Saturday, June 17, 2023

Serpent Isle: Venomous Mood

"I don't know what happened. We were walking along; it seemed to be a pleasant day; and suddenly the Avatar lopped Dupre's head off!"
I ended my last entry slightly stuck, having exhausted all of the obvious avenues forward. What I had missed--and thank you to commenters for keeping the comments mostly ROT-13'd--is that I hadn't asked the Hound of Doskar to track Batlin, using the pendant that Batlin left in Shamino's castle. My reactions to this were also already covered by commenters, but just to summarize:
  • Yes, asking the hound to track Batlin was a sensible thing to do. I had just used the hound for tracking when I found Batlin's amulet, so it should have been fresh in my mind.
  • However, Batlin had also told me where he was going to go, which happened to be the only place I hadn't explored yet. So I didn't really need the hound.
  • Either way, Yenani doesn't know that I'm tracking Batlin and that I had or hadn't used the hound. She has no connection to that part of the quest. Thus, it makes no sense that her dialogue (offering the password to Skullcrusher) is dependent on me having done so. 
I'm putting the Gwani cloak on again out of spite.
  • Whatever magic mechanism controls the door to Skullcrusher also doesn't know whether I've consulted the hound or spoken to Yenani. However, Yenani does tell us the words that the runes stand for (ISAL SAL CRA GAAS ISKAR). The animation shows the Avatar saying those words after touching the runes but before the door opens, so you can headcanon that the Avatar needed to know the words, not just the letters, to open the door to Skullcrusher.
I'm pretty sure all the people in Ultima just spoke regular English.
In any event, we soon make it into the ancient Ophidian city, former stronghold of the forces of Chaos. Moving into the city, we come upon a large building with various artifacts displayed on tables. A nearby journal reveals that Vasculio, the exiled necromancer from Moonshade, has been living here. The journal outlines the artifacts that he stole from the city, including a locket stolen from Frigidazzi, a spectral orb stolen from Mortegro, a flux analyzer stolen from Gustacio, and a Wand of Stone stolen from Torrissio.
"Flux analyzer" rings a bell, so I search my notes and find that Gustacio told me he could repair my Black Sword with it. (I've been using the Black Sword all along, so I'm not sure exactly what's "broken" about it.) I double-click on the analyzer and click on the Black Sword. It sparkles, indicating that something happened. I'm not sure what.
I'm guessing I didn't re-imprison the demon.
I pack up all the artifacts, thinking I'll return them to Moonshade. There's one I cannot reach behind a force field. It might be the Horn of the Gwani, although amusingly it's a brass horn with valves rather than just an animal horn like you'd expect from a more primitive society.
If I can get it out of here, Iolo and I can play, "I Wish that I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate."
There are corpses in a side chamber, along with a cage with two skeletons, one dead, one undead. The undead one says "Help me, Avatar" through the bars. I don't know who he is or how he knows me. I cast "Unlock Magic" on the lock, and the door swings open. The undead skeleton attacks me, and I'm forced to destroy it.
Seriously, who is this?
The dead one has two serpents' teeth--I was wondering if I was ever going to find more of those--and a journal on his body. The journal belongs to Maleccio, a former enemy of Vasculio's. Vasculio apparently kidnapped him and imprisoned him here. The journal goes on to indicate that Vasculio is a lich (which Ultima insists on spelling "liche"), having extended his life using blood and Stoneheart. The unfortunate Maleccio apparently had too much of his blood taken, weakened, and died.
Vasculio himself is asleep in a coffin in the next room, something I discover accidentally by opening it. He wonders why we disturbed him and who sent us to destroy him. We have the option to answer with the name of one of Moonshade's mages, but instead I ask him about "vengeance." Noting that I possess Magebane, he offers to exchange his "greatest spell, one that can dispatch any foe" for it. My companions all urge me to refuse, and I do. He attacks. I put him to sleep with a sleeping potion, then beat at him with Magebane until he's dead. He has a key on his body.
No offense, but you seem more like a vampire than a lich.
In another building, apparently a library, we see a ghost flying around. It's not hostile. When I try to talk to it, it drops a book. We have to cast "Translation" to read it. It's about penguins and their habitat. In a building that looks like a restaurant, another ghost actually talks to us, saying that the ghosts--the Souls of Chaos--will help vanquish "the foe." I'm not sure they realize I already killed him. In another building, four ghosts are performing some kind of ritual to Chaos.
Lava men and hostile Gwani attack as we continue to explore. I feel bad about killing the Gwani; I don't know why they're attacking me. This mystery is cleared up when I find a little lab where Vasculio has left another journal. He describes entrancing the Gwani and extracting the secrets of exploring the city from them. We nearly leave the lab, having looted some potions, without noticing Rudyom's Wand just lying there on a table. I realize Dupre no longer has the strange apparatus that replaced it. I think I left it back in Moonshade.
I could have easily missed this. Then again, I'm not sure what I need it for.
Vasculio's key opens an exit door to the northeast. There are two other giant golden double-doors that I can't open. Nearby signs suggest they lead to shrines of the virtues of Chaos. Automatons stand guard at various points in the city but don't attack and don't respond to talking.
Before taking the exit, I save the game and use the serpent gate that I found in the northern part of the city. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, I'm way overloaded, and I want to store some items in the hub. Second, I want to try out my new teeth and see where they go. In the process, I start making a map of the different exits from the central hub. I've been running on memory and trial-and-error until now.
Figuring out the paths available to me.
The exercise gets me what I really need: confirmation that I can at least make it back to the northern forest. If I had to walk through Gorlab Swamp again, I'd delay until I had more teeth.
My first visit is to Monk Isle--and hey, look! Cantra is up and running around! And she's saying, "I want thy flesh!" So either something went wrong with that resurrection or she's entering those awkward late-teen years. The no-named idiot who brought her here has nothing new to say. At least I can tell her mother, "Hey, she was walking and talking the last time I saw her!" All joking aside, it's annoying that there's no dialogue relating to the girl.
To bait fish withal?
Next stop: Moonshade. Like Santa Claus, I come bearing gifts in the pack on my back. First stop: locket, stolen from Frigidazzi. She's still nowhere to be found, so I leave it in her chest. Second stop: Torrissio, from whom Vasculio stole a wand called the Philanderer's Friend. (Let your mind run riot on that one.) I note with some amusement that Columna is sleeping in Torrissio's bed when I arrive. Torrissio snatches the wand back from me in triumph and runs off with it. You're welcome.
I mean, we were going to give it to you anyway.
Mortegro is still missing, so I can't give him his Spectral Orb, and Filbercio is still hiding from me, so I can't give him his "living scalp" (yuck). Gustacio doesn't want his Flux Analyzer back as much as he wants to sleep, apparently, and when he finally wakes up, he has no dialogue about it.
Canst thou not see that it is practically noon?
I didn't come here to give out presents, though. I came to find out what mage could teach "Dispel Field" so I can get the Horn of the Gwani. It turns out that no one has it. Neither does Ensorcio over in the Sleeping Bull. So that leaves either Mortegro or someone I haven't met yet. Either way, I guess I need to keep searching up north. This was a wasted trip except for Torrissio.
In Monitor, Harnna already knows that Cantra is dead: "Her spirit has been haunting me. She is suffering and tormented." Shamino tells her that the monks have taken her to their island. Harnna thanks us. "Perhaps now there is hope that my daughter shall return home to me." As we turn to leave, a prophecy suddenly comes upon her. But it's all stuff we've already done: recover the three artifacts and journey north.
Have you ever met a horse named Smith?
That leaves avenging Gannt. We head into the forest until we come upon what I think is the right building--the locked one labeled HOUSE OF WARES. It opens with the key that was on Gannt's tomb. The first floor has some basic furnishings, a stove, a pirate flag on the wall, and a parrot on a perch. The second floor has Captain Stokes, I guess, sitting at a baby grand piano. He doesn't speak, attack, or do anything. 
The party unloads all their saved magical junk on one poor pirate.
A locked, trapped chest next to his bed has 100 of each of the game's currency and some lockpicks. I loot it, but it still doesn't provoke a reaction from Stokes. It feels wrong to kill a non-hostile enemy. In fact, Ultima IV taught me you shouldn't do that. I'm torn. Finally, I have Iolo feed him a sleeping potion and then a poison potion. At least I can make it painless. Except he wakes up while still poisoned. Fine, we'll do it the hard way. I enter combat, and my characters must read him as hostile because they immediately kill him. On his body is a lightning whip, some dried meat, a poison dagger, and a bandage.
Downstairs, I have a closer look at what I took for a wood stove and realize that it's a computer. Trying to "use" the computer gives an advertisement for Origin's Strike Commander. Another double-click gives an ad for Privateer.  Another one, and there's a suggestion of Ultima VIII: Pagan. Then the computer explodes.
Must have been an Apple III.
The whole episode was silly. Some dialogue from Stokes could have saved it, maybe, but otherwise it falls flat as both a side quest and an Easter egg.
Contemplating teleporting back to the northern forest and then walking through two dungeons to get to where I left off, I realize I've gained nothing from this entire expedition. Torrissio can have his wand back some other time. I reload from Skullcrusher and exit the mountains.
That sounds pretty boring.
A check of the map shows that we're in a valley in the central part of the northern mountain range. We move to the east and find a ruined Ophidian building with another serpent gate. Half a dozen skeletons mingle behind a closed door, and I kill them. Inside, what appears to be a face on the wall turns out to be the spirit of a little girl, Shriash, a "faithful follower of Chaos," who belongs to the Temple of Emotion. She was trapped by a spell during the war, hundreds of years ago, and has occupied the wall ever since. She says she can be freed if I'll smash the Pedestal of Love--the broken column in this very room. "But it might kill thee! Or worse, thou mightest be trapped in this wall in my place!" She walks me through the ritual they used to perform to create the Water of Emotion. 
It doesn't seem Avatarish to leave her trapped in the wall, so I swing away at the pedestal, which eventually explodes. The face disappears. The "Lodestone of Love" is left behind. On other pedestals are lodestones of hatred, despair, and happiness. I leave them all alone.
"I once tried to show charity to a young girl." "What happened?" "It blew up in my face."
Something called the "Moon's Eye" looks like a teleporter but turns out to be something like a crystal ball. When I double-click on it, I have a vision of Batlin bustling around some kind of temple, flanked by huge blue serpent statues. I guess it might be the City of Order, but I thought Furnace was Order, so who knows. Batlin summons Deadeye, his pirate friend, and tells him that: "the Avatar must not enter the Shrine of Balance before the Wall of Lights is fully open." Deadeye hints that he has some private score to settle with me, but I don't think I've ever met him before. Batlin continues on and instructs Brunt to "delay the Avatar" and Palos to "make sure the Avatar feels the warmth of our welcome." 
This is probably a stretch, but this whole scene seems to parallel the "Then You May Take Me to the Fair" scene in Camelot.
I decide to explore the rest of the map in sections from west to east. The first job is to move north up the mountains, testing for secret doors. I find nothing except some hostile Gwani and trappers. The map makes it look like we can move east along the northern coast, but we can't, so I head back south along the next mountain range. My search for a secret passage pays off, and I soon find myself in an ice cavern maze in which lightning bolts and fireballs come shooting from the walls. 
Past some caltrops--which I try to pile to the side, but of course my party members blunder right over them--I find a room full of locked treasure chests. Inside is an impressive haul of magic armor, weapons, money, and potions. There's a straight "blackrock balance serpent" that I imagine will be important. A journal reveals this as Silverpate's treasure--I had forgotten all about that. The journal describes a conflict that Silverpate had with Erstam.
Is there even any point to money anymore?
At the southern end of the same range is a non-hidden cave full of dead bodies, including a dead Ice Dragon. There's a serpent gate in the same room. Some ice trolls and magical ice creatures attack us in the hallways. Part of the corridor is obstructed by ice blocks, but a few "Explosion" spells take care of them. I come to a room with four teleportation pads, but stepping on any of them just causes me to get zapped with lightning bolts. I leave without really figuring out what this place was about.
Someone's been through here.
I follow the mountain range to the east coast, fighting polar bears, trappers, snow leopards, wolves, and frost serpents along the way. I find a large building to the north with a three-level stone maze. This building has way too much going on, and I'm not in the mood to absorb it. There are a bunch of books about Chaos, and things on pedestals that seem to be artifacts, plaques to read, chests to open, scrolls to loot. My bags are already bursting with stuff that I don't know if I'm ever going to use, and now suddenly I'm looking at a Hammer of Dedication, and an unnamed wand that doesn't seem to do anything, and a "magic lens." Rather than half-ass it, I decide to just reload and leave this building for another day. 
This place broke me.
In case it isn't obvious from my tone, I really started to lose patience with the game during this session. It needed to be drawing to a conclusion several hours ago, not only is it nowhere near over, but I've also got that whole Silver Seed expansion. Aspects of the game that I found lovably irritating in previous sessions became enraging here: the way action slows to a crawl the moment an enemy is on the radar; the way the game sometimes flashes red at you during combat; the way your party goes charging off-screen when you're trying to keep them together; the way that enemies respawn the moment you leave their screens; the way that the game constantly decides it doesn't like where you're trying to move something, gives you a red "X" and a buzz, and puts the item back in its original location; the way that you can never find anything in your backpack; "I could use a little food"; all the goddamned keys.
So I figure this is a good place to take a break for a couple of days and see if I can re-engage the game in a better mood. If not, I may put it on the back burner for a week or so.
Time so far: 60 hours


  1. A break sounds like a good idea.

    I really enjoyed this game back in the mid/late 90's, mainly because it was an Ultima I knew nothing about, so everything was so fresh and interesting. The fact it brought back elements of the prior games into the modern canon was also enticing.

    But now... I realize what helped was I had the hint guide, which gives you a literal walk-through of the whole game with step-by-step instructions on where to go and what to do. Without that I would have been incredibly frustrated.

    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousJune 17, 2023 at 9:08 PM

      > A break sounds like a good idea.
      Seconded, if you need/want it. Can only sympathize that you're struggling through (different) unpleasantness in both of the Big games you're playing through. It sounds like you've been making some big pushes to maintain momentum; best of luck. I hope the occasional random, oddball games help break things up.

    2. No break. I want ALL Serpent Isle ALL the time. When you are done, just start over. You might miss something.

    3. I came up with a compromise. If I put it on the "back burner" like I suggested, I'll probably end up letting a year go by, like I did with The Magic Candle III. So I'm going to insert a third game into the rotation. It'll be a surprise.

    4. I hope this "third game" is just a new run of Serpent Isle... But restarting Fate would also be acceptable.

    5. Yeah, you definitely have serious U7 engine fatigue going on. It's scary that I know EXACTLY of what you complain of. I always noticed the sudden performance hit when enemies suddenly came on screen, for example.

      I'd suggest starting the Silver Seed expansion maybe as a break from the main quest. A side trek, as it were.

    6. mmmhh third game and a surprise…. tomorrow it will be the 30th anniversary of Betrayal at Krondor… one can only hope :)

    7. I'm not sure how one can say that a particular day will be the 30th anniversary of Betrayal at Krondor... in those times video games did not have a "release date"; stores just started selling games once they received them from wholesalers. Generally, one can estimate when a game released by taking the cover date of magazine reviews for the game, and then subtracting two months. But one can't get more precise than that.

  2. I'd say the game would have been paced better if you fought Batlin immediately after Balrog Swamp (instead of having him disappear and postpone the fight until much later). And maybe have some earlier foreshadowing on what the Wall of Lights is actually about.

    By the way, if you take Vasculio up on his offer, he'll give you a Mass Death scroll and then attack. Ironically you can then kill him with the Mass Death scroll. Or with regular weapons; unlike Lorthondo, he's not invulnerable.

  3. >Another one, and there's a suggestion of Ultima VIII: Pagan. Then the computer explodes.
    This is unintentionally funny in retrospect.

  4. I decide to explore the rest of the map in sections from west to east. [...] I really started to lose patience with the game during this session. It needed to be drawing to a conclusion several hours ago.<\i>

    If you are tired of exploring, use the Hound of Doskar over and over again.

    1. Agreed. This is usually the part where the game starts wearing its welcome for me.

      This late-game area is just not very fun to explore, you’ll likely run into locations that for the moment you have no idea what they are for, but that you will have to visit later anyway.

      If you are getting frustrated, the best thing is probably to aim straight for the main quest with as little distraction as possible.

    2. Good point. I guess I'll do that.

  5. "Is there even any point to money anymore?"

    Shades of the Gold Box there. Doesn't bode too well for the GIMLET 'Economy' score (unless there is some need that will still show up).

    The "flux analyzer" made me think of Back to the Future (yes, "capacitor", but the "flux" part already was enough for me).

    1. It makea me think of steel, to much dwaef fortress

    2. It's not good but nowhere as bad as Goldbox games imho.

      Spells, reagents, training and food offer a decent money sink for a good chunk of the game, although you never feel as you really NEED any of it (even food, goblins are loaded with it).

      If anything, the structure of the game, like making fast travel available only late in the game, having only two reagents sellers, having to exchange money in different denominations, etc... makes spending money kind of a chore.

    3. There never felt like much of an incentive to hoard money, you can just not pick stuff up (and given the inventory system, that's often wise). Especially after lbh trg gung erntrag evat sebz gur fvyire frrq.

    4. @Vince: Oh, sure, I agree it's nowhere as bad as GB where in most games almost right off the bat you're swamped with currency and other treasure which you can neither carry nor spend in a useful way.

      That was just an extreme example - which even gave rise to a two part guest post on this blog - as reference.

  6. Use the patch to switch to true isometric view.

    1. I think Lord Soth's curt message might refer to this patch to Exult (a fan recreation of the Ultima VII game engine):

      The patch causes Exult to draw the game graphics at a 45° angle to achieve a more natural isometric perspective, like Ultima Online. I think it's a great idea and I wish someone would finish this patch, but it has been left in an incomplete state and it's for an old version of Exult. And in any case, the Addict is playing the original game, not the Exult version.

    2. Hell, that patch would be perfect for me.personally I think the perspective is really odd and headache inducing

    3. Did we ever discuss how this unusual perspective came about? Maybe it was like this:

      In the 16-bit versions of Ultima V, some objects had a tilted perspective, like the bed in this screenshot, to improve the readability of the icon. The tilted perspective allows the artist to show more sides of the object.

      I think Origin, with Ultima VI, might be the inventors of the approach where every tile and the characters have this tilted perspective, which was also used in some other games, such as The Magic Candle III.

      Why didn't they draw this with a normal isometric perspective, like in Legend, for example?

      Potentially because that requires more performance. Ultima VI can draw the world with non-overlapping square 16x16 pixel tiles. Legend needs to draw overlapping rhombuses with transparent corners.

      So they stayed with the strange perspective in Ultima VII (where it is more annoying than in Ultima VI, in my opinion), and were still able to draw the world with non-overlapping square 16x16 tiles. Only a few wall corners need overlapping tiles. One alternative would have been to go back to a perpendicular perspective like in Final Fantasy VI and other JRPGs of the time.

      The approach of this Exult patch is to draw the world onto a canvas, rotate the canvas 45°, then display that rotated canvas. This wouldn't have been realistically possible back then without hardware-accelerated graphics cards.

      Later in Ultima VIII, they implemented a normal isometric perspective, which works great:

      What I don't understand is why they used a strange angle for the isometric perspective of Ultima Online:

      As you can see, I like this topic :)

    4. One reason may be controls. Especially when keyboard is still the default (as with U6), having a character move on square tiles feels more intuitive. In contrast, isometric action games (e.g. Solstice, Cadaver) usually move the character northeast when you press the up key, and that's less intuitive.

      Another reason may simply be legacy, i.e. starting with the same assumptions as previous Ultimas and working from there.

      I don't think the performance reason holds up. U6 doesn't strike me as particularly taxing for its contemporary systems; U7 IS known to be highly taxing, but it includes a lot of objects that go outside their tile and require transparency. And, well, there are older games than U7 that have no problem with isometric graphics.

    5. I agree with your first two paragraphs, good points. Regarding the performance, I'm not sure. You're right that U7 already has a lot of objects that require transparency (for example, all the plants), but still, drawing the ground and the buildings with overlapping rhombuses with transparent corners (which I assume is the way U8 does it) would have increased the system requirements even further, I think.

      Which older games with isometric graphics are you thinking of? Note that U7 in particular needs to draw the graphics on the whole screen, and it has to be fast enough even while scrolling all the time, and while a lot of NPCs and other entities are simulated in the background. Whereas a game without scrolling doesn't even need to update the background graphics that often.

    6. That's a complicated question to answer.

      Sprites in Ultima are rectangular, not rhomboid (you can find this in sprite dumps on google), and it's true that isometric sprites (on average) have more empty space for the same amount of content, which increases processing time.

      But even if the game doesn't scroll, you'd probably have to redraw everything for every frame, because when objects can be behind other objects, finding out which parts to redraw is extremely non-trivial.

      Overall, what matters most is (a) framerate, (b) how much of the screen is used for the game window, and (c) how big objects actually are, and (d) how many objects make a scene. Going isometric impacts point (c) but not the other three.

      And with 1992 hardware, *something* has to give. In Ultima 7, it's framerate. In contemporary games, it's usually object count (e.g. Moonwalker arcade; Landstalker); or game window (e.g. Veil of Darkness). And really, what makes U7 a major technical achievement is its *ludicrous* object count (including all the furniture, movable things, and so forth) as well as traveling the whole world with zero loading screens.

    7. Maybe there's a slight misunderstanding here, I was referring to isometric tiles when I used the word rhombus (= diamond), I wasn't talking about rhomboids (= parallelograms which are not rhombuses or rectangles). Maybe not the best word choice on my part.

      I think the isometric games you mention as examples indicate that if Ultima VII had been made with isometric graphics like Ultima VIII, it would have had higher hardware requirements. Those other games were able to compromise in other aspects.

      Interesting comment about the incredibly high object count in U7. In fact, are there any modern game worlds that are filled with objects as densely as U7 and U8? Whether 2D or 3D?

    8. (I mean interactive and moveable objects, not static scenery. And excluding Ultima Online, of course.)

    9. Well, either (slightly) higher hardware requirements, or reduce the framerate further, or reduce the object count. But really, the biggest factors in U7's speed are the object count and the continuous world; not the perspective used.

      Note that U8 does have higher hardware requirements, but it also has over twice the framerate that U7 does (the U8 engine has been reused for action games), in addition to having many more animation frames per character.

    10. There are plenty of modern games with very high object counts in the immersive sim genre - Prey, for example, or Weird West. The Divinity Original Sin games also have tons of objects with Ultima style interactions. I haven't played Baldur's Gate 3 but I imagine it's similar.

    11. @Thecla uh, not relevant.

  7. This is definitely where the game wears out its welcome. I've played Serpent Isle 4 times but only finished it once due to always losing motivation around this point. The game feels like it should be wrapping up but just keeps on going.

  8. "the way that enemies respawn the moment you leave their screens"

    I wonder why this is such a problem for you with this game; I don't remember that it ever bothered you in Legends of Valour, where it's one of the reasons why free exploration is so competely pointless.

    1. I don't even remember that about Legends of Valour ,but even if it's the case, they're very different games. There aren't a lot of reasons to backtrack in LoV. During this session, and the before, I was exploring miles of maze-like rocky coastline, and having to turn around and return to the screen I'd just left was a lot more common.

    2. It's interesting because my biggest issue with Ultima 5 was all the respawns.

      "Let's change to combat screen again because the lvl 8 party has faced another 5 lvl 1 rats" - "Noooooooooooo"

    3. Yeah, but that's a different type of respawning. There, it feels like you've just encountered another pack of random enemies. The dungeon rooms remain clear while you're in the dungeon.

      In Ultima VII, you walk off the screen and turn around and walk back on, and the exact same enemies are there. It feels like they've literally come back to life.

    4. Ultima 6 did this too. I remember being very offended by it; I don't know why it never bothered me in 7 or 7SI. Maybe you have to go a bit further away in 7's engine? Or maybe I'm just lumping it in with the other reasons I got a lasting bad impression of 6. (ROT13 on the off chance someone's following this game without ever having finished 6 - Why yes, I did cynl nebhaq jvgu gur Beo bs gur Zbbaf naq raq hc gnyxvat gb gur tnetf jvguva gur svefg ubhe, olcnffvat gur svefg gjb guveqf bs gur tnzr. Why do you ask?)

  9. Personally, the length of the game was never an issue for me. I could definately see the cracks in the game by this point, but length was never an issue I had. That being said, I'm also the sort of person that loves 100+ hour RPGs like Xenoblade, length only usually turns into a problem if I either have some self imposed deadline or if the game does a fake ending

    1. There is an extent to which having to write about a game creates a desire for brevity that simply playing the game does not.

      However, I remember feeling this same way about Serpent Isle when I played it in the 1990s.

  10. Doing the Silver Seed expansion at this point is probably what I would recommend (after taking a little break from the game), I usually would have done it before now for various reasons, but at this upcoming point (rot13) vg cebivqrf fbzr zber pbagrkg sbe jung lbh'er frrvat va guvf abegurea ertvba bs gur znva tnzr.

    But as many have already said, you're at the point now where the somewhat rushed and incomplete nature of the game really shows, and those issues which were a bit less noticeable in The Black Gate become much more frustrating here.

    1. I would agree here in regard to the Silver Seed expansion. Not only will it 'break' up a monotomous part of the game with some much needed stuctured challenge/reward dopamine, it also adds many features that addresses (or at least mitigates) the magnitude of frustration with some of Serpent Isle's design quirks.

    2. If nothing else, it'd definately be better to do it while there's enough game left for the rewards to matter

    3. V guvax ur vf jnl cnfg bs gurz npghnyyl znggrevat nal zber. Zvtug nf jryy qb vg jura ur trgf zber qrrcre vagb gur Bcuvqvna yber.

  11. Regarding Cantra... I think it's okay if I won't ROT13 this one. Original SI has some missing dialogue flags, that's why Cantra seemingly won't get any better. This is fixed in the Exult version.

    Regarding endgame exploration... I digged it the last time I played. It sort of becomes an extended puzzle game in the end. N ybaryl fbyvgnel chmmyr tnzr. Ornphfr rirelbar vf qrnq.

    There's less proper guidance from now. There's an intended order to do things, but it's easy to do them in the wrong order that can leave you feeling slightly huh? From what I see... you're doing it right by focusing on chasing Batlin. It's good to focus on him at the moment and leave other things aside.

    Regarding Silver Seed... you're already in the last gjragl-svir % of the game. You've managed so long without all the bonuses. Don't feel pressured. By now, it might actually work narratively better for you do... whenever you feel it's right.

    There are new characters in Silver Seed and lot's of dialogue. I say you can consider doing it when you maybe start to miss talking with people.


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.