Monday, September 12, 2011

Ultima V: Won!

Anyone have Richard Garriott's e-mail?

The Dungeon Doom was hard, but not as hard as I expected. I finished it in about 2.5 hours of playing. Among the points that make it difficult:

  • It's a maze--a complex maze that has you going up and down many times looking for the right path.
  • Once you enter, you can't get out except by dying.
  • Almost every room has some sort of puzzle or set of triggers you need to solve to advance.
  • The monsters are fairly hard, including several rooms of both dragons and sea serpents.
  • Invisibility rings--game breakers in other dungeons--don't work at all. And I had eight of them saved up. Bollocks.

A level with no way to go but back up.

But there were a few factors that made it not so tough:

  • Most of the creatures are magical, and the crown negates their worst attacks.
  • Many of the rooms start you with barriers between you and the enemies, allowing you to attack them across the barriers with pole-arms.
  • There's no one big "final" battle.
  • I over-prepared for the dungeon, loading up with the maximum possible reagents, items, and spells. I only used about 12 of my 99 VAS MANI ("great heal") spells.
  • I had half a dozen "resurrect" scrolls when I entered.

One thing is certain: I didn't need to do all that grinding the other day. I think I could have made it with Level 5 characters.

When you first enter the dungeon, it fools you into thinking you're making progress. Adopting the expedient of going down when I could and backtracking when I couldn't, I was on Level 6 in no time. Most of the battles were in rooms like this...

...where I could calmly take out the enemies across the barriers before dispelling them. However, I soon began to encounter tougher fights. This one introduced me to a new enemy: sand traps. As a golfer, I found it delightful to kill them.

You don't like it so much when I shank my magic axe into you, do you?

When I initially entered this room, I backed everyone out the door except my Avatar, had him don the ring of invisibility...and promptly got slaughtered. The monsters in this dungeon don't even acknowledge it. I had to resurrect him with a scroll and try again. Dragons and sand traps carry fabulous amounts of treasure, which of course is utterly useless here.

In the room directly below the one above, I encountered dragons and sea serpents, and I lost Gwenno in the course of the combat. As you can see from the screen shot, there appears to be no way out of the room except the ladder I came from, but when I attacked the wall in the far northwest corner with my magic axe, a bridge appeared. I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have ranged weapons.

Later on, for the first time in the game, some sharks were able to engage me in melee combat.

We're going to need a bigger axe.

The final combat room (which I didn't know at the time) was swarming with daemons and mongbats, and it seemed quite difficult at first. When my Avatar moved forward, the ground that everyone was standing on changed to lava. I took so much damage that I eventually led them back down the ladder, but I lost both my Avatar and Iolo in the room. Two more resurrection scrolls wasted.

On the second try, I avoided the lava-causing spot and opened just a corner of the barrier. Letting the monsters come to me one-by-one, I was able to defeat them handily.

This turned out to be the last combat. Just like Ultima IV, it was a little anticlimactic in that regard. (Actually, pretty much every Ultima except the first one is a little anticlimactic when it comes to combat. In II, you spend more time chasing Minax than battling her. In III, if I recall correctly, the final battle is with the floor.) I figured I'd have to fight Blackthorn or someone. I didn't even get a chance to use my glass sword--there's a lesson about saving your weapons too long.

Once I realized that was the end of the game, I reloaded before the room so I could video the final combat as well as the endgame. Somehow I hit the wrong key combination, though, and missed the final combat, so the recording picks up just as I'm leaving the room.

Essentially, I find myself in nice, well-furnished room, with Lord British in a mirror at the north end. Moving in front of the mirror, each of my characters gets sucked in, to find themselves in a mirrored room on the other side. Lord British, after only a perfunctory greeting, asks for his box.

Opening it up, he explains that it contains the Orb of the Moons, an artifact from Earth that opens up moongates. Tossing it on the floor, a gate opens and we both go through. He ends up back in Britannia, and I end up back on Earth.

One of the better jokes in a CRPG.

I tell you, my Avatar is pissed. I spent all that time rescuing him, and he immediately sends me home? Don't I have any choice in this at all? Could I maybe say goodbye to my friends first? What if I like Britannia better? Could I become the baron of Blackthorn's old castle?

Oh, well. At least I get to see Blackthorn's fate. In a dream, I see British confront Blackthorn and give him the choice of a trial or taking the Orb of Moons to a random world. Blackthorn chooses the latter. I have this vague memory that I encounter him again in a later game, but I'm not sure. No spoilers!

The problem with Lord British's belief is that Blackthorn didn't become "good" once I killed the Shadowlords.

Thus, the game is concluded, only a few days after I was thinking I would have to abandon it for later. I'd like to look forward to Ultima VI, but there are more games than I've already played between now and then.

On to the GIMLET and then a pair of post-apocalyptic CRPGs!


  1. Congratulations on your victory! 3 months, 4 days was quick. I did it in 4 months, 12 days.

    The hardest battle for me (after getting the Crown) in the game was that sand traps battle followed by the dragons+serpens room. The sand traps room had some wisps that couldn't be reached by morning stars, so it wasn't possible to go back and heal. So in the end I lost two characters in these two battles.

  2. If I remember correctly, you also could run into sand traps in the desert. Nasty little buggers.

  3. My record is one month, but that's with knowing everything in the game cold. Congratulations!

  4. Ah, so you found out about the invisibility rings not working in Doom... I thought about mentioning that, but I figured, why spoil the surprise? :)

    So did you use any big-name spells of destruction in Doom at all? Any IN FLAM HUR's?

  5. When I finished U5 the first time, Origin was a going concern, so I did what the final screen asked of me and wrote to Lord British. His jester/secretary/whatever sent me back a cool signed certificate of accomplishment.

  6. Petrus, keep in mind that if I hadn't lost my save file a few days ago, it would have been a lot longer because of all that grinding. I cheated to avoid having to re-do the grinding.

    The sand traps give such great treasure that I wish I'd looked for them in the desert when I needed it. Mostly, I just blew by the desert on the flying carpet.

    Adamantyr, I was only Level 7 when I won, so I missed out on those major damage spells. I did cast a load of "tremors," but I was disappointed with how little damage they did.

    1. Take your rings of invisibility back to the main castle. Talk to the guard on the top level and pyss him off (you'll figure out how to do that through conversation). He'll attack you (and it won't cost you any 'goodness'). In fact, all the guards will attack you. With the rings, some sleep spells, and the carpet, you'll reach level eight in a day. They give mega experience points.

  7. Hm, you know, I noticed that with the spell lists in Ultima V, most of the best spells are so high level you never really get a chance to use them.

    Contrast this to the later Ultima's where you get fun spells by the 4th-5th circle, like Explosion.

  8. Planescape: Torment is pretty similar. By the time you get 8th and 9th level spells (with their own cutscenes, even, and in a western RPG), there's nothing worth using them on.

  9. Hooray! Even the most fearsome of creatures, the Corrupted Save File, was no match for the Avatar.

    Looking forward to Wasteland

  10. Wasteland worries me a bit. Too many people are eagerly looking forward to it. That hasn't gone well with some past games.

  11. You haven't played Wasteland before, right? Neither did I before I played it a couple of months ago. It will be interesting to see if your experience matches mine...

    My only advice is to be meticilous and try everything. It's very easy to miss stuff in Wasteland, in my experience.

  12. So you didn't need the Mystic Arms and Armour? I thought they were required for Doom. Or am I getting confused with U4?

  13. BTW - it's definitely worth reloading and answering "no" when LB asks for the sandalwood box.

  14. I love the ending of this game. The writers were really good. Stuff like "Lord Blackthorn looks upon Lord British without hatred, without even surprise, but with a passive calmness, as would a prisoner awaiting the sentence of hanging." Great stuff and what separates Ultima from the rest.

    And then the final message of "THE QUEST OF THE AVATAR IS FOREVER"

    Also, Blackthorne only became "evil" again in Ultima 9, which is not really canonical. He does appear in a later Ultima and we find out what happened to him after U5.

    Also, I can't believe you didn't play the game with the midi patch. The music is amazing. Here's a sample of the game with the midi patch:

    And actually the game I'm most looking forward to you playing is Wizardry 5. In my opinion that's where the Wizardry games actually started getting interesting. I hated Wizardry 1. Just a boring, insanely difficult dungeon crawl. 2 and 3 were just basically the same. They got a new guy to do #5 and they actually added in NPCs, side quests, puzzles, and some more "meat" to the game rather than an empty dungeon with nothing in it but monsters and a boss at the bottom.

  15. @rmdesign - Oh yeah, the Mystic Arms! I had totally forgotten about those. Ultima V was their last appearance, actually. I believe they are located in the Underworld close to Hythloth's exit.

    Obviously, he won without them, so they weren't necessary. The magic axes are by far the best weapon in the game anyway.

  16. Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I agree that the ending seems a bit anticlimactic, but as I recall, that's not uncommon with the Ultima games.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the final score.

    I don't mean to jinx it, but I'm looking forward to Wasteland, too. How has that not gone well with past games?

  17. Should be interesting to see your thoughts on Wasteland. And I wouldn't be too worried about it, some other highly anticipated games have also been the best, Pool of Radiance, Uttima IV, etc. But you had also played those games before, so you knew what to expect, and were coming in with some knowledge and all powerful nostalgia.

    One thing to note, the game is a an attempt at a persistent world. I believe it saves constantly, so, if ya make a bad decision you can't go back to an old save. I don't remember if this is the case with a total party kill. But I do remember before you started playing you had to make copies of the disks to play from. Otherwise you would overwrite the originals as you played, making a restart impossible. They gave you the instructions for this in the manual.

    I haven't played the game since it was new, though I remember it fondly. And it spawned the Fallout series much later. Though, if I remember right, you haven't played those either? Anyway, looking forward to your opinions as a first time player 23 years after the release.

  18. I loved wasteland when I played it as a kid, much more than the BT series. Understand though that, I haven't played it recently enough to put it in to the perspective of today's eyes.

    My one concern for our dear addict is that he likes a more serious game and some of the campy b-movie nature of the post-apoc genre is strewn about this game. My advice is to play in the same frame of mind you would use if you wanted to enjoy a 80's b-movie sci-fi, instead of taking it to serious. That way you will get enjoyment out of the jokes rather than breaking your verisimilitude.

  19. Ha, I never knew the Avatar returned to an empty house. We do see that he manages to replace his wordly goods by Ultima VI though, including a rather creepy poster.

  20. Thanks for the tips on Wasteland. I'm not quite there, yet, though. Who knows? Visions of the Aftermath might occupy me all month.

    On the mystics: They were supposedly "necessary" for the Abyss, but I found that regular magic weapons worked just fine. They've been somewhat superfluous since Ultima III.

  21. Heh, here's something I've wondered about... I don't know if anyone's ever tested it with Ultima V; I've certainly never seen it in any walk-throughs...

    What if you get captured in Castle Blackthorn, and you have NO companions at all? Or, if your only companion is Saduj?

  22. If you're alone, he just throws you in the dungeon. I tested that out yesterday and updated the "Things I Discovered..." posting. Didn't try it with Saduj.

    1. I just tried this today. If Saduj is the only one in your party, and you get caught by Blackthorn's guards and refuse to tell him the mantra, then Saduj gets sliced in half! Maybe there *is* justice to Blackthorn's rule after all! ;-)

    2. Thanks! That had been keeping me up.

    3. Good lord. How did I miss that. You'd think I'd be checking for it more-or-less automatically by now.

  23. I've noticed that you seem to overgrind a lot: Hasn't there been several instances where you have gone 'Well, it seems I didn't need to be the max level after all?' Why don't you try each game with the minimum grinding and if you get wiped out then you do more? Or would having to reload if you die break your rules? I think you'd have more fun if you don't walk through every fight, which happens in a lot of games if you raise yourself to the maximum level.

  24. Ahh grinding I think that CRPGism deserves a special topic all to itself. It is this aspect and lazy developers reliance on it to extend the "hours of "play"" (interior quotes absolutely necessary) that has turned me off of so many games that call them selves rpg games.

    I could go on about this subject but I will save it just in case the aforementioned special topic comes up.

  25. Heh, if there is one thing I no longer have patience for it's excessive grinding. Of all the old classics I think the Bard's Tale game were in a class of their own in that regard. The combat system was fun and each individual battle was quick, but the sheer overwhelming amount of random encounters means I was unable to finish BT 1 on my replay, let alone even start BT 2 and BT 3.
    As a kid and with a limited amount of games to chose from I enjoyed slogging through to the end of both BT 1 and BT 2, but nowadays endless random encounters is too much of a turn-off.
    Personally I always set myself a goal to complete a game in as short an in game time as possible. It generally makes for a better challenge and more fun, I think. It's always a disappointment when the Big Hairy Foozle at the end is much weaker than the level scaled enemies you grinded your way through in order to reach him.

  26. When I "overgrind," I mostly do it to get access to all of the character development features. In the case of U7, I wanted to see what spells like "flame wind" actually did. I didn't get there, though, despite all the grinding.

    I don't mean to be contrary, Canageek, but I feel that I generally don't grind that much. Go back and see how long it took me to finally defeat the first Bard's Tale, or the blind luck that let me finish Wizardry. Most of the time, I'm trying to get to the end of the game so I can get on to the next one. I can't remember grinding much except for U5 and maybe U3.

  27. I know you hex-edited your way to a faster victory than otherwise, but it still strikes me as absurdly fast. I finally beat this game about five years ago for the first time, and played it to the best of my ability without going out of my way to linger... I record all my beaten games, so was able to go back and compare speeds. Apparently my victory took 1 year, 3 months, 26 days!


  28. I just finished Ultima V for the first time depsite having played it multiple times over the years. It took me 1 year , 1 month, and 25 days of game time and about 4 weeks of real time. I feel like I haven't played ideally so to speak.


    1. Thanks for the tip! It's always nice to hear from a C--G addict!

  29. Congratulations - even allowing for the extra grinding time not reflected in your edited saved game, that sounds very quick I'm pretty sure I never managed it so quickly, even when bypassing the dungeons and making surgical strikes into the underworld (motivated by fear of tarrying there rather than a desire to finish the game quickly). I probably lost a lot of time farming elusive sand traps.

    Good job getting through Doom so rapidly too.

    One other thing to try (I never have) is letting enough time pass that Lord British expires. Apparently that's a genuine outcome.

    1. That's funny. I'm picturing my six character arriving in his room in Hell and then just standing there looking at him for hours until he keels over.

    2. For some reason that sounds like a Family Guy gag...

    3. I haven't been able to find any screenshots or movies confirming that Lord British will die if you wait long enough... I think that's just an urban legend. Unless someone wants to hex-edit the executable to confirm this?


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