Saturday, July 15, 2023

Serpent Isle: Dying in My Sleep

A frequent scene this outing.
When we last closed, I was in the fortress of Serpent's Fang, trying to find four magic orbs, which will somehow help me find the Silver Seed, which will somehow restore Balance to the world. I found one orb last session, and as this one starts, I head out to find more. Of the three locations that Surok told me about--Aram Dol's Lair, the Maze, and the Abandoned Outpost--I still have the latter two to do. I head west and open the door there, go down a short hallway, and take some stairs down.
The Abandoned Outpost
Any dungeon could theoretically be called a "maze," but after a few minutes in this one, I doubt that it's the Maze. It doesn't seem very mazelike. That leaves the Abandoned Outpost. Surok told me that nine months ago, Commander Ardiniss took a company of soldiers to the outpost to clear it of Chaos agents and set up traps and puzzles. He never returned.
There are traps and puzzles, all right. I "solve" a couple by sheer luck and don't solve a couple at all. In the order that I encounter them:
  • I find a secret door by pressing against the wall as I walk. At the end of the hallway is a room with a dead body and a lever. A scroll on the body talks about a well being dry and being able to climb down it.
  • I find the well. When I click on it, the Avatar just says, "Maybe I can climb down?" I never find anything to help me do that.
What are you waiting for, then?
  • The lever in the aforementioned room opens a door to another secret passage. It ends in a large room. When I enter, magic barriers seal the doorways and poison traps erupt in the middle. There are three buttons on the surrounding walls. I press them in a random order and the barriers and traps disappear.
  • I come to a roomful of corpses. They have a few treasures, a key, and a map of the dungeon. The key opens the first of three barred doors. I can't figure out anything to open the next one. No key works; picks don't work. As I turn to leave, I accidentally walk the wrong way and walk through the door. The next two doors are illusory, it turns out.
If I hadn't stumbled, you'd be getting a ranting entry and a request for help right now.
  • The rooms beyond the doors have a lot of chests, including some with "Unlock Magic" and "Translation" scrolls in case the player hasn't picked those up by now. There's a chest full of gold nuggets, which I don't even bother with at this point. Those troll-looking dudes--wildmen, I think--appear in some of the rooms. Others have automatons, giant spiders, and giant scorpions.
  • I come to a torture room. There are a couple bodies behind locked doors that open to picks. One of them has a scroll that says he blocked the passage beneath the outpost with doors that won't open "ere this key is used," but he doesn't have a key.
I apparently thought I needed "Protection" for this room.
  • The torture room has a couple of iron maidens in it. I remember that funny things happened when you clicked on iron maidens in one of the previous Ultimas. I try it here, and it turns out it conceals a secret staircase downward. Dumb luck. The room at the bottom of the stairs has tables full of powder kegs. I have no room for these, so I leave them alone.
  • A door opens to "Unlock Magic." The room beyond has four "pulsating objects." I can't figure out anything to do with them.
Elaborate a bit, maybe?
  • There's another goddamned key hidden under a rock. Fortunately for me, the game has trained me by now to move everything around.
  • A corridor blocked by rubble has a stairway beyond. I'm 100% sure--I would have bet $10,000 on it--that what the game wants me to do is haul up the powder kegs and use them to clear the rubble. This takes me longer than it should because I first drop my weapons and backpack to clear some room and then discover that you can't just carry powder kegs in your hands; you have to put them in a backpack. So I have to spend a bunch of time manually dragging items out of my backpack until I have the space and weight. After all that, exploding the powder kegs on the rubble does precisely nothing. I try "Explosion" and still do nothing. I never solve this one, if indeed there's anything to solve. Maybe the stairway is just cosmetic.
This looks cool and accomplished nothing.
  • The room next to the "pulsating objects" has a dais with a blue flame on it. Magic barriers pop up to block a staircase when I enter the room. A plaque on the wall says "SACRIFICE BY FULMINATION." I soon figure out that when you place an object on the dais, there's a little puff of smoke. I figure it wants me to sacrifice a certain thing. But I try a bunch of things and can't figure out what. Eventually, frustrated, I try just casting "Dispel Field" on the fields, and it works. 
This is probably cheating.
  • Downstairs, there's a corridor with three alcoves, each of which has a pressure plate. The corridor leads to a room swarming with automatons. The only way out is through a short corridor with a "sleep" field. I assume there's a way to use the pressure plates (and nearby switch) to turn off the sleep field. I don't find it. I try it in every order and try weighing them down. Nothing. I eventually kill the automatons, put the emulator in "warp" mode, and make my way through the field slowly, gaining a couple of inches every time I wake up.
  • On the other side is a room with the orb I came for.
  • On the way back, the automatons have respawned. They kill me while I sleep. Fortunately, that just expedites my trip back to the fortress.
You may wonder why I didn't just wait for them to come to me. The Fiend has the answer later on.
  • However, I head back to the outpost because Surok told me that it would be a cool thing if I brought back Ardiniss's body. I drag several bodies back to the healer, including the one I think is probably Ardiniss (the one with the map and key), but Surok never acknowledges that I've done what he asked.
Where do you want 'em?
So I know there's stuff in the Abandoned Outpost that I didn't find, but not everything in Aram-Dol's lair was necessary, so I hope those areas are similarly optional.
What do you call this door?
The Fiend's Lair

After satisfying myself that there's nothing new at Serpent's Fang, I head east from the stronghold, again through a security door. (I spend a few minutes on Google trying to find the right name for a door that has horizontal and vertical bars that you can see through, and the best I come up with is "security door," so I guess that's what it's going to be.) On the other side, in a dirt corridor, I find the bodies of some automatons. Their murderer appears to be a naga, who starts sniping at me with a bow and soon regrets it. Then one of her sisters manages to kill me when a sleep/poison trap pops out of nowhere and puts me in a slumber while she fills me full of holes. This is getting to be a pattern.
Little do I know that the nagas are respawning off-screen.
I return and eventually find a stairway down to the next level. Thus commences a maze of corridors and rooms occupying a couple of levels, with multiple stairways up and down. I assume it's The Maze at first, but I eventually learn that it's the Fiend's Lair. I explore by following the right wall--specifically, as this game has conditioned me, pressing against the right wall. That turns out to be a good practice because this dungeon has several secret doors. It takes quite a while but I think we can handle this quickly:
  • Acid slugs.
  • Mongbats.
  • Giant Scorpions.
  • Trolls.
  • Four trapped golden chests with nothing in them.
  • A corpse of a man named Selioshor. He has a diary on him that details the traps to come. This could be helpful, but I stumble into most of them anyway. It's the diary that tells me we're in the Fiend's Lair.
A diary provides hints about avoiding the traps.
  • Wildmen.
  • A large room in which red and blue flames erupt from the floor. A dead body in the corner holds the Golden Orb.
Done already!
  • Gazers.
  • Slimes.
  • Trapped in a room by an energy field which I have to "Dispel." If you wonder how people escape if they don't have the spell, the answer is: they read the diary, which warns you about this room.
I read the diary and still got trapped.
  • Automatons. The axe I picked up last time is awesome, by the way. Most things are dying in one hit, sometimes two.
  • Barely-visible caltrops. The diary warned me about these, too, but you can't really go around them.
  • Stone harpies that come to life. They cause my second death in the dungeon. And third. They kill me in two hits, no matter what I do for spells or strategies. I eventually just don't get near them, and they don't activate. I note I'm getting low on reagents--only about a dozen "Great Heal" spells left. 
See if you can spot the caltrops.
  • Headless.
  • Saw blades coming out of the ground.
I love that the first saw blade's victim is a headless, who shouldn't have been affected anyway.
  • Gouts of fire coming out of the ground.
  • More automatons and stone harpies.
  • A little maze with stone walls and explosions.
"Maze" is probably the wrong term.
  • A double door for which I don't have the key. I'm in the process of cursing out the game when I discover that the door can be picked.
Beyond the door is a large, messy room full of debris and corpses. A man is standing in the middle of it, talking to himself. I speak to him. "Do not expect to stay long," he says, "for I am getting rather hungry and it has been months since I have eaten the flesh of a human." He introduces himself as "Chaos Unrestrained," but acknowledges that those in the keep call him "The Fiend." In a long diatribe in which he calls me a "fool" innumerable times, he relates that he used to be a wizard named Shal. I'm not sure I fully understand this part, but I think what happened was that his powers were destined to drive him mad, but as part of the bargain, the serpent held the madness at bay for a year. During that year, Shal created a magic ring that takes the place of reagents, so that a spellcaster need not have any reagents to cast whatever spell he wants. Anticipating his madness, Shal then gave the ring to an automaton and told him to hide it. Now that he's insane, the Fiend is obsessed with reclaiming the ring.
Shal's last name is Roget.
He offers me my life if I'll return the ring to him. I say no, and a couple seconds later, I'm dead from his "Fireball" and "Sword Strike" spells. I reload, confidently equip Magebane, go through the whole thing again, and attack him. The problem is, I can't seem to hit him, and he kills me again. I reload and try again, this time casting "Conjure" (it gives me a wolf) and "Protection" first. Neither spell does anything at all. On a fourth reload, I manage to hit him with Magebane, which makes him lose his magic, which causes him to attack me with his sword and kill me in two hits. In short, the Fiend is far harder for me than Aram-Dol. 
That's right, you bastard.
On maybe the sixth reload, I manage to hit him again, and then just cast "Great Heal" after every one of his blows, and I finally manage to kill him. He has nothing interesting on his corpse, and there's nothing interesting in his room, so I'm not even sure that it was necessary to kill him.
Not long after this battle, I find myself back at the dungeon's entrance, having made the entire circuit without seeing this magic ring. However, I have a pretty good idea where it is. Earlier, I was silently complaining about an area that seemed like it should have had something in it--to get to it, I had to take a staircase and find a secret door. But behind the secret door was just a pile of rubble. I remember some automatons in the area, and I think maybe I just didn't search the body of one of them. It turns out I was right about the area, but wrong about the specific location. It's buried in a pile of rubble, and I have to move some of the stones first.
I wonder how many items I've missed by not moving rubble.
It does what the Fiend said it would do. When I wear it and open my spellbook, all spells show an "infinity" symbol. This seems incredibly overpowered, especially if a player does the expansion early in the game. (Although note that the caster is still limited by his available mana.) Does it have a limited number of castings? Or a chance that it will disappear after each casting? I guess we'll see. For now, I can save myself about 12 pounds by leaving my reagent bag behind.
And I can finally figure out what "Erstam's Surprise" is without wasting reagents.
The Maze

There are only three doors outside the stronghold, but I have another orb left to find. I start looking around again, and I soon realize there are two doors on the west side of the fortress, not just one. The second is next to a dead tree. As I approach, an ugly woman named Drusilla gates in and offers three hints: keep track of what rooms I've passed through because I'll have to visit them more than once; sometimes I'll have to turn around to find my way; and "once ye have found yer path, that section of the maze shall remain clear ta ye forever more." She also tells me I'll have to enter alone (no problem there) and hints that she follows someone called The Guide.
Yeah, you can stop with the flirting immediately, thanks.
In the first room, all my stuff--literally all of it--disappears. All right, I'll play along, but I'm not saving over my previous game.
The Maze turns out to be a series of square rooms arranged in grids of 6 x 6 on four levels. The goal on each level is to reach a teleporter in one of the 36 squares. Every time you cross through the doorway from one room to another, the entrances and exits are reconfigured. Usually, the door you entered closes behind you, but not always, and if you go back through it, it might give you new options in the previous room.
If you find the teleporter, all doors are opened on the level permanently.

Sometimes you end up in a room with no exits at all. Fortunately, there's a handy blue flame in the corner of each room that you can walk into to kill yourself and resurrect back at the keep. (This is particularly cruel given that most people who enter the Maze won't get handy resurrections back in the keep.)  That gets old fast, and I end up reloading from safe save points.
This guy preferred starvation to death by fire.
With no inventory to mark passages I've already tried, I manually map it. It's time-consuming but not hard. Most of the time, the door closes behind you on the way through, so going back isn't an option. Most of the time, there's only one way to go. When there's more than one way, including going back, I note the possibilities. When I hit a dead end, I reload and backtrack to the most recent possibility.
My completed maps of the first three levels, and the fourth in progress. Asterisks indicate multiple directions.
The first two levels have nothing interesting, and they go quickly. The third has a couple of corpses of guards, and I loot some equipment in case I'm going to face any combat.
This turned out to be a waste of time.
On the fourth level, I meet some kind of talking cat named Yurel. (I actually don't know that he's a cat; at first, I think he's a fox or rat. But I re-read a book in Serpent's Fang later, and it confirms that a "cat-man" stole the purple orb.) His story is a bit confusing, but it sounds like he was some kind of experiment by someone among the forces of Order, but somehow he found his way to the temple of Tolerance, where they took him in. When the forces of Order sacked his home, they dragged him to Serpent's Fang, from which Yurel escaped into the Maze. Hungry and scared, Yurel just wants to go home. He lets it slip that he has the fourth orb, which he'll trade for a hunk of cheese. I groan. I saw cheese on the bodies on the previous level, but I didn't take any. I reload, grab some cheese, redo the entire conversation, and get the orb. Honestly, the whole encounter is pretty weird. Unless Yurel shows up again and has some kind of point, why couldn't this just be a regular soldier?
The forces of chaos had a High Evolutionary.
I actually don't find my way out of the fourth level. It's far more complex than the previous levels, with paths doubling and tripling (maybe even quadrupling) back on themselves. I must have screwed something up because all the paths I map seem to lead to dead ends. On one path, I dead-end in a room with a corpse that has a Helm of Light, which seems to keep a "Light" spell going permanently. (I wonder how it compares to the Helm of Courage as armor.) By now, I figure that every dungeon has one orb and one relic, and I've found both, so I just let myself burn to death and show up at the keep again. From previous reloads, I know that my gear is stored in the hollow of the dead tree, so I go retrieve it. 
Even though it took over half of this session time, I rather liked the Maze. I don't know why, honestly. In real life, I enjoy puzzles that call knowledge and creativity into play--crosswords and Sporcle quizzes and GeoGuessr. You'd never catch me doing mazes in a book of mazes, not to mention word search puzzles or Sudoku. (If the distinction isn't clear, the latter two examples all have systematic solutions while the former examples don't.) But sometimes in a CRPG, I like a navigation puzzle that has a systematic solution. I recall the many hours I spent mapping the teleporter maze in Crusaders of the Dark Savant and somehow didn't think it was wasted. I do tend to get frustrated easily with such puzzles, though, and when it becomes clear I've made some kind of mistake (like I did here), I'm more likely to toss out the whole thing than to backtrack and try to find it.
I have all four orbs! Now what? No one has any new dialogue. I've searched the keep from top to bottom, and there's no obvious place to put the orbs. I re-read all the books in the library and can't find what I'm missing.

Hence, I'm asking for hints as to what to do next, what the artifact was that I missed in the Abandoned Outpost, and which of the puzzles there I need to solve to get it.
This was a pretty long session. I really hope the end is swift after I get back from the expansion.
Time so far: 83 hours
Comments on Level 2 Spells
Awaken. Useful in a couple of weird situations: first, if a party member collapses from low hit points, he might not automatically reawaken even when his health gets into positive numbers again. Second, you may want to wake up a sleeping NPC to talk to him. I can't remember if I've met any enemy capable of magically causing sleep, but if so, I've never used the spell in such a situation.
Destroy Trap. Theoretically useful, but you have to detect it first, which would mean casting "Detect Trap" on every chest, which is a waste of reagents, since traps often don't damage you at all. 
False Coin. You cast it on a coin, and it makes 5 coins. Cast it on a stack of 100, and it makes 500. Is there something I'm missing? Do they disappear after a while? Even if they do, I guess you could cast them right before you buy something. But that would seem to render the economy useless--not that it isn't anyway. I must be missing something.
Cold Blast. Blasts the enemy with cold--in the same amount of time in which you could have just hit him for the same amount of damage.
Great Light. Absolutely essential if you don't want to lug torches or some other light-casting device around. I wish it lasted longer.
Heal. A modest healing spell. Good until you get Level 5's Great Heal.
Mass Cure. Cures multiple people of poison at once. It was very useful after I'd walked through the Gorlab Swamp.
Protection. The manual says it helps in combat and makes you temporarily immune to the effects of traps. I wish I'd thought to try it when I had a roomful of chests to open. Its effectiveness in combat doesn't seem noticeable to me. My guess is it isn't worth the reagents.


  1. How about "chicane" for the little maze with explosions caption?

    1. I think it's fitting. We use the term 'Schikane' specifically in Formula One racing when a straight track is interrupted by a couple of steep curves, or more broadly when there's a deliberate imposition of hardship, like in military training.

  2. It's a shame Des Por is no longer a spell in SI, but you can climb down the well by svaqvat naq hfvat n cvrpr bs ebcr. You found a scroll talking about a key that isn't there; lbh'yy arrq vg qbja gurer orpnhfr gur fpebyy vgfrys vf gur xrl gb fbzr sbepr svryqf. This all leads to the final artifact, n oryg gung tvirf guvegl fgeratgu.

    Note that your companions (if you have any) don't join you in The Maze. The final part of The Maze has some walls that are illusory; this is how you get out.

    The Fulmination puzzle requires you to sacrifice a lighting whip (which is nearby; noting that one meaning of "fulmination" is "to strike with lightning"). You can also clear that rubble by hitting it with your sword, instead of using explosives; it leads to the same area you found by dispelling the field.

    Finally, to proceed you need to find n uvqqra fjvgpu oruvaq n pnaqyrfgvpx arne n fgnvejnl qbja va gur prageny xrrc; guvf bcraf n frperg cnffntr.

    1. Overall, this strikes me as a fairly clever and well-designed dungeon, that would have been more entertaining if you weren't fatigued from the sheer length of the main game.

    2. I've never understood how anyone could find how to proceed after the 4 orbs without using a walkthrough to figure out the next step. That is incredibly difficult to find. I think there may have been a very vague hint given by one of the NPCs, but it is far too vague.

    3. Thanks, Radiant, that gave me everything I needed. I'll write more about those solutions in the next entry.

  3. Oh, and the money from the False Coin spell is supposed to disappear (per the manual) but it actually doesn't. And yes, that wrecks the economy. Nakar has an entire post of his playthrough dedicated to this spell.

    1. It doesn't disappear, but you can't cast False Coin on false coins, so you need to keep track of some real money first.

    2. I mostly remember using it to buy every spell in Moonshade, it makes stocking up very trivial. Not that money is particularly hard to come by in this game.

    3. Even if it did disappear, you could just wait to cast it until right before you wanted to buy something.

      As for not being able to cast it on fake coins, can you "launder" those fake coins by changing them for another currency and then changing them back? I'd bet money--real, not fake--that you can.

    4. there is no such limitation on false coins. There is not a different object type for a false coin in this game. They don't expire. It's the most astonishingly broken thing in the whole game.

    5. If it's true that you can't cast "False Coin" ON a false coin, the game must have some way to distinguish them.

  4. Replies
    1. I'd probably just call it a gate?

    2. 'Tristan, you keep forgetting to shut the bloody grille!'

      'Sorry Mum!'

    3. I would have called that a gate, yes. A barred gate perhaps. Maybe something like a "jail door" if pressed for something more specifically door-ish, but my first thought wouldn't be to describe it as a door at all.

  5. So, the game has officially become a point'n'click adventure?

    1. perhaps it always was!

    2. In fairness, this as been the case also in the U6 spinoffs. I almost wrote about "Martian Dreams" for TAG until I decided 1) that was stupid and 2) the game was kinda stupid. I never finished it, unfortunately.

    3. My recollection is that there's more combat in Silver Seed than an entire run of Black Gate. Or at least it feels like that.

    4. Thanks for the link, Andy, interesting read!

    5. Andy, from your perspective as an adventure gamer, do you think it's possible to construct a definition of "adventure game" that doesn't encompass all RPGs after a certain date? I agree that it wouldn't cover some of the primitive, abstract ones like the Lawrence D&D line, but by about . . . well, now . . . any commercial RPG is going to have the types of exploration and puzzles that meet most adventure game definitions.

    6. let me enter here and say that after all the definition of each genre is by "vibes".
      I used to say that the difference between rpg and adventure (or point n click adventure to narrow it further) is that in rpgs you are the story while in an adventure game you mostly play someone else's story - there is a notable difference on how the main character's personality, remarks and narration are. Then you have the other minor stuff like combat, attributes, etc :D

    7. While I agree 'vibes' form a large part of how humans categorise things, I think its interesting to look at what gives us those vibes.

      When it comes to games, I think it's largely about the gameplay loop. So if we're looking at Ultima VII/2, is advancing through the game driven primarily by character improvement, or primarily by finding/interacting with things?

      If gameplay is regularly driven by both of these factors I think you have a pretty good contender for the 'Adventure RPG' tag. It's the missing sibling to Action-Adventure and ARPG games.

    8. One can also define a genre by the absence of certain features. Adventure games are generally understood to NOT have levels or ability scores (and if they do, they get called something like "adventure/RPG hybrid"). Likewise, any RPG or adventure based on platforming or top-down action-based combat (except in minigames) tends to be placed in the "metroidvania" or "action adventure" genre instead.

      I realize there's some gray area here, and of course Chet's definition of RPG doesn't preclude action-based ones.

    9. everyone seems to categorise things slightly differently, as is my constant minor annoyance with things being called "roguelikes" these days!

      These things are always tricky, which is kinda the point of that article. As someone whose first RPGs were the Quest For Glory and Ultima games (and I suppose Fighting Fantasy books!), it gives me a very different idea of what an RPG should be than someone who grew up with Wizardry and Might & Magic.

      Combat is certainly a good separator between the two genres, in adventure games it tends to be rare and often solved in a very particular way, whereas in RPGs it's more about the numbers, the stats, the health, any modifiers. Then you have the difference to an action game, which for me is how much the players reflexes and such are important versus the characters stats.

      Already on here you've had to think about strategy games that have RPG elements, and much later on you'll have a lot of these discussions with more games.

    10. I've used the thought that "adventure games have puzzles, while RPGs have problems." A puzzle has a particular solution, such as using an item that's mainly there to solve that puzzle. A problem is an obstacle that can be overcome in many ways. Combat is a good example, as you just need to lower the enemy's health to zero by any means.

      I'd categorize my own Quest for Glory as 75% adventure game, 25% RPG. Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is more like 60% RPG, 40% adventure game. Tabletop roleplaying can be more like an adventure game, more like a CRPG, or a hybrid, depending on the gamemaster and players. I ran a puzzle-oriented D&D game once, and Lori chewed me out for failing to know my audience. :-) They wanted RPG conversation and combat more than solving puzzles.

    11. Your QFG saga is one where the distinction of the story being about you, the player roleplaying, or the narration of someone else is way trickier - the vibes get really confused in there.

      Was thinking about this a lot during the weekend (in the club, in the dark, with banging music, this is how I think of things). Myst and similar first person games don't have a narrator, but the game itself is about sorting out the story of someone else. .

      So: vibes. Sorry Tristan.

    12. It was probably unwise to send us down another "definition" discussion, but I find it interesting how the two blogs differ in their methods of defining their subjects. In my case, I have criteria that establish something as an RPG. Once met, the game (in my mind) remains an RPG even if it has a lot of other stuff that best suits it to a different genre. That's why I've played so many strategy and adventure hybrids. Call this an "additive" approach.

      TAG's approach, on the other hand, seems to be geared more towards maintaining a certain purity of the game. If I'm reading Radian's point about the "absence of certain features" as well as Carlos's "vibes" correctly, once what-would-otherwise-be-an-adventure game introduces enough other elements, it stops being an adventure game. Let's call this a "subtractive" approach.

      That difference is critical, because by this time in my chronology, almost every RPG is adding enough adventure game elements to qualify it as an adventure game if TAG used an additive approach like I do.

      There's an extent to which the subtractive approach makes more real-world sense. Fry up some ground beef and put it on a bun and you've got a burger. Put some cheese on it and you've got a cheeseburger. Add some bacon to that, and you've got a bacon cheeseburger. Dice the whole thing up and scatter it on top of a pizza crust, and I don't know. At some point, it stops being a "burger." Yet using my approach, I'd still be covering it on my CheeseburgerAddict blog.

    13. I've been thinking about the definition a bit lately since I've hit Apventure to Atlantis on my blog. It certainly has some forward elements that present itself as a CRPG but the actual gameplay I would say has almost no CRPG credentials. Even though there's "grinding" by having to repeat the palaces (uggggggh) none of the grinding actions have to do with character augmentation unless you count adding spells to the list (which fall more in the adventure rubric anyway).

      If I was taking a holistic view I'd say it loses CRPG credentials enough to knock it off the list entirely.

      (I'm also wondering, given you describe it as a game for one day, if you got really lucky in your grinding somehow to not get repeat spells. I've definitely seen all that the game has to offer in this section but I still have to keep going and I can't just play on automatic like I was racking up levels for a Final Fantasy boss.)

    14. I've used the thought that "adventure games have puzzles, while RPGs have problems." A puzzle has a particular solution, such as using an item that's mainly there to solve that puzzle. A problem is an obstacle that can be overcome in many ways. Combat is a good example, as you just need to lower the enemy's health to zero by any means.

      I doubt we can ever come to a fully satisfying definition of the parameters differentiating the two that's comprehensive, but this is a charming sentiment and I really like it and plan to hold onto it.

  6. Isn't that saw blade facing the wrong way? It should have been drawn to the left of the slit in the floor.

    It's remarkable how large all these dungeons are, given that they're not distinct levels, but tucked away in unused areas of the single world map, such as within mountains and beneath the oceans.

  7. I think Yurel is there to reinforce the general Silver Seed theme of "the Order Ophidians were a buncha jerks".

    1. and to be the rat in the maze, wanting to get the cheese! (although they seem more cat-like)

  8. „Saw blades coming out of the ground.“

    So you saw them coming, eh?

    Sorry, couldn‘t resist.

  9. I think this is the most dungeon crawler-y entry that the Ultima 7 games have ever had.

    Very entertaining to read also. I felt like I was there myself, reloading saves, hoping to get that one good hit at the Fiend.

    I wish the base Ultima 7 game would have also had a select few tough enemies, with different players figuring out different tricks to overcome them.

    I also enjoy puzzles and figuring things out. I am also an avid adventure game player.

    Coincidentally, that you are playing Silver Seed solo gives me real Ultima 8 vibes. Maybe Silver Seed and Ultima 8 were done by the same designers? This is pretty much the entirety of Ultima 8 - you solve puzzles, try to figure things out, kill some tough enemies, walk around in underground building complexes, try to avoid traps, die a lot...

    About the artifacts: it's the same logic as Forge of Virtue. All of your stats will be increased, so you are missing that artifact, which stat has not increased.

    I agree about the Ring of Reagents. Definitely OP. That's one major design flaw of both Ultima 7 expansion packs. They give you too much good stuff.

    Like it or not, inventory management and stuff collecting is part of the Ultima 7 game experience. If you eliminate too much of that, you eliminate a large part of the game.

    I am following your example in my playthrough. I will also put Silver Seed far into the endgame and try to use basic stuff for most of the game. There's something about limitations that actually make the game more fun.

    But overall I like Silver Seed as an experience, both story and puzzle solving. I even felt my heartstrings moved by Yurel's sad story.

    It's more fulfilling than Forge of Virtue and compliments the base Serpent Isle game quite well.

    1. I would say that Silver Seed is a better expansion than Forge of Virtue, but the game didn't exactly need more length or greater ease.

    2. >Very entertaining to read also. I felt like I was there myself, reloading saves, hoping to get that one good hit at the Fiend.

      Agreed - in fact, reading this entry today made me wish it was all recorded on on YouTube to watch the playthrough!

    3. I think both expansions should be seen in the context of their release. Playing them together with the base game (in a first playthrough) doesn't exactly match the experience of the people playing those games in 1992/1993.

      They both came out after their respective base games (months later?), so people buying them were likely people that already had finished the originals and liked them so much as to look for more content.

      Nobody would argue that Fallout New Vegas needed more content on release, but it still had a bunch of DLC added over time.

      Also, since the people buying the expansion likely had finished the game already at least once, probably they thought it was fun to add some overpowered items just for the player to have fun.

  10. Again a highly entertaining entry. The dungeon crawling in this expansion makes for the most RPG-ish moments in the game.

    These entries made me think a bit about the player's experience versus the game character's experience.

    For the player, getting infinite reagents and the key ring are two excellent reasons to play the Silver Seed early.

    But for the Avatar, using the Amulet of Balance before the confrontation with Batlin makes little sense. He's trying to stop Batlin and the Guardian, what does he care about Ophidian artifacts? And then the Banes possess his friends and suddenly that Amulet might be just the thing he needs to set things right for his companions.

    I can't think of any other game where player and game character motivations are so different from each other. Usually you do things because it makes sense for your character to do those things.

    1. The distinction is important, I agree. I usually try to play organically rather than trying to maximize ease of the game. Note, though, that the "maximization" approach relies heavily on having already played the game or having looked up spoilers. I have to admit, if I was going through it again, it would be hard to resist going to get that key ring as soon as possible.

  11. The armor system in U7 isn't very elaborate. The Helm of Courage, Helm of Light and magic helms have the same defense rating: 4. The Helm of Light keeps you a bit more warm.

    1. Ah. That might explain why my Avatar didn't take any serious damage in the next session despite running around the north without putting his furs back on.

  12. Happy to read that you made it to Silver Seed and I *think* you're having a semi-blast?

    On one hand I think you're very brave for entering Silver Seed solo. This is perhaps the only area in which I found either of the Ultima games challenging for an extended period of time. It is like the designers finally figured out how to use the engine to produce an (almost) classic dungeon crawler.

    On the other hand I get your point about it being much of a muchness having a full party or not. This is one occasion where it would have been good to have a firedoom staff and do some explosive goodness without having to worry about friendly fire.

    I've typically gone into Silver Seed as soon as I acquired a spell book (i.e. just before the mountains of freedom), basically for the keyring alone. It improves the quality of life immensely - although I never considered why the developers couldn't have just provided it in the main game until you brought it up!

    I also like the ring of reagents. It means less stuff to carry around and...I dunno. Having a mana cost AND a reagent cost for spells seems like a double whammy given that spells are usually underpowered. I'm struggling to think of many other CRPGS that demand both a mana cost AND and item cost for spells. Can you think of any? Otherwise, I always appreciated not having to check on my black pearl numbers in my backback when it is dark.

    While a bit late now, has anyone on here shared a nifty trick in Gorbal swamp where you can bring items back from the dreamworld?


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