. There's a golden altar at the southern end of this room and a lot of additional corpses. Maybe the mushrooms are poisonous. In what looks to be a public bathhouse, I find a corpse with a Key of Fire.
This serpent had some severe dental problems.
I never find out what the two keys are for, if they're for anything in this dungeon. Zhelkas meets me by another grate and pulls a lever to open it, and I find myself in a part of Furnace that I've already explored, accessible from the entrance near Monitor. I'm low on funds, so I don't mind when some trolls show up, as they often carry gold and gems. Dupre and Boydon are carrying light enough loads that they can fit a couple of pikemen in their packs.
There's still a Serpent Staff behind a locked door in a cavern full of debris and corpses. Neither of my new keys will open it. But while I'm trying, I happen to notice something I missed before: a charred book next to a pile of furs. Clicking on it tells me that it's a "ruined spellbook." So I guess that's where it's been all along. I leave it where it lays and drop the piece of pumice next to it. One more off the list.
The real ruined spellbook is the friends we made along the way.
At last, we emerge from Furnace into the sunshine. I'm eager to get back to Monitor, drop off these pikemen, and use my accumulated training points. From there, there's the city of Fawn to explore, plus a new serpent's tooth that must lead somewhere. I also feel like I should take another run through Furnace, as there was a lot to potentially miss, and there's always the Silver Seed material. I thus have at least four paths to take--or three more than I've had for the last 23 hours.
Time so far: 39 hours
Equipment Update:
  • My spellbook was replaced with a chunk of pumice. Harnna thinks Krayg might know more about it. Krayg says such stones come from the center of the Earth, and Standarr often goes deep on his Quests of Courage. Standarr mentions a dungeon called Furnace. I ultimately find it in Furnace, charred to uselessness.
  • My Black Sword was replaced with a ruddy rock. The rock may be Stoneheart, a volatile substance found in caverns near Moonshade called the Mountains of Freedom. I find the Black Sword in the Mountains of Freedom in the hands of a guard.
  • My glass sword was replaced with a pinecone. Pine trees are found in the great forest to the north, according to Harnna and Captain Hook.
  • The blackrock serpent was replaced by a pair of fine stockings. These seem to belong to Columna in Moonshade, but Filbercio hired Stefano to steal them. It's uncertain who was in possession of the stockings when the swap happened. However, it seems likely that Batlin stole the blackrock serpent before leaving Moonshade.
  • A hunk of mutton was replaced by a bottle of ice wine. Harnna suggests that I run it by Simon at the inn. Simon says it's probably made by the rangers of Moonshade. I found where the wine came from in Moonshade, but by then the mutton was long gone.
  • A leg of meat was replaced by 83 filari, a currency from one of the cities. Shamino's note oddly doesn't mention the money. This is the only trade in which I came out ahead.
  • Rudyom's Wand was replaced by a strange apparatus. Harnna doesn't know what to make of it but thinks that it may have something to do with Fawn's statuary or Moonshade's magic. Bucia in Moonshade suggests I speak with Ducio, the artisan. Ducio says that it belonged to Vasculio and might have been taken by Vasculio's apprentice, Ensorcio.
  • My magic armor was replaced by an enameled breast plate, "suitable for ceremonial occasions." Harnna says I should ask Standarr the armourer about it. Standarr says that he made it for Kylista, priestess of Fawn.
  • My magic helm was replaced by a woman's fur cap. Shamino's note says it's "ridiculous." I think it's very practical and not obviously a woman's at all. Harnna thinks it might be the work of Cellia the Furrier. Cellia recognizes it and says she created it for a mage in Moonshade named Frigidazzi. We eventually find the helm in Frigidazzi's bureau.
  • My magic gauntlets were replaced by a ring. Shamino's note says that it's a "finely crafted ring, of silver, of a size to fit a small woman or child." I don't know what to make of the Avatar wearing it, then. Harnna points us to Lucilla, who is "interested in baubles and trinkets," but Lucilla only offers that it might be a marriage or engagement ring. Selina at the Sleeping Bull thinks it might be from a "lesser artisan" in Moonshade. But it really belongs to Alyssand in the Fellowship village.
  • Dupre's Magebane has been replaced by a blue egg. Based on the thickness of the shell, Harnna thinks it probably comes from a bird that lives up north. Gustachio's telescope shows the sword resting on a nest in a frozen landscape.
  • Dupre's Shield has been replaced by a Shield of Monitor. Harnna mentions that it could belong to anyone, and I should inquire around and see if anyone is missing a shield. Later, I hear that Luther has a new magic shield.
  • Shamino's 24 burst arrows were replaced with an odd hairbrush. "Crude," according to Shamino. Harnna has an odd reaction to it and says I should ask Templar about it. Templar says that it's a goblin hairbrush, made from the bones of their victims. Found in a goblin hut.
  • Shamino's dagger was replaced with a severed limb. The note clarifies that it's a "bloody hand." Harnna suggests we check with Renfry to see if he's encountered a body missing a hand. Renfry doesn't know where it came from, but he deduces that it's "not dead," so some kind of magic is involved. Pothos in Moonshade thinks it's a product of one of Erstam's experiments. The dagger is found in Erstam's manor, which is full of living body parts.
  • Shamino's swamp boots were replaced with a pair of slippers, "such as might be worn in the privacy of one's home." Harnna doesn't believe they belong to anyone in Monitor and suggests I check with Krayg the Provisioner. Krayg says the closest place where someone might wear these is Sleeping Bull. They belong to the innkeeper's wife, Devra, who trades them back.
  • Shamino's magic bow was replaced with a bear skull Found in the opening minutes.
  • Iolo's crossbow has been replaced with an urn with ashes. Harnna confirms what I already know: it's a funeral urn, and Caladin's grandfather's urn is missing. Found in the Monitor crypts.
  • Five torches Iolo was carrying in his pack have been replaced by a pumpkin. Iolo's list doesn't mention this substitution, and all the others have been one-for-one.



  1. Ouch, another colour-coded aspect of the game. I understand you solved it through the combination of results, but am a bit confused by your caption for the lightning screenshot, so just in case (ROT13'ed):

    According to the Ultima Editable Codex Wiki (haven't played the game yet myself):
    Terra: Genafzhgngvba (Bowrpg vf ghearq vagb fbzrguvat ryfr)
    Lryybj: Genafcbegngvba (Bowrpg vf rkpunatrq jvgu nabgure bowrpg)
    Erq: Gryrcbegngvba (Bowrpg vf zbirq gb nabgure cynpr)

    The lightning in the screenshot ybbxf lryybj gb zr fb V'q rkcrpg vg gb or n gryrcbegngvba fgbez vaqrrq. Ubjrire, vs guvf vf gur vzntr vyyhfgengvat Rqeva'f genafzhgngvba, gung jbhyq or pbashfvat vaqrrq.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousApril 6, 2023 at 10:38 PM

      > Terra
      That's funny! I wonder if it's possible to go full-on Douglas Hofstadter and write a story that can be read both with and without ROT13. (Probably not, but it would be neat...)

    2. I think that's the only case I've ever seen where something read as a word both in ROT13 and decrypted, so that would be quite the challenge!

    3. Yes, the caption was supposed to be based on what it did to him, not the color. I can't discern the color.

      Technically, though, I think the scene shows him getting hit by several bolts, so perhaps the final one was green.

    4. Re ROT13 story: Seeing the rather limited list of words which make any kind of sense (in English) both without and with ROT13, e.g. at under "Letter games and net culture", that looks like a tall order indeed.

      Sorry for breaking the alphabetical reply order here after 'AA', 'BB' and the 'CRPG Addict', should have commented as "Dusca" ;-).

    5. AlphabeticalAnonymousApril 7, 2023 at 12:13 PM

      I just should have done a bit of digging -- as others have, in the past. It doesn't seem that the opportunities are very promising: see e.g.,

      And: now the reply order here is back to the more aesthetically-pleasing "ABCBA."

  2. AlphabeticalAnonymousApril 6, 2023 at 10:36 PM

    The narrative makes this game sound frequently frustrating... on the other hand, *wow* does it seem dense with material, lore, and the details that make a world.

  3. "Killing Worms can be boring" is one of my favorite Avatar lines.

    1. Under what conditions is killing worms boring, though? Or not boring?

    2. It is a weird way to phrase it. Not "Killing worms IS boring," but "can be." As if there are situations in which it's exciting as hell.

      Even weirder is the capitalization of "Worms." Perhaps he's making an obscure reference to a band. "When they're playing their original material, Killing Worms rocks, but when they're covering George Harrison's post-Beatles compositions . . . "

    3. I read that line as "I usually really enjoy killing worms, but I guess it can get boring after all." No excuses for the extraneous capitalization, but perhaps that line was written by a German speaker.

  4. A 'Macbeth' quote, no less. All the world's a snake. Is this a serpent which I see before me? [Hope I didn't spoil any potential future subtitles here, but these would be too easy, I assume.]

    "I don't know what to make of that" would have been my subtitle for this entry if I could have made a snake-related pun out of it."

    It does not make much sense, but given the proximity in the spelling and the Ophidians using the serpent imagery for everything, it led me to "I don't know what to snake of that".

    Ok, Ok, I'll stop there :-).

  5. I failed my first attempt at the Discipline test because I reasoned that 1) Dupre lied about the worms being dangerous and 2) whacking harmless creatures with a hammer for no clear reason wasn't what a Compassionate avatar ought to be doing. Unfortunately the game didn't let me argue the point with Zhelkas, but at least it still allows progress afterward.

    On that note, one thing I find retrospectively disappointing in the Ultima series is a shortage of interesting ethical conflicts between virtues or between the various systems of virtues. The U4 character creation questions are all about that, but the theme doesn't continue into the rest of the game. Here in Serpent Isle we have Order vs. Chaos as a core theme, but the player is never actually challenged to balance e.g. Ethicality against Tolerance. (Except in a very... symbolic way.)

    1. U4 seems to have that problem with humility vs. honesty. I've lost many an Eighth that way. It took itself way too seriously. U5 was much better in that regard, and pretty much every other regard.

  6. Take Ale (the parrot) to the tower and "place him where the lightning can strike him." Fortunately, Ale is transformed back to Edrin.

    Well, you put four million volts through the bird. That's why he is an ex-parrot.

    1. Would be great if the Avatar could return to quest giver and say "The parrot has ceased to be!"

  7. Mosh should have offered you a way to pacify the rat-men, who are her friends.

    The remarks of the Serpent are intended to be mysterious at this point. All will be revealed in time.

    As for Shamino talking about the problems in Britannia and the Emps, I think this is a case of the game designers incorrectly assuming a particular linear course through the game. ROT13: V guvax gurl nffhzrq rirelobql jbhyq unir tbar guebhtu gur Tbeyno qernz frdhrapr orsber yrnivat sbe Zbbafunqr.

    1. "Mosh should have offered you a way to pacify the rat-men, who are her friends."

      I believe the trigger for this is (ROT13, just in case) tvivat ure fbzr svfu. The rat-men are not hard, but it's nice not to have to kill them.

    2. Well, that's too bad. I didn't include her in this entry, so I guess I missed her when looping back around the city.

    3. Oh, no, now I see that I did note that I spoke to her. I wonder when the option comes up, then. Does she not offer it until after you've spoken to Julia?

  8. I was disappointed with the lack of updates after escaping the Mountains of Freedom as well. This is one of those areas where you know it was a tight deadline and rush that lead to a lot of details being missed. It's honestly amazing it hangs together as well as it does.

    I do like the Serpent Path system for travel. It's a lot more interesting than the moongates were, and you can leave stuff there you don't want to carry around.

    1. I wonder if the rat people were initially supposed to be NPCs the player could interact with. I can imagine an area plot involving defending the rat people from the undead.

  9. Don't get me wrong, I love this game but this is also the part of the game where it's easy to get lost in terms of where and what to do next (probably EA rushing to get the game released ASAP). For instance, the "mirror of truth". No explanation about what it is/does, you just receive it. There are more of those items to come.

    For the "Test", did you try experimenting with doing the wrong things?

    1. The thing is, it's possible to know at this point what you need the Mirror of Truth for! This is just a place where the game is somewhat nonlinear. I think it's interesting that so many criticisms of this game boil down to it not being linear enough.

      I also think it's pretty normal (de rigeur, even) for RPG heroes to get tossed mysterious artifacts without any explanation. For instance, the Time Lord tells you to take the little objects inside the three generators, but only the cube is obviously useful -- the other two he says will be "useful later".

    2. I didn't experiment, no. I don't think I'd saved it in a while. I get the impression from other comments that the gargoyle gives you another test.

  10. "Killing worms can be boring"

    Team 17 made it fun, though.

  11. "Oh ye gods! My spellbook is ruined! But what if... I were to purchase 'fast spells' and disguise them as my own research? Ho ho ho ho ho, delightfully devilish, Avatar!"

    1. I always play magic-using characters in any game, so
      I would take the world itself snatching my spellbook and burning it as the most personal kind of affront.

  12. Was "I Don't Know What to Snake of That" too on-the-nose?

  13. I'm surprised you haven't yet complained about the fact that there is 4 different currencies which do nothing except add an annoying logistical challenge for no obvious benefit over just having gold pieces.

    1. From a practical perspective, absolutely. Add in that every merchant wants to "haggle" makes buying things even more annoying.

      From a lore perspective, though, it fits the inhabitants of the three cities to make their own currency separate from the others. It's another way to show how insular, exclusive, and damaged their culture is.

    2. AlphabeticalAnonymousApril 8, 2023 at 12:48 PM

      > another way to show how insular, exclusive, and damaged their culture is

      Rather like the real world!

    3. I can't articulate why, but I actually like it. I was replaying Fallout: New Vegas a few weeks ago, and I liked it there, too. It's like diversifying your investments or something.

    4. New Vegas also has that other nod to mercantile realism - vendors with limited reserves of currency.

      I didn't find either feature very limiting - the economy just isnt that tight. I rarely felt like I need more money than I had.

    5. I never felt like I NEEDED more money in FNV, but implants, weapon upgrades, and paid repair always serve as useful money sinks.

      I somehow bugged up the main quest in the most recent replay, so I abandoned it. Fortunately, I'd won it twice before.

  14. I am not going to ROT13 this, because Chet has already finished the dungeon. There is an artifact that he missed. As I remember, if you fail the Test of Purity and ask Zhelkas for another chance, he will send you off to find a certain Goblet. You can also just find it on your own if you just explore all the nooks of Furnace.

    1. Well, I was planning to go back, so maybe I'll find it.

    2. I think you should be able to get that staff as well.

    3. Yes I vaguely remember the staff should be available by now

    4. It's behind a locked door, so I suppose the question is where the key is.

  15. Regarding the enemies that need identifying - you can left click on them (for example - that's not a giant spider, it's a gazer). Fire dudes are fire elementals IIRC.

    1. Yeah, I just find it hard to click on them when they're in motion in combat. After they're dead, I think it just says "corpse" or "body" or something. The gazer--thanks--disappears completely.

    2. Opening the inventory pauses the game while still allowing you a left-click on an enemy or a NPC, showing what it is or his/her name (if you have talked to him/her at least once and asked "name"). You just may need to drag the inventory menu a bit out of the way.
      This may also be helpful at crowded places like the "Sleeping Bull" or Fawn when you reached it .

  16. In the Furnace test, there's a particularly bad bug if you click some of the pillars in the first room - takes you somewhen else. Can't remember if it's game breaking in some cases - but I think it potentially can be.

    1. I think what you're talking about is this: the pillar here in Furnace was used elsewhere, and if you click it there it sends you to the Test of Purity and dumps you in Furnace afterwards. I think it only risks being game-breaking if you can't cast Chill and you save the game after being teleported.

    2. That sounds right. IIRC the same pillar appears in the expansion also, and has the same bug, which can also cause issues...

  17. "and gods know if any of my million keys will open it. "

    Get. The. Damned. KEYRING.

    Seriously, why do you keep putting it off? I recall someone telling you how to get it ages ago.

    1. Because it's antithetical to how I play RPGs. If commenters hadn't told me about it, I wouldn't even know at this point that a keyring existed. I ROLE-PLAY RPGs. I don't dart all over the game map in an effort to min-max my character and make everything easier.

      I'll get the keyring when I reach it organically.

    2. I'd buy that, but I still remember how quickly you made an excuse to reclaim the magic carpet after losing it in Ultima 5. :P

    3. > I'll get the keyring when I reach it organically.

      I'm afraid there isn't any further organic ways to get to Silver Seed. You got the amulet when you died and that's it. The expansion is not mentioned anywhere else.

  18. Played this part now.

    Some observations. You have to agree to take the Test of Purity to enter the Gargoyle City, but you don't have to do the Test now. Getting back to the mainland is independent from finishing the Test.

    While there is indeed a lot of bottlenecking in Moonshade part of the game, so it is logical to assume that you have to take the Test and then the Gargoyle will open the gate for you, which takes you back to Monitor....

    But turns out that in Gargoyle City the game will reward player's thorough exploration. You read a book in the library, it tells you about the two keys and the altar. You find the two keys, one of the keys also comes with a serpent tooth, which is the serpent tooth for Monitor.

    You combine the keys, open the teleport door, which is in the same building where the altar for combining keys was... and the altar itself is just behind the Test of Purity, so you can teleport yourself out of Furnace to Monitor and come back here later.

    I also discovered that in the building with Everlasting Goblet, there is an alchemy pedestal (which is also mentioned by a book in library, there are all together 3 readable books in the library) and when you put agnium, serpentinium and zerine on top of it (as described in the book), it will create phospor (don't even have to do it one by one, if you put 20 of each, you'll get 20), which you then can use to relight the street lamps.

    I never knew this before. Was quite a "whoa" moment.

    1. Huh. That solves the mystery of what serpentinium and zerine are for, but the dungeons seem pretty well-lit anyway, even without the street lamps.

    2. A good dungeon rewards player curiosity and it definitely felt very rewarding to discover it.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.