Friday, October 26, 2012

Take Another Little Piece of My Dark Heart of Uukrul

Now we know where Pirates of the Caribbean got its inspiration.

I didn't mean for that break to be so long. It took me a while to remember what I was doing in the game when I finally got back to it.

The Dark Heart of Uukrul is one of those games where hours of play don't necessarily translate to much blogging. It took me about six hours of playing time to get enough material for this bit, although those six hours included significant character development and revealed the main quest. This is in contrast to plot-heavy games like Ultima IV and Ultima V, where every new town made me want to blog about what I'd discovered.

Over Prufrock's objections, the party searched, and found a secret door they couldn't open.

When I blogged last time, I had just entered part of a vast area that houses altars to each of the four gods. Visiting each one, my priest got the base level spells for Fshofth and Drutho, and the next ring of spells for Ufthu and Golthur. Based on the nature of the leveling, I suspect that the rings (as well as the mage rings, which I got later) are awarded on the basis of frequency of use of the spells and prayers in each category. In other words, if I pray for SIRDHE (heal) to Golthur frequently, he'll give me the next ring faster. Frequency of use, rather than level, also seems to affect the maximum spell and prayer points. In any event, they've been increasing even when my levels have remained static.

It would be nice if this means he'll listen to me more often.

The temple area was full of messages that I had to translate slowly through my mage's NGOS spell. One casting doesn't necessarily translate the entire message; sometimes you just get a letter or two. A few messages took up to 15 castings, completely depleting my psychic power.

Halfway through translating.

Four of the messages in the temple area reflected the gods' different perspectives on life, I guess:

  • Fshofth: "When all else has failed, keep heart."
  • Ufthu: "When all else has failed, use your force."
  • Drutho: "When all else has failed, cheat."
  • Golthur: "When all else has failed, expect defeat." (Thanks for the uplift there, Golthur.)

I have unfortunately, followed Drutho's advice on more than one occasion.

Through long exploration, I eventually found the sage Saragis (the "old man" that Mara had talked about trusting). He wanted me to retrieve something from some kind of pool, but he didn't say where it was, only that he'd let me know when I found it. More important, he identified my unknown equipment. I confess I had been looking forward to the moment, assuming I had all kinds of great magic stuff, but everything turned out to be rather banal.

Yes, I paid money for this. It might have been a magic bone.

Two things I said last time turned out not to hold true. First, combats have been coming a lot more frequently, sometimes immediately on top of the last combat, sometimes when the only move I make is to turn. There are definitely random combats after all. Many of them offer paltry experience rewards (single-digit, even) when I need thousands for the next level.

I only need another 2000 of these combats.

I do appreciate the gold, though, because the shop sells all kinds of things I want to buy. I'm concentrating on armor first.

No sense buying the cheap stuff.

The second thing was the linearity of the dungeon: it's definitely opened up. I now have six or seven stairways untaken, and I keep using the teleporters to bounce around from one map area to another, trying different unexplored areas rather than keeping a consistent heading. 

Here's an odd thing: my characters haven't increased in level since the last time I blogged. I reached Level 4 in what seemed like no time, and since then I've been very incrementally building the additional 4,000+ experience points I need for Level 5. Corpses that drain experience don't help.

A long way from the next level.

So towards the end of my playing session, I at last reached the Circle of Magicians, where my mage got a ton of new spell levels and the three Arkanas he didn't already have. I guess I was supposed to find this sooner.

This allows me access to more powerful spells. I look forward to using them.
The Circle also allows me to "consult the archives," passage by passage, although only up to a certain number that I guess is based on experience. But even the first five passages explained what the main quest was about:

I, Suraqis, have here created a log of the wonders and perils of this mountain city Eriosthe. In it I have left my thoughts and reflections which may be of help to you who now read this.

The lord Uukrul has cast a pall of darkness across our land. It shames me to think he was once of our calling. Now, twisted and ruined by promises of corruption, he mocks at us; but his arrogance will be his downfall.

Uukrul, fearing another attack by the Council, has hidden his black heart in a magical chalice, protected by six locks. Each may be opened only by a petrified human heart.

In the caverns hidden by a web of teleporters is a pool: a pool of tears. Within the pool lies a small black rod. If that rod is taken to the beacon, the beacon can be lit.

Uukrul's agents have hidden two hearts west of the caverns. I know not where they are, but have heard tell that one lies with the dead.

So I have to find six petrified hearts (what Mara in a vision called "frozen" hearts) and then the Dead Man's Chalice. Since I have not yet found one, it feels like I'm still very early in the game. Messages posted on the wall near the Circle of Magicians give me clues as to the locations of the hearts. At least, the first three do: my spellpower is insufficient to translate the others.

I know where this area is, but I haven't figured out how to get past the gases and poisonous air.

Here are the miscellaneous notes I've collected through my explorations:

  • I've found four secret doors that I cannot open through the usual methods of forcing or searching for a lever. I suspect that either I need more strength or I need to get the HOYAMQ prayer from Drutho, god of the underworld. To maximize this chance, I've been translating all the messages on the walls with the UMESH prayer, even though it rarely works.

Gliglois needs to hit the gym.
  • The paladin's "lay on hands" ability can damage enemies as well as heal party members. It only works in combat. This is an unusual adaptation.
  • I forgot to mention broken weapons in my first postings. Every once in a while, when you strike an enemy, your weapon shatters, and you have to return to the smith to fix it. For that reason, I like to keep a backup weapon or two in my characters' inventories. But as Saintus warned, it's easy to miss the breaking, especially if you're using auto combat. More than once, I've found that my characters have been fighting with their hands for the last hour.

This mace has been repaired about 16 times.
  • Another thing that happens almost as often as weapon breakage is enemies are "stunned" by a blow, paralyzing them for a round or two. This is always nice. There are also critical hits.

These are the bastards that drain experience.

  • The priest has a couple of options in combat that I didn't cover last time: turn undead and summon elemental. The former has worked on several occasions, and like in Dungeons & Dragons games, as the priest advances, it simply kills low-level undead while forcing more equally matched undead to flee. Summon elemental has never worked once. I suspect I need to be a higher level.
  • There are spinners in the dungeons, and as in Bloodwych, they are a little diabolical, usually appearing in places that look the same from all directions. I have to keep using the "Heading Check" command to verify where I'm facing.
  • In autocombat, my mage can't tell when there's a wall in his way. He wastes a lot of spells trying to cast through walls.

I'm still really enjoying the game's vivid descriptions of areas...

If the pyramid-shaped blocks were confusing, this is triply so.

...and its occasional odd encounters, in which there's some kind of role-playing choice:

There was a struggle between Invictia and Plenamujer. Plenamjuer won.

These features elevate it from the standard "dungeon crawl," even if it is a bit more like Dungeon Master in its seemingly endless corridors.

I'll work on a video for next time. 


  1. Those descriptions are wonderful. It seems as if they tried to bring a little text adventure flavor into the game.

  2. Decent song but Joplin never really grabbed me. Joni Mitchell on the other hand...

    One wonders how knowledge of the heart's locations has gotten out. Surely Uukrul's agents would have signed an NDA!

    1. You're saying...I'm sorry, you're saying that you prefer Joni Mitchell to Janis Joplin?

      Anyway, the original artist to record "Piece of My Heart" was Aretha Franklin's sister, Erma. I prefer hers, but mostly because of the instrumentation.

  3. I made it to halfway this posting. The big amount of cash is from the loot from the thieves' den. I, too, decided to go for armour, though I just bought regular plate for my front line. Their AC really shot up! Though it's also encumbered them to the point of carrying only their armour, their main weapon, and a spare short sword. They have broadswords as their main weapons - got one from an encounter, and bought another. I tried to buy heavier weapons, but the shop informed me they couldn't use them yet.

    Looking forward to see that AC in effect, didn't yet get to play after spending all that cash. I've found the sage, the temples and the circle. I have only four passages open. I too, have a nice list of places to explore - I didn't dare to finish the catacombs yet for instance. I also haven't travelled past the sage yet. There's also a climb near the thieves' den I didn't yet go to, since a map warned me about it with a skull. Perhaps now, with the new armour..

    There's also the gas chamber which nearly got my party killed. I haven't seen the sign in one of your screen shots where I think it hints that you can find one of the hearts pieces from there. That's where I stopped reading. :) There's also a bunch of secret doors I can't seem to open. I'm pretty sure I found the "search no more" sign but completely missed the hint - where was it?

    Mapping the game yourself has an advantage: looking at the automap actually seems to take in-game time. I noticed this when my characters were plagued and I was trying to quickly reach the hospital. Not a fan of that.. another thing I don't like that much is the amount of withheld information - even when the items are identified, you don't necessarily know what they're for. It's also far from obvious which weapons are better than others. Your virtue/psychic point maximum isn't shown. Generally though, the game is extremely enjoyable!


    1. Ah, the "search no more" was actually in the catacombs, past the spot where I didn't dare to go before. Couldn't get the secret door to open, either.


    2. Ah, turns out the hint about one of the pieces of hearts was the only thing I hadn't seen yet. I didn't read carefully enough to notice that it's in the Circle (right?) which I've already reached. I haven't made the effort to really go through all the signs. Maybe I should.

      I've had HOYAMOQ succeed with just the iron ring from Drutho, I think. I got my first broadsword from the mausoleum encounter you have above.. I was too weak to move the lid, so I grabbed the necklace although I felt bad about that. I suppose my party isn't all lawful good or so. Kind of regretted that, but I didn't notice anything bad happening in the end.


    3. You absolutely need HOYAMOQ for that secret door. I didn't realize there was a chance of success before getting the copper ring, though.

      When I messed with that sarcophagus, nothing happened at the moment, but I got attacked when I stepped away to the previous square.

      No matter how high I push my AC, I seem to get hit with about the same frequency.

    4. Oh I got attacked sure, but I was expecting something more sinister, like wrath from the gods. It was just a fun hard fight. Although now that I remember, the undead warrior did drain a considerable amount of experience from my fighter. So that probably counts.

      I'm definitely behind the latest posting, hope I can get some playing in this evening.. or at least this week!


    5. You've got a really tough puzzle coming up, which I'm going to post about tomorrow because it was a lot of fun for me. I wouldn't be afraid to look at my posting for hints when it comes up. You'll know it when you descend into an area and get numbered clues.

    6. This game isn't very relaxing. I got my first heart from the catacombs, didn't realize you can use HOYAMOQ several times, thanks for hinting that. I also found the lead-up to the pool, but I couldn't solve the riddle yet. I decided to try and find a key I was missing, there's an additional grate I couldn't open with the other signs in the teleporter area. I hope it's not just a map with the hint for the secret door.. it probably is.

      I also found some secrets of the temple, I wonder if you've found any yet. Interesting stuff there. Had my mage die, but happily managed to run otherwise and resurrect her.

      Unfortunately, going too deep in the cavern down and east of URLUSAM I managed to get my priest killed by an gray/black orc ambush - nearly got everyone else killed too when running back to the Sanctuary (and teleporter), but the priest turned into ash in the mausoleum. Had silver ring from Ufthu too, and was nearly level 5. The replacement is level 2. That hurts.

      Started getting some interesting encounters there in the depths of the cavern, a hell hound burned my priest to crisp (though he survived the resurrection that time) and I met an "acidic reptile", which ate a sallet and a broadsword before tasting death. Nice amount of experience I got, but don't have the cash to replace the destroyed equipment.

      I hope I don't have to resort to grinding for cash and experience for the newbie.. the game certainly has a lot of tension, mind-numbing grinding - which I think is possible - will kill that.


    7. Man, you are playing much more hardcore than I am. I'm regarding the sanctuary backups as a license to reload from them now and then if my entire party gets wiped out.

    8. Well, I haven't got my entire party wiped out, I would reload from a backup then. I just had a hard fight with two giant spiders and tough orcs.. it was going reasonably well (and I was looking forward to the experience points), until my paladin was down to critical and I had spent my psychic and virtue points (not that the latter are all that useful, or should I say reliable). I moved her towards the back, which meant my front line broke and soon both the mage and the priest were nearly dead too. Luckily, I got away.

      I think the combat engine is more than decent, and I don't really mind separate moving and combat like you and some commenters seemed to. Separating them might not be realistic, but I personally never care about that much. It's refreshing to see different rules in games. I kind of like the tactical side to it. There's a sort of suspense after the movement phase, different positioning results in different tactics for the attack phase, and you get anxious if a dangerous monster happens to end up next to your characters. I think the separated phases build this up in an interesting way.


  4. The Thieves den was one of my hardest encounters in this game but as said, it gives a lot of valuable gold. Buying better armour quickly is important in the beginning, then you should strive to buy the best weapon you could afford. It is not worth only going one step on the weapons list at a time, they are too expensive. Better to take a hugely expensive weapon even if it does mean that your other fighters will stick to their old. Then you will clearly see the effects in combat.

    Saintus from

    1. If I try to upgrade weapons, I keep getting messages that my characters aren't ready for them yet. Is it a strength thing?

    2. Yes. At least that's what I assumed when playing.
      But it may also depend on level. I didn't consider that when I played, so I never tested it.

  5. "tessellating key-shaped tiles"

    Like this?:

    Or maybe this?:

    1. But all of those tiles have IMAGES of keys. The in-game descriptions suggested that the tiles themselves were shaped like keys.

    2. What about if you simplify a key down to an F shape, then put two of them rotated and fit together to form a rectangle or square?

  6. "The paladin's "lay on hands" ability can damage enemies as well as heal party members."

    This is quite likely taken from D&D rules, where Paladin's "Lay on hands" is capable of harming undeads.

    1. Harming undead, but not other enemies. Also, I'm not sure if every edition has this.

      There was a fun trick in 3rd edition I saw: A Paladin can heal any living creature by laying hands on them, using positive energy.

      A Blackguard (Fallen paladin), can do this to himself only.

      Undead take damage from positive energy.

      I saw a death knight stated as an undead blackguard who could 'deal 216 points of damage to himself once a day'.

    2. Yes, that ability came with D&D3E. Also, in Myth: The Fallen Lords were ranger-type Journeymen who could heal living units and harm undeads with use of mandrake.

      But all those came after Dark Heart of Uukrul.

    3. Thanks for the clarifications, everyone. I sometimes forget that the pen-and-paper D&D had more rules than what I'm used to seeing in computer versions.

  7. Well, since concluded that Magic Candle was a terrible game (how did you people end of liking that pile, anyway?), and I do trust his judgement without question, maybe I can play and enjoy this game. If I can figure out a) the video so my game doesn't look like an ASCII rogue game, and b) how to read the copy protection so I don't go insane.

    Tongue in cheek, btw. Although I am serious about the DHoU part.

  8. Well, since *>CHET<* concluded that Magic Candle was a terrible game

    Sigh. Edit, edit, edit.

    1. I thought he concluded it was an OK game, with a poor ending?

    2. I think william was joking, but I never said the ending was poor, either. I just wished there had been a couple of tough combats. It was actually a very original ending. Very few games make you really DO anything like that to win.

    3. I thought the part where I stated "Tongue in cheek, btw" would let people know that I was, in fact, joking, since when people are speaking 'tongue in cheek' they are joking. But the fact that people seem to be confused over this tells me I was not clear enough. Let me restate things then, to clear things up.

      I don't think Magic Candle was a pile, "Chet" doesn't think the game is a pile, I have no wonders as to why you people like the game.

      Peace out, my Negroes.

  9. Chet and Irene, stay safe during the megastorm.

    1. Yea, everyone stay safe, ok? I'm in freaking S. Ontario and they are warning us we may lose power. I hope you guys all have relatives to stay with and such.

    2. Thanks. I just hope we don't lose power longer than my laptop batteries last.

    3. Let's hope Sandy hath no fury like Irene...

  10. I now worship Drutho.

  11. I (now) know it's an Erma Franklin reference, but I got into Janis in a big way during my teens. Her album Pearl was the soundtrack to my first playthrough of Serpent Isle, and now neither feels complete without the other.

    Same goes for Heretic and Ramble On (Led Zeppelin).


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