Sunday, May 21, 2023

Serpent Isle: Sweet Is the Swamp with Its Secrets

The Ultima series has at least been consistent about one thing.
Serpent Isle has really put this party through the wringer. Exhausted after the events in Monitor, Moonshade, and Fawn, the group spent a well-deserved month recuperating. Shamino hunted and fished and communed with nature. Dupre spent a lot of time in the pub and talked a lot about women but never seemed to go home with any of them. Iolo asked everyone entering and leaving the city about Gwenno. Boydon became something of a freakish attraction in a city devoted to Beauty. The Avatar enjoyed the view from the balcony as he compiled his notes.
As we've learned, the Serpent Isle was once known as the Lands of Danger and Despair when it was part of old Sosaria. After Mondain died, various cataclysms knocked it into another dimension or something, so that a traveler from Britannia has to pass through the Serpent Pillars to reach it. The people remaining on the island became known as Ophidians. They worshiped the Serpents of Order, Chaos, and Balance and created a system of virtues around these principles. When the Great Earth Serpent (representing balance) was abducted by Exodus to guard his castle, the forces of order and chaos destroyed themselves in the ensuing war.
After the events of Ultima III, a faction of Britannians disgruntled with Lord British's ascendancy traveled to Serpent Isle and found it depopulated. They built the cities of Monitor, Fawn, and Moonshade near the Ophidians' ruins. (Something is weird about the timeline here, as the people on Serpent Isle refer to the Ophidians as "ancient," when in fact only a few years passed between the demise of their culture and the arrival of the Britannians. Also, why do the current residents think the Ophidians were "daemons"?) One persistent mystery revolves around my companion, Shamino, who was one of the two kings who ruled the Lands of Danger and Despair. He seems to have forgotten this or won't talk about it. If he forgot it, why? If he won't talk about it, why? And how has he lived so long? 
Shamino, do you want to chime in here?
The party arrived on Serpent Isle and found it in crisis. People are falling victim to strange illnesses and lightning storms have ravaged the land. Lighting bolts are capable of destroying, teleporting, and transmogrifying the things they strike. The Monks of Xenka believe that these are the end days, and they have a prophecy of a hero who will make everything okay.
With everything that's happened, it's easy to lose track of the group's original missions, which were to chase Batlin, foil the Guardian's plans, and find Iolo's missing wife. As often happens, new challenges came to light in the process of trying to answer the old ones. Every one of the major cities in the Serpent Isles seems to have been plagued with corruption and abuse. Monitor's leadership decided that party was more important than country, and they allied themselves with their historic enemies, the Goblins, against the other factions within the city. Moonshade was ruled by a lecherous tyrant who banished his political enemies to the Mountains of Freedom. A faction in Fawn had conspired to put words in the mouth of the Oracle to seize power. In solving all of these issues, the party has significantly reduced the populations of these islands. They have also achieved three artifacts: The Helm of Courage, the Mirror of Truth, and the Crystal Rose of Love. 
The party ruins another city.
The following quests remain open:
  • Batlin: He's traveling with a warrior named Brunt, a sailor named Deadeye, and a gargoyle named Palos. He's passed through each of the cities, asking about the Ophidian ruins and stealing a blackrock serpent from Andral in Monitor. Some other Fellowship members came with him, but they seem to be in the dark as to his evil intentions.
  • The Guardian: I have no idea what his plans are. I'm not even entirely sure Batlin is still working for him.
  • Gwenno: She also passed through Monitor and Moonshade on the way to Monk Isle. From Monk Isle, she went north. I encountered her spirit in a seance, so she may be dead, but one of Xenka's prophecies suggested that I have to free her from ice. 
Iolo has literally nothing to say about this after the seance. I guess he's in denial.
  • Cantra:  The precocious 14-year-old girl, daughter of Harnna of Monitor, has gone missing. I've seen a vision of her with Batlin; she's apparently possessed by some other creature called the Bane of Chaos (is that another way of saying the Champion of Order?). I still have her practice sword and need to find the Hound of Doskar to track her.
  • Missing Equipment: We've gotten most of it back. The only things still outstanding are the blackrock serpent (Batlin probably has it), a glass sword, Rudyom's Wand, the sword Magebane, and five torches.
  • Xenka's Prophecy: According to it, I have to "unite the serpents."
  • Mortegro: The necromancer from Moonshade was struck by lightning and swapped with a stone pillar. He may be in danger somewhere.
  • Filbercio: The tyrant of Moonshade has gone into hiding since my return. He needs to die.
I'm not the only one who thinks so.
  • Amulet of Balance: Something that the monks found and gave me. I guess it takes me to the Silver Seed expansion.
  • Demon: I freed the demon imprisoned in the Black Sword to get out of the Mountains of Freedom. He's probably plotting trouble somewhere.
I'm not looking forward to seeing this guy again.
Compiling that list didn't give me any obvious leads, however. The only way forward seems to be visiting places I haven't already visited, and that means making it through Gorlab Swamp. I had attempted this once before, collapsed into a slumber, navigated a vivid dream, and woke up at the entrance. I don't know what will be different this time, but I have to try.
We set out one rainy morning from Fawn, heading along the coast. As we get close, we encounter some slimes, which are easy to kill but do their annoying dividing trick. Elsewhere, snakes, insect swarms, and crocodiles attack. I soon learn the dangers of fighting near the swamp, which is that the party members go charging off into the swamp itself, getting themselves poisoned. (Aside: Why are all swamps poisonous in the Ultima series? Haven't any of the developers been in a swamp? Is miasma theory still a thing in Britannia?) You can technically only walk a short way into the swamp; most of it, the game treats as if it were impassable water. We have to navigate through it on a thin bridge of dry land.
Rule #1 of swamp safety: Don't fall asleep just as a crocodile starts heading towards you.
Before long, the swamp puts us to sleep just as it did before. Gideon wakes up on a ruddy island in the middle of a void. His inventory consists of only the three city artifacts (I think I had only the Helm of Courage last time). "Dream creatures" attack as I explore, and I'm forced to pummel them with my fists.
There are buildings in the dream world, some modern and intact, some ruined: A collapsed tower occupied by a few gargoyles I can't reach; a line of pillars with gold snakes wrapped around them leading to two flaming golden cauldrons; a thatched hut, around which a nobleman plays a game of tag with three naked women. Lights and swirls appear in the void. I meet people from the waking world, presumably in their dreams. In a richly-furnished house, Ensorcio is torturing Filbercio. "I am the mage lord now!" he gloats. In a burned structure, I find Cantra (for some reason named D'Cantra) cowering from a "foul beast" that I can't see. I find Lord British in a ruined castle, fires burning in every corner. He's aware that he's dreaming, but he seems to be the real Lord British. He tells me that things are bad in Britannia. They're suffering the same natural disasters as the Serpent Isle. Earthquakes have put cracks in the foundation of Castle Britannia. The lightning storms have ravaged the land, replacing the Royal Mint with a lighthouse. The gargoyles have fallen into a dream state, just like the ones in the dungeon Furnace. The emps have fallen ill, and many have died. Mages are unable to cast the simplest spells. He has faith that I'll somehow fix it.
I've had this dream.
I should note that to get all this information, the game starts me off with only two keywords: NAME and JOB. To get the other keywords, I have to first listen to Lord British express incredulity that I don't know who he is or what he does. This is the thousandth time that such a thing has happened in this game, and it's growing tiresome. It would have made sense if the game was still using type-in keywords and a player insisted on typing those, but when the game itself is feeding you the keywords, it's a little obnoxious to make the player feel stupid for asking the only words available to him. It's not like they were the only alternatives. When I later meet other NPCs in the dreamworld, none of the keywords I'm given are NAME or JOB; they all jump right into the obvious things that the Avatar would ask about. 
I could think of three dozen other things the Avatar would want to ask Lord British right now.
A chest behind Lord British's throne has a full set of magical gear, including an Infinity Bow, which shoots endless exploding arrows. There are other weapons and armor scattered throughout the dream realm, including a Juggernaut Hammer, a two-handed weapon that magically returns after it's hurled at a foe. The Avatar gains experience from kills in the dream world, but the dream creatures don't do much damage and take forever to kill, so I end up just walking past most of them. The Avatar also gets hungry.

As I explore a frozen building, an image of a serpent appears and says, "Look into the Moon's Eye." In that same building, I find a "Translation" scroll, a golden serpent statue, and a door leading to what looks like a moongate. As I approach, Thoxa (the Monk of Xenka) appears. She says that the gate I see before me, the Moon's Eye, is my "goal in the waking world." I'll find it in the Temple of the Ancient Ones "in the icy wastes to the north." 

There's a copy of the Sleeping Bull Inn, where I find some food. Byrin, the bard from the inn, is here--and aware that we're in a dream. He tells me of the Forest Master, who rules fauna and flora in the icy wastes, to whom I "should be prepared to return the Orb of Elerion." He also explains how Gorlab Village (in the original Ultima) became Gorlab Swamp: A wizard named Rabindrinath decided to destroy the town for unknown reasons. A healer named Siranush opposed him. (Siranush has been previously mentioned, as the woman that Edrin dreamed about when he was turned into a parrot.) When their spells collided, their magic went wild and trapped the residents of Gorlab in the world of dreams. This includes anyone who wanders into the swamp. The wizard and healer still struggle against each other, but Siranush is weakening. To return to the waking world, I have to die in the dreamworld. If I die in the real world, I'll be trapped here, which doesn't make me feel great about the two crocodiles I saw approaching my body just as I fell asleep.
The Avatar applies deductive logic.
I'll pause now to say that dream sequences are second only to underwater sequences in a list of tropes that I wish games would get rid of. They always feature the same elements, never really make sense, rob me of control, and leave me impatient to get back to the main plot. I particularly hate it when those dream sequences are hallucinogenic or psychedelic, which nearly made me rage quit the Far Cry series more than once. 
I continue exploring and come to a forest of silverleaf trees. In a hut in the middle, surrounded by cats, I find Siranush. She's been expecting me, since Edrin told her about me, and she knows that I'll need the Serpent Necklace to succeed in my quest. She also fills in a bit more of Rabindrinath's backstory: he grew angry at the village when they wouldn't appoint him to the town council immediately after he moved there. His spell had been intended to allow him to invade the dreams of the villagers and persuade them to do what he wanted. The end result makes a bit more sense, and I just love the pettiness of that backstory. Anyway, she'll give me the Serpent Necklace if I can bring her Rabindrinath's Dream Crystal and free the villagers' souls--their bodies are long-since rotted away--from their nightmare. Rabindrinath, she warns, "can only be overpowered by the application of Truth, Love, and Courage." That's convenient.
It would be nice for once if literally anyone else was the hero of prophecy. There's no reason that Dupre couldn't have done this.
I continue exploring and come to a large stone building with a plaque that, after a "Translation" scroll, reads: "THE DREAMS OF THY ENEMIES." A walkway leads to a pair of chairs overlooking an arena. I sit down and am immediately treated to a view of Batlin blasting fireballs at a simulacrum of me. As the fake Avatar inevitably succumbs, Batlin gloats, "Soon I will have power to rival the Guardian himself!" The figures disappear as he promises to torture me for a long time before letting me die. Nothing appears after that. Good to know that Batlin is my only enemy.
Eventually, I come to Rabindrinath's castle, which for some reason has a nightmare prancing around the stone courtyard. As I enter the mage's hall, he approaches and asks a weird question: "Hast thou seen the firebird's death or followed thy dreams to seek power?" I'm about to answer "neither," but he goes on with a bunch of other clearly rhetorical questions that make about as much sense. He tries casting some spell at me, which fizzles. He curses my Helm of Courage and disappears. 
I rather hope that my helm can't kiss anything.
Further back in his hall, a fire roars. The two leopardskin rugs in front of it turn into actual leopards as I approach, forcing me to kill them. I worry about some stone harpies along the walls, but they remain inert. South of the hall, I pass through a dining room and kitchen before I encounter Rabindrinath again in some kind of jail. A body lies on a table in a central room. Two skeletons are in one cell, a live naga in another. A severed leg squirms on a side table.
Do nagas ever appear in this game not in cages? Where do they even come from?
Rabindrinath has some more weird questions, casts another spell, this time curses the Rose of Love, and disappears again. The body has a key, which lets me through the north door of the hall. Here, Rabindrinath wants to know if I have the "reflection of Truth to make [my] dreams real?" A third spell, a third fizzle, and a third curse follow, and the mage collapses dead on the floor. A key on his body leads to a void with the Dream Crystal on a pedestal. Just as I turn to leave, a fireball comes out of the wall and nails me, and I'm back at the entrance to the swamp. I re-enter, fall asleep, and find myself back in the dreamworld with none of the stuff I'd gathered, including the crystal. I reload rather than doing all that stuff again, although I am vaguely curious how much of that stuff I would have had to do again.
This sounds like a new kind of drug.
The second time, I avoid the fireballs by just grabbing the crystal from the doorway, then I head back to Siranush. Before destroying the crystal, she summons Edrin and professes her love. They have a cute conversation. The scene fades, and we awaken again at the entrance to the swamp. 
If I remember correctly, Edrin isn't going to have long to wait.
Before I can move, the ghostly serpent speaks to me again: "Hero from another world! Know that it is I, the Great Earth Serpent, whom thou liberated from imprisonment in the days of Exodus the Destroyer."
You must be confused. That was a party of four people, all of whom were "fuzzies."
"If only thou couldst help me now, Avatar," he continues. Or, rather, "ends," because he says no more after that. 
After re-equipping all of our stuff (why can't this game leave things where I put them!), we re-enter the swamp, this time able to travel without falling asleep. We follow the thin maze of dry ground as it twists and turns dozens of times. We fight more slimes and crocodiles. Everybody gets poisoned. We pass a burning building with the corpse of a woman on top, but we cannot approach it. Eventually, we find the exit. I cast "Mass Cure" on everyone and distribute some bandages to those injured worst.
Note the crucified guy with the cup next to him in the upper-left. Is that supposed to be Jesus?
The map shows us on the northern half of the island. A forest lies north and west of us, and large structures or towns to the east and northeast. Not far to the north, the map turns white, indicating cold and ice. We'll have to find some warm clothes somewhere or make a trek back through the swamp to civilization, something I'm not eager to do.
My current position. I've explored about 70% of the landmasses. One might be fooled into thinking that I'd completed 70% of the game.
I've enjoyed Serpent Isle, mostly, but I've just hit the 46-hour mark. This is where I would be looking for most games of the era to start coming to a conclusion. We've had three large cities with three symmetrical questlines funneling us to this point, and most games would now have me face one final dungeon or test. I honestly don't remember what happens next, but I remember enough to know that, in many ways, Serpent Isle is just getting started.
Time so far: 46 hours


  1. "In solving all of these issues, the party has significantly reduced the populations of these islands."

    Priceless crpg observation.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousMay 21, 2023 at 10:22 PM

      Agreed - I laughed out loud at that one.

    2. I don't want to give away spoilers, but along those same lines I'll just say that as much as I love this game, what happens after you confront Batlin still pisses me off to no end, and makes me feel like all the good I did in the three cities in the first half of the game was for nothing.

  2. This was a very enjoyable read. I loved how you did the "previously on Serpent Isle". All that stuff that has happened is actually a very interesting story.

    You say you hate dream sequences, so you probably did not enjoy this Dreamworld. I admit the design of Gorlab Swamp's Dreamworld is somewhat arbitrary. But the general idea behind it is I think good. The game needs you to stay out of the Northern Regions and it finds a very plausible background lore reason for keeping you out. Also it had a few touching story moments.

    The first half of the game is almost foolproof, it allows you some limited freedom of exploration, while making sure you don't encounter things in the wrong order. You get all the information and story beats you are supposed to get, while making it feel as if you were the primary agency behind uncovering all those secrets.

    Not sure if I should say this, but the second half of the game is not so well designed. You can experience things in the wrong order, you can get lost with no clue what to do next, you will also experience a lot of silence... still, lonely silence. A quiet existential dread.

    But that might be a good thing now.

    1. Agreed on the late game. If not at 70%, in terms of pure content Chet is not that far, but it does feel longer than it actually is due to lots of wandering around with little direction in big, empty locations.

      It's funny, as in Black Gate you start with very tenuous leads, but once you latch on the main quest you are pretty much railroaded through it.

      Here, after 50 hours you are still following rumors of Batlin and Gwenno that went "north".

    2. Wait, how did Batlin and Gwenno get past the dream swamp?

    3. There are hints in Sleeping Bull and Moonshade indicating that Ballin got hold of a serpent jawbone and teeth, so presumably he used the serpent gates to bypass the swamp. (Something that you, being a protagonist, Cannot Do.)

    4. The second half was rushed due to the changes at Origin was it not? Somewhere out there the tale has been written. Unfortunate, as it would have gone down as challenging for the best ever otherwise.

    5. Yes. The destructive influence of being taken over by EA.

      Gur bevtvany cyna jnf gung lbh erivfvg nyy gur pvgvrf ntnva, naq jvgarff gur ubeebef hayrnfurq ba gurz ol lbhe cbffrffrq sevraqf. Bayl erzanagf bs vg znxr vg gb gur svany tnzr, jvgu gur Dhrra bs Snja orvat fxvaarq nyvir naq gbyq ol Vbyb gb nfx Ningne: "Vf vg gehr gung ornhgl vf whfg fxva qrrc?"

      Fb gung uhtr nzbhag bs qvnybthr lbh rkcrevrapr va gur svefg unys jnf tbvat gb yrnq gb fbzrguvat.

      If they had managed to finish the original plan, I think the gaming world would remember Serpent Isle as one of the greatest videogame stories.

    6. X - I had assumed they had sailed north before the storms etc...

      Re: pacing and feeling like the progress is at '70%' due to travel distances - that's a great observation...

      V guvax pbzcbhaqvat gung vf gur jryy-gryrtencurq 'ningne unf gb tb abegu' qverpgvba hc hagvy tbeyno..

      Gur vfyr'f znva ceboyrzf srry ynetryl erfbyirq-vfu ng guvf cbvag, juvpu V guvax pbhyq or vagragvbany, cnpvat-jvfr, qhr gb gur ovt fgnghf dhb nygrevat-gheavat cbvag ba gur abg gbb qvfgnag ubevmba.

      Qvssrerag gb cerivbhf hygvzn fgehpgherf, va gung gur gehgu/ybir/pbhentr cevapvcyr fghss bayl trgf lbh ~fb sne~, juvpu cebivqrf n avpr pbhagre cbvag gb gur beqre / punbf fghss.

  3. Good article. I share you view about Dream sequences in game ; actually, dream sequences are worse than underwater sequences, because the designers can deus ex machina anything they want in a dream and impose you dubious art and colored art directions. However, I find the one in SI acceptable, as you said it makes sense, is wisely used for plot exposition (what's happening in Britain), and ends cleanly (rather than forcing it upon you every time you progress in the game).

    Are you sure it was 4 fuzzies who defeated Exodus ? I clearly remember there was a bobbit in the group, too.

    1. Dream sequences can offer a change of pace by mixing up the rules. I'd say it depends on how well they are done and, obviously, on the taste of the player. I would have thought they are pretty rare in RPGs, though. At least I can't think of any right now.

    2. They took me out of 'Dragon Age: Origins' faster than you can say dream sequence.

    3. Dream and underwater settings also make for the worst episodes in tv series.

    4. Dream sequences don't bother me as long as they: serve and advance the plot or characters and have real danger or stakes, and its clear after a bit they are dreams. I love Tel'aran'rhiod from the Wheel of Time, for example. I however hate when a story ends with it was all a dream. It feels like a waste of time.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. "It was all a dream" and "protagonist is dying and this is just his last dream" were all very original when first conceived but has in the meantime become so grossly overused that they are no longer any kind of proper plot twist. The latter especially has become a favourite for fan theories. And I agree they make the whole series/film/game feel like a waste of time.

      A dream sequence is fine when they serve a purpose as Richard mentions, but they should also not be too long. Dragon Age's Fade sequences stand out in this regard, by the time you got out of them you felt way too disconnected to the game world.

    7. Re underwater sections: for the one in The Dark Queen of Krynn I agree with Delvin Anaris' comment there in finding it to be a refreshing challenge not only with different foes, but also as it changes how some spells work and you having to be balanced in your spell selections.

      Yes, the logic on the physics side is often more than shaky, but same as with e.g. deceleration or sound in space sims I can forgive a certain lack of realism, of coherence, if it's interesting and/or fun enough in its gameplay aspects since I find that more decisive on the whole and sometimes it's hard to combine both.

      There was some discussion on games with underwater sections in the comments to the first and second blog entries on TDQoK.

    8. I think there are dream sequences in Martian Dreams, if I remember correctly.

    9. Three maxed out Fuzzy Wizards and a maxed out Bobbit Cleric make an indestructible party in Ultima III that can lay waste to any of the enemy parties you meet. I chanced upon the combination when it became clear that the magic points system allowed lots of easy casting.

    10. Martian Dreams is even worse: the CLIMAX is in a dream sequence. You dream up an M-60 shoot a guy through a wall with it. I still cringe when I think of it.

  4. Regarding the chronology: the War of Imbalance lasted hundreds of years and left the Ophidian society in a post-apocalyptic state. The ruins that the New Sosarians have access to were probably demolished and depopulated very early on in the war. Thus they may seem more ancient than they really are.

    The belief that Ophidians were daemons is more or less a superstition, but it's based primarily on Furnace -- both that it's clearly uninhabitable for normal people and that it's currently inhabited by gargoyles. The serpent stuff doesn't help. These people think Lord British is a daemon, too.

    1. The whole rise and fall of the Ophidians seems to have happened between the end of U3 and the beginning of U4, and at some point during this interval the Sosarians arrived to the isle, to find only ruins of the Ophidian civilization.

      I'm not sure if there is a clear time interval mentioned between U3-U4, if we are talking about several hundreds of years (not impossible, as there were 200 years between U6-U7), and that the fall happened relatively recently before the Sosarian arrive, it might fit in the timeline with a bit of a stretch.

      Time seems to flow more or less like in Britannia (given various indications from Gwenno and Batlin visits) so different time scales cannot really be used to explain timeline discrepancies.

      It's probably one of the many things in the Ultima lore that benefits from not being investigated very closely :)

    2. I don't think it's worth trying to work out the exact chronology. It's established that time passes at different rates in different worlds, so I don't think you can work out the passage of time in Serpent Isle based on my intervals between games set in Britannia. 200 years in Britannia (the time between U6 and U7) may have been 2,000 years in the Serpent Isle.

  5. And how has Shamino lived so long?

    We know already that earthmen on Britannia do not get old (that is Iolo, Dupre, Lord British, and many more). It could be said that people only get old on their own homeworld.

    The Lands of Danger and Despair became a world completely separated from Sosaria.

    Therefore, when Shamino is on Briannia he is not on his homeworld. Thus, he stays young on Britannia, but we should observe him getting older if he stays several years on Serpent Isle.

    1. Interesting idea. I've noticed though that Iolo ages visibly between each game, starting with U5 and through SI, and he is from Earth. In U5, he still has brown hair and looks about 40, In Serpent Isle he looks more like 80.

    2. Iolo's real-world counterpart, David Watson, went gray fairly young -- his grizzled depiction in Ultima VI is spot on. He has the beard too. I guess they decided that if he visibly grayed between V and VI he should be completely white-haired by the much later VII. In Black Gate he looks like a wizened old man. In UW2/Serpent Isle he looks to me like a middle-aged man with his hair painted white.

      Shamino was originally a spellcaster and mages seem to have unusual longevity in Ultima. But in Ultima VII all of the mages from VI have visibly aged, other than Mariah, who I believe is from Earth and thus ages slowly (and also has the special trait of female companions that her appearance completely changes every game). Shamino might have avoided even this slower aging by the most powerful incantation of all: "I'm The Boss's Alter Ego".

  6. A piece of trivia. Siranush isn't some made-up fantasy name. It is a real Armenian woman's name.

    Same with Rabindrinath being a real Indian\Bengali name, but that is a more common knowledge, by virtue of Rabindranath Tagore receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

    1. Tagore was also referenced in U4. I think there's an NPC of exactly that name.

    2. Yes, he's in the town of Cove, and quotes the real Tagore (as seems to be the trend with U4 NPCs named after quotable figures). I was going to mention the connection if nobody else had brought it up.

      I was wondering if it might even be the same character, which would be a fun deep cut, to give a minor character their villain origin story off-screen as part of a new area's history, but I'm not sure the timelines line up. It would also help the theory if the U4 character had ever been stated to be a wizard, but that doesn't seem to be the case (at least, going by the relevant crpgaddict blog entry). So, most likely just a recycled name.

  7. U7, with extensions or not, had the problem of being too long to play. Though the games have other pluses.

  8. Have you forgotten something in the Dream Realm?

    Fzvgu gur ubefr jnf gurer nf n avtugzner naq ur jnearq lbh nobhg Ongyva.

    Lbh pna nyfb hfr frecrag obaq gb trg rirelbar va gur cnegl gb wbva lbh va gur Qernz Ernyz. Lbh pna tvir rirelguvat lbh svaq gurer gb lbhe cnegl zrzoref naq gurl jvyy xrrc gurz bapr lbh jnxr hc.

    1. Was Smith one of the nightmares in the castle courtyard? It didn't occur to me to try talking with them.

    2. Yes, his location is separate from the rest and he automatically talks to you if you are close enough.

    3. In line with Smith's usual role, he will tell you to take Rudyom's Wand to the Isle of the Avatar to destroy the black gate.

  9. Just an interesting story I remembered about Ultima Online, about slimes splitting:
    Though the pictures no longer exist. It's still a funny story.

    1. I still remember the first time I encountered splitting slimes, in the caves under LB's castle in Ultima VI. One of the most memorable fights I had in that game was when I tried to counter some spell-casting demons which had turned themselves invisible by turning them all into slime with the level 8 spell. Invisible slime. Never again.

  10. Two things enter my mind:
    1. Glad to see you pick up the game again after the break. Reading about it does not feel as if the "thread" of your experience was torn, though that might just be your good writing. I started Skyrim again after not finishing it...10 years ago. I still had the saves, but couldn't get myself to pick up where I left.
    2. I don't like how RPG worlds always seem to be in dying worlds. Every continent gets shattered, corrupted, broken apart as the "franchise" goes on. Best example: World of Warcraft. It starts, as always, with LOTR's destruction of Beleriand. I kind of like to play in blossoming worlds, too. The fallout universe, curiously, is one of them.

    1. Then, maybe you could enjoy the "Actraiser / Illusion of Gaea" series (1990-1998, SNES/PS1/Saturn) .

      Actraiser series:
      • ACTRAISER 1 : actually, a hybrid, where you build a civilisation from savage lands.
      • ACTRAISER 2 : the weak point in the series, being just a platformer.
      • SOUL BLAZER : the first true Role-Playing Game in the series, where you rebuild a world that was sold to demons.
      • SOLO CRISIS : Japanese-only.

      "Illusion of Gaea" spin-off series:
      • ILLUSION of GAEA : another Role-Playing Game where you rebuild a fallen world.
      • TERRANIGMA : yet another Role-Playing Game where you rebuild a fallen world.
      • GRANSTREAM SAGA : this time, the world is literally falling apart. Sorry.

    2. Thanks for the suggestion! Though I guess that I'd need one of these systems now.

    3. I feel like the trope of exploring forgotten places and ancient ruins is so strong that most RPG players expect it. That's not to say that you can't have ancient ruins in a realm that's otherwise on the upswing, but it's harder to justify why they haven't already been cleared and repurposed.

      Alexander, it's curious that you see Fallout as a "blossoming world." I think I get what you mean, in that civilization is rebuilding itself, but I still think it seems too early for that designation. The world is still largely running on pre-war technology (not to mention food). I don't think the Fallout universe will be "blossoming" until its technology is sustainable after every fusion core is depleted.

    4. The first two Exile games are set in a "blossoming" (albeit very harsh) world. The third game is subtitled "Dying World". Womp bomp.

    5. Illusion of Gaia isn't about rebuilding, but ActRaiser 1, Soul Blazer, and Terranigma are and are easy to run with with Snes9x and the games' individual ROM files if you're up for using an emulator.

      ActRaiser is a charming way to spend a lazy afternoon. Soul Blazer is good for a few evenings. Terranigma is an undertaking: by the time you learn what you're rebuilding, you'd already be a good way into ActRaiser. But the plot and the soundtrack have things to remember.

      I'd avoid the ActRaiser remake. It has its strong points but doesn't get rebuilding right.

    6. If you need to choose an emulator (after purchasing the original hardware, of course *ahem*), I suggest to check the Emulation General Wiki :

    7. @Addict

      The Fallout universe relying entirely on pre-war tech and food was very much a post-3 thing. The first two games (especially the second) were already moving forward, with the second game implying that the NCR was already entering a late 19th-early 20th century standard of living or better. New Vegas kind of continued this (albeit with a fair bit of baggage caused by being stapled onto the design and engine of 3), in that there was plenty of renewal happening, and the ramshackle nature of society had as much to do with it being on the Frontier as it did anything else.

      It is really only 3 and 4 that overwhelmingly feature the "squatting in the ruins of the prewar world living off of stale Twinkies" idea.

      ((I realize this is a little late, I haven't been able to load the comment section for a few days for some reason))

    8. I can't comment on 1 or 2, but it seems to me the world of FNV was equally dependent on pre-war technology. The plot revolves around control of pre-war power-generation, for instance. I never got the impression that the Brotherhood was making its own vertibirds.

      Even to the extent that I agree with you, the approaches aren't irreconcilable. We might imagine that the densely-populated, highly-industrial northeast is rebuilding differently than the more open, sparsely-populated landscapes of eastern California, northern Arizona, and Nevada.

    9. They were trying to control the pre-war power sources, because those were the established infrastructure in the territory they were expanding to. That doesn't mean that they lacked the ability to install something new.

      As for the Vertibirds, that's something that is very explicit in the earlier games - until Fallout 2 the only Vertibirds in the world belong to the Enclave, and they aren't pre-War relics. It is impossible for the Brotherhood to have Vertibirds at all if they are not making them.

  11. Has anyone else noticed that "Gorlab" is "balrog" spelled backwards?

    1. Guess the Avatar missed the signs warning of Rabindrinath: "Don't ye dare enter the swamp or ye'll have to face the ire of the ... LORD OF THE GORLAB!"

    2. Ha. Good callback.

      I completely missed that, zxcvb, which annoys me because by now I should be attuned to backward names.

    3. I noticed it since I played "Ultima 1" the first time (in 2017), but I started reading this blog already. I learned the trick from Chester ;)

  12. I planned on playing U7 Serpent Isle at the same pace as you but actually abandoned two months ago because the digressions irritated me a lot. Like "focus, game, focus, please!"

  13. Hope you find a nice new laptop! Sony and HP are examples that have served me well IMHO.

    1. on a cheaper note, the asus rog amd ones are awesome

    2. Yeah Asus are okay. Step away from Acer though.

    3. Only ASUS Rog. Stay away from TUF

  14. In this case, I think the "dream sequence" trope rankles in particular because it feels very artificially grafted onto the story and situation you're actually dealing with in Serpent Isle. The characters don't feel of a piece with anything going on with the Ophidians or the New Sosarians, and it's wayyyyyy too 'convenient' that the only way through is to possess the three artifacts from the three town quests. It all just feels very schematic and tidy, or maybe it just stands out because the series has otherwise been trying to push beyond the transparent quest-lines of earlier CRPGs. So you're working through this really obvious "gate" blocking off the rest of the game, AND rolling your eyes at the 'dream' material. Not the game's finest hour.

    I would have even preferred something corny like, you have to get the mayor of each town to agree to fund a new swamp-draining project, or the repair of a broken old bridge, or something. If progress north from here HAS to be halted until you've completed all three towns, at least then the two things have a logical relationship...

  15. Regarding quests and the Guardian, abar bs uvf cynaf ner erirnyrq va guvf tnzr, naq jurer va guvf tnzr lbh'er fghpx va n ubfgvyr jbeyq jurer abobql xabjf gur ningne, sbe gur arkg tnzr ur'yy gbff lbh vagb... n ubfgvyr jbeyq jurer abobql xabjf gur ningne. Gung'f vg; nyfb ongyva vf abg jbexvat sbe uvz ohg cynaavat gb ercynpr uvz.

  16. Having just now replayed the Dreamworld section... damn, that "Oh no! You have the Power of Love, Truth and Courage! I am doomed!" writing is so Ultima 9.

    Just to make it clear, I really enjoy the writing in this game. But this was pure Ultima 9 level bad... there probably even was a scene just like this in Ultima 9.

    "Oh no, not the power of Compassion! How can I continue on being a bad person now? Woe is me and my villainous ways! Curse you Avatar and your goodness!"

    I wish they'd let the player fight Rabindranath. Make use of those cool dream weapons you can find.

    Btw, did you try killing the dreamers? You can force them to wake up, each one of them has unique reactions.

    They don't mention it in the real world though.

    1. I did not try. Do you know any place that catalogs those reactions?

    2. There is a Serpent Isle transcript, but it's an headache to navigate. I can just find the reactions for you.

      If you kill LB: "This nightmare hath become too much to bear! The Avatar himself hath turned against me! The Guardian's foul deeds have even corrupted our last bastion of virtue. Britannia is lost without its hero! I must awake..."

      If you kill Cantra: "Why dost thou attack me? Do thine eyes deceive thee so? Slay the foul bane that wishes to devour me instead! If it is not stopped, it will destroy us all! I can stand this nightmare no more..."

      If you kill the bard dude from Sleeping Bull: "Art thou insane? Why art thou attacking me? This is my dream! If I had a two-handed sword, I would make mincemeat of thee! I must awaken..."

      If you kill Stefano: "Why dost thou interrupt my dreaming? Canst thou not see that I have important matters to attend to? Argh! I am waking..."

      And that's it. Nothing too fancy, but nice that there's a reaction.


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