Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ultima Underworld: Let Me Level with You (Part 2)

I obtain my first non-broken talisman.
I don't remember exactly where Zak is, but I do remember he's with the dwarves. I find him after a few minutes and offer to barter with him. He has one item labeled a "taper." It's not explicitly called the "Taper of Sacrifice," but I assume that's what it is and trade him five gold nuggets for it.
Back I go to Level 4. I return to the trolls and ask Lakshi about Lorne. He tells me that Lorne set up the ankh shrine in the next chamber. That's when I realize I already have the Writ of Lorne from my previous visit. I take it back to Dorna, who makes me a knight of the Order and gives me a plate helm. As my next quest, he asked me to retrieve a golden plate from the Maze of Silas.
He clearly didn't notice I was already wearing a plate helm.
Having already explored the perimeter of the level, I now start filling in the middle areas. Near the knights' outpost, an outcast named Oradinar talks to me about fishing, but I already have a rod and know how to fish, so it's mostly a waste of time. In a chamber I previously walked through in the dark, I find An and Jux runes, the former of which I didn't already have. I'm briefly happy that I can now make An Nox ("Cure Poison"), but then I realize I don't have Nox.
In a southeast chamber, I find a sack containing a mysterious note written to the troll Lakshi:
I am willing to discuss with you the possibility of your performing a small service for me, which in the end would be beneficial to ourselves and the Abyss as a whole. If you could have several of your subjects do some small favors for me, I would be indebted to you from quite some time.
The note isn't signed, but I wonder if it isn't from whoever sent the troll to kidnap Arial. Unfortunately, no keyword I can think of gets a reaction out of Lakshi.
Not all trolls are friendly.
Not far from the civilized troll area, I find a hostile, feral troll. I win the combat, but at the cost of more than half my vitality. In the next room there's another one, and he kills me. On a reload, I head back to the ankh shrine to spent my two slots on "Sword" and "Defense," angry that I still don't have the matra for "Lore." However, it occurs to me that I can cast Ort Wis Ylem ("Name Enchantment") to identify items. It works with the silver ring I found last time--it turns out to be a Ring of Leap--but the spell takes almost all of my mana.

I defeat the second troll this time. For some reason, he leaves two skulls when he dies. His chamber has a red potion and a wand. There's no consistency in the colors of potions in this game. Green might be health, mana, cure poison, poison, or levitate. I'm carrying about six of them. I really need to start identifying things faster.

I meet an outcast named Linnet, who was tossed in here for a murder, only he claims he's innocent: "I never struck him. I merely held him down whilst my brother kicked him. He should not have treated our sister as he did. And only a weak man could perish from such slight injuries." I have the option to point out that that still makes him a murderer, but I'm polite and he tells me that he heard Arial is going to be sacrificed on one of the lower levels.
Avatar, you're from the twentieth century. Enough with the "methinks" and "thou art."
What's particularly amusing is that Linnet has a note in his chambers:
I, Baron Almric, hereby condemn thee to the Abyss. At morn tomorrow, thou wilt be brouht to the entrance of the cave and released. If thou ever dost return, thou will be considered innocent. Until then, thou art guilty in the eyes of the land.

Do you maybe see a bit of a loophole in this verdict? First, it doesn't say he has to enter the Abyss. Second, even if he does, it doesn't say he hast to go to the bottom and back up or anything. He could just stand by the door and wait for Almric to open it again to throw in yet another prisoner.

There are lots of related issues. Are the goblins, trolls, lizardmen, dwarves, and knights actually trapped here? What if they all marched to the entrance and demanded to be let out? The question is left unanswered by both the material and the NPCs themselves.

Moving on, my Ring of Leap apparently allows for extra long and extra high jumps, so dropping off ledges is no longer inevitably irreversible. I use it to jump into an alcove high on the wall of one room, which leads to a long passage ending at a secret door, which opens to a small room with another An rune and a note saying "Finally, I can cast Curse! Now, to find a way out of this pit." The bones in the chamber suggest the author never did.
This is going to be handy.
In the center of the level, another grating looks into the "volcanic core," and this time there's the faintest glow at the bottom. I assume it will get brighter as I descend.
This would be a convenient waste-disposal method, if nothing else.
I clear more and more rooms around the center. In one, I find mushrooms, a full lantern, a book called Diary of a Seer Who Was Embarking on a Troll-Watching Journey, and a pouch with yet another An rune along with In and Quas runes. This level really wanted me to have An. There's a random gray lizardman in another chamber, but he's just a generic NPC and has nothing useful to say or trade.

A watery area takes me to an alcove with a locked chest. I bash at it for a few minutes and it bursts open, spilling a pile of 42 gold coins, a Grav stone, and a Corp stone, both of which I need. The coins I just leave there. I already have more than I can spend. A secret door off of this alcove leads to a room with a "serviceable" long sword, so I replace my short sword.
Oddly, my short sword was not damaged.
Before seeking the Chaos Knight, I explore an area to the east that requires me to drop off a ledge. I have to kill a skeleton at the base. The room consists of four columns, each activated by a switch on the wall, each elevating me higher in the room. The long jumps allowed by the Ring of Leap are necessary to get from column to column. At the top, I find a small niche with a gold chain and a wand.
This pole has really come in handy.
Finally, I head to the Chaos Knight's area. It's a large room swarming with mongbats, rats, slimes, and rotworms, all of which I kill. The room is strewn with piles of gold pieces, and since I find two down staircases nearby, I decide to add my own pile and finally alleviate some of my weight.
I don't think NPCs in this game are capable of picking up items.
Sir Rodrick is at the north end of the large chamber, past a bridge running overhead. He's accompanied by a wolf spider, but the spider is oddly tagged as "mellow" and never loses its cool, even when I'm fighting Rodrick.
Rodrick, learn from your pet.
"Ha! Another one has come to be defeated by the Chaos Knight!" Rodrick says. He's not bluffing. Even though I run out of the room and return only when I'm healed, he absolutely takes me apart. I die my fifth death in the game.
I really have to get around to planting that seed.
On a reload, I blast him with a "Fireball" scroll as soon as combat starts, then spend a lot of time running around the room, avoiding his attacks while blasting him with all of the wands that I've been collecting. He absorbs over a dozen "Magic Missiles" and "Lightning Bolts." When the last wand has cracked, I draw my long sword and face him in melee combat--and kill him with the first blow.
The aftermath.
Killing him puts me at Level 12. Finally. I gained 11 levels on the previous three dungeon levels, but this is my first level-up on Level 4. He drops some gold, a key, and a jeweled long sword, which frankly sounds worse than a regular long sword, but I suspect it's better and thus replace my regular one.

Beyond Rodrick are two doors, one east and one west. The eastern one leads to the "bullfrog puzzle," which as the knights promised, consists of two levers, each capable of 9 positions, and two buttons. These switches are situated next to a vast, empty floor ringed by water. High on the wall in the northeast is a corridor leading out of the chamber.

Some experimentation with the levers and buttons reveals the nature of the puzzle. If you think of the empty floor as a grid of squares, one lever controls the columns and one controls the rows. You set the levers and then hit the top button to raise the square at the intersection of the indicated column and row. You hit the lower button to lower the square.
I make a mess of the area figuring out how it works.
It takes me a while, but by raising the right combination, I create a ramp that will (in conjunction with my Ring of Leap--this must be why they call it the "bullfrog" puzzle) take me to the corridor. It simply leads to a stairway down, but I suspect this is an otherwise-inaccessible area of Level 5. I make a note to explore it later.

While I'm marking the map, I note what looks like a second corridor or alcove on the southeast side of the chamber. When I view it in the game itself, it just looks like a blank wall. But then earlier hints come to me: "there is more than meets the eye"; "the heights of the north have a hidden counterpart"; "to pass into the unseen, jump through the seen." Sure enough, after I reconfigure the platforms to try, I'm able to jump through an illusory wall to a chamber beyond, where I find a wand and another orb like the one on Level 2.
Looking into the orb shows me a second mysterious scene: a couple of mages in blue robes wandering around an empty stone chamber. I have no idea what these orbs are about.
Quest of the Avoyeurtar.
The western door from Rodrick's chamber leads to the Maze of Silas, which is pretty pathetic for a maze. It's basically just a crooked loop. Gold nuggets are strewn across the floor, and I collect them but later leave them in a pile. True to the clues received among the knights, there are multiple secret doors. One of them leads to a door with a silver switch on one side and a gold switch on the other: the Door of Precious Levers.
The headstones back in the Crux Ansata area held the answer to the door. I'm glad I took screenshots. The letters i on the two headstones are dotted with gold and silver dots, three on each stone, and in order they're silver-gold-gold-silver-silver-gold. I flip the levers and the door opens to the resting chamber of Sir Ingvar. Within is a headstone, his eulogy, and the "gold plate."
I confess I was expecting gold plate mail.
On the way back to Dorna Ironfist, I stop and see Biden, who's overjoyed that the Chaos Knight is dead and he can go home. Dorna gives me the Standard of Honor for defeating Rodrick.
Aren't you guys from Jhelom? Shouldn't you have the whatever of valor? Honor comes from the paladins of Trinsic.
For returning the gold plate, he opens the armory and tells me to take my pick of the weapons and armor within. I end this session paralyzed with indecision, as I only have a few pounds of carrying capacity to spare, and I'm surrounded by plate everything.
Do I really need this rune bag?
From my experience, I'm guessing that joining the knights is optional because you don't technically need those rewards. I suspect I could have killed them all and looted the Standard of Honor (if a bit perversely).  I have four potential ways down to Level 5.
The complete--or, at least, close to complete--Level 4.
Summary: Finished exploring Level 4. Defeated the Chaos Knight. Became a Knight of the Crux Ansata. Solved the bullfrog puzzle, the Maze of Silas, the Door of Precious Levers, and some other jumping puzzles. Ended up with two artifacts: The Taper of Sacrifice and the Standard of Honor. Still over-encumbered. On to Level 5.

Time so far: 16 hours


  1. When I played the game, when it originally came out, I assumed the bullfrog puzzle was a reference to Bullfrog studios, the makers of populace. The fact that it also involved jumping just made it funnier.

    1. The fact that they also made Dungeon Keeper makes it even more hilarious.

    2. I was never able to jump through the illusionary wall. Not sure why, I always bounced off. I eventually gave up.

    3. !! And in Bullfrog's Populous you could raise and lower ground! That make even more sense
      for the puzzle name now :⁠-⁠D

  2. Great couple of posts, I thoroughly enjoyed the details of your journey and level 4 is one of the more feature packed levels (although they all really are).

    IMO Roderick is the hardest fight in the game based on your likely power when you encounter him, from memory I waged a retreating battle against him as a teenager, taking him down a bit before running away and healing up, super satisfying to kill him. In my most recent play through 6 months ago I was min/maxing and defeated him easily, in some ways denying myself authentic satisfaction.

    In terms of identifying stuff I typically have a big “identify session” around about where you are now, with a bed roll, “create food”, and “name enchantment”. It takes a while but at least you can toss all those potions that turn out to be poisoned. “Jewelled” weapons are typically enchanted too so cast one on that sword.

    Loving the posts on this game, it’s making me want to play it again already!

    1. Also even with the name enchantment spell it’s still worthwhile putting lots of points into lore so you can spot a “magical” breastplate or boots or whatever over normal ones and not leave them rotting on the floor.

    2. Agreed, but I didn't find the mantra for "Lore" until all the way down on Level 6.

    3. True, but the base level "Mu Ahm" magic skills mantra you learn on level one is actually not a bad option as all 3 skills you can get from it are useful, unlike the combat or miscellaneous skills mantras.

  3. Loved the last two posts. I can understand why you wouldn't do them too often, but they're very enjoyable.

    My first time through the game I definitely didn't solve the Bullfrog Puzzle. I'm pretty sure that I got through it with a potion of levitation.

    And yeah, Roderick probably is the single hardest foe in the game. There might be fights with multiple foes that are deadlier, but I can't remember.

    1. Based on the comment count, I think you might be in the minority, but I'll still probably do at least one entry like this during longer games.

    2. I enjoy both styles, so I don't mind if you choose to continue like this or not. Just making sure you don't miss the opinions of happy but quiet people like me. :)

    3. You should drop something vaguely controversial or make an incorrect statement (e.g. "I put all my points into swimming and tracking as they seem the best"). That usually gets the comments section flowing.

    4. I thoroughly enjoyed the more detailed posts! I probably represent the huge number of lurkers who anxiously await each new posting.

    5. I really liked those two posts too, don't let a low comment count deter you. I think it's more "middle of the game" syndrome, at the beginning everyone has something to say about the game, same with endgame/ratings. Here you seem just to be going along fine, and without doing anything glaringly wrong or absurd.

    6. I liked these two posts as well. They give a good insight as to how the game actually plays.

    7. Yeah, I think comment count isn't as accurate as a "like counter" because the second doesn't require people to actually verbalize what they're feeling. Unfortunately I don't see any easy way to add that functionality to your blog.

    8. I think the low comment count may have something to do with density. These posts have enough detail that people are probably going "I'll have to say something about that" while reading, but forgetting about it by the time they reach the end.

      Overall, I like this style, but would have preferred it on a more obscure title. UU is famous enough to have a lot of coverage, but some of the covered games are not.

    9. To add to Gnomen's post, Chet, not only is it a matter of length, it's a matter of completeness too. Simply put, you aren't really missing anything or setting yourself up for disaster in any way. Shoot, you took out Rodrick in two tries. That's not nothing. Unlike a previous post where you directly asked if killing bandits on level 3 would affect you negatively or when you expressed minor concern for leaving the NW corner unmapped, there's nothing to add at the moment that you won't find out eventually. That's going to reduce commentary. I'd rather you play so I can read about your experiences. Though I will comment on one part...

      "Killing him puts me at Level 12. Finally. I gained 11 levels on the previous three dungeon levels, but this is my first level-up on Level 4."

      Yeah, so I've been on your site long enough to know there's a certain thing sometimes that happens in crpgs which you absolutely detest. And from the looks of it, given how much game is left, it may happen to you here. It happened to me when I played Ultima Underworld a few years ago. ...Just don't feel like you need to start grinding because your leveling slowed down is all I'm saying.

      As for the writing style in the last two posts, I want to add my voice to the group and let you know that I really enjoyed it. When I play rpgs I often imagine the in-between, the small conversations between party members or the little opportunities and encounters for role playing that a game can't possible account for. When Dorna asks if you were afraid to drink from the cup and you "answered" yes because you thought it would end up in your inventory, I laughed. That's the kind of stuff I do. Hell, I do that even in non-rpgs. So while I wouldn't ask to see this done for every post, once in a while - or once per long game as you suggested - is fun.

    10. Perhaps it being a two-parter instead of one long post also quiets the volume. I'm pretty sure I had something to say about the first part, but decided to wait and see the second part first. Now I have no idea what I wanted to say.

      As an aside, that is an "a", not an "e" in my username.

    11. I like this format too, and I'd love to see one in-depth report like this per game.

    12. I enjoyed the let's-play approach here.
      It fits for UU perfectly as the game is packed with little things to tell. So every few minutes of play there is something to tell.

    13. I believe Ultima VI and VII have exponential XP needs for each levelup: 100xp for level2, 200XP for level3, 400XP for level4... Maybe Ultima Underworld does something similar?

      I don't rightly remember, but I do remember that you get max level before finishing the game if you explore even halfway decently. It just means that your (relatively plentiful) early skill point allocation matters more, as it's those skill points that'll carry you through the majority of the game.

    14. Add me to the list of people who enjoyed a detailed walkthrough, I enjoyed the more granular posts.

    15. ---> Paul Yes, you can max level quite fast but I think it could be slowed and more "even" when played honestly: not loading game after death but suck up the xp penatly and ressurect only. I think it is also only way to get more skill points after reaching max level but I'm not sure about that.

  4. THAT'S the maze?
    Wow, you weren't kidding.

  5. Loved this style of writing. That said, the enjoyment might be because it is a good game, and I remember enough of it for recognition to kick in.

  6. Long time lurker, rarely comment, but I concur, this was a really enjoyable couple of posts.

  7. I love this new step-by-step narration. More! More!

  8. I agree, this style of post is a good change of pace, and tells a lot about the game.

  9. Chiming in with my appreciation of these posts. This is my second comment but I've spent dozens of hours reading this blog over the past few years. I really like these posts but it may just be because you've finally hit a game I'm familiar with. Thanks Chet!

  10. I discovered today this page which has nice top-down 3D renderings of all UU levels, I'm sharing it for those who don't mind spoilers and would like to have a more visual idea of the dungeon Chet is crawling through, to accompany posts:

  11. Here's another one to increase the comment count. This play-by-play style is no less entertaining than your usual kind of post, in fact I wouldn't mind at all seeing more of these, particualarly when the game in question lends itself to it so well.

  12. Slimes? There's no slimes in the UU games (closest thing I can think of is the Vorz from UU2).

    1. Ultima VI has slimes, as does Ultima VII. Those even split and multiply, allowing farming to a degree.

    2. I know Paul. UU = Ultima Underworld.

      The slimes in Ultima VII terrified me the first time I encountered the multiplying bastards!

    3. The correct name for the UU creatures seems to be "slugs."

  13. Might get exhausting to write/read if you did it ALL the time but yeah, it's fun to get a sense of how the play really went.

  14. If I were you, I'd use the Taper of Sacrifice as your light source. It's not the brightest, but it also never runs out

    1. I totally did that! Some of the talismans have everyday uses, so use them.

  15. As a person that writes plot summaries like this every week, I want you to know that I admire your summary style. You manage to impart a ton of detail about games you review using minimal examples while still giving us a flavor of them.

    That said, seeing a more detailed look like this has been great too. I would love to see a post or two like this for some of your key games.

  16. I agree with what some people said/hinted - I *like* the detailed description, but there seems to be less to say about it!

    You want comments, just pull a few political chains and we'll all be in there... with CRPGs quite forgotten after a while!

  17. Just to make sure that low comment count won't deter you from writing, I alao enjoyed this two-parter. I'm still two Might and Magics from games I've actually played, so I rarely chime in with the comments, and can't speak for others, but I also feel like comment count has little to do with enjoyability of the posts, and more with external factors (like the size of the game's cult and number of controversial statements you make in the post).

  18. I like this style. It gives a bit more of an immersive feel. I'm not as nostalgic for the original Underworld (only because I played the sequel first), however I do have memories of playing it a fair way through at a later date. You're inspiring me to get back into it (once I get through the Baldur's Gate saga once more)

  19. Very nice two posts, loved them! I always felt that around about level 4, the game completely left off the handholding it does on the first few levels. Rodrick himself is a mean boss, and the many monsters in his hall complicate the fight if you haven't cleaned up beforehand. Feral Trolls are beasts as well. The puzzles, too, are a bit more involved than before (although it tooke me forever to find the sword blade on level 3 on my first playthrough ages ago).

    One tip that I won't be putting in ROT13 as I think it's extremely important:
    When you go for the Ring of Humility using the level combination you got from the gemcutter knight, make very very sure you hug the walls and don't cross the middle of the room until you get the ring! Otherwise it just won't appear, locking you in a walking dead scenario. Ruined my first playthrough (yes, the one where I took ages to find the blade). I guess striding in boldly through the centre runs counter to Humility, or some such nonsense.

    One slightly spoilery hint: you don't necessarily need all-round plate armor, there's some good chainmail gear around, and it's much lighter than plate. Sbe vafgnapr, purpx gur Punbf Xavtug'f punva fuveg...

  20. When I drank from the chalice I honestly answered that I wasn't afraid, because I knew that even if it did kill me the silver sapling would bring me right back. Unfortunately, that pissed him off and caused me to fail the test. I had to go back and pretend to be afraid to pass.

  21. The bullfrog puzzle gave me my 15 minutes of fame. One day at school I was talking about UU with my classmates and everybody complained about it.
    „Yeah, I didn‘t really bother and just cast levitate“, I said.
    There was a moment of silence as everybody stared at me with utter shock in their eyes. Finding alternate solutions to puzzles was a totally novel concept at that time.
    UU was really groundbreaking in that regard.

  22. No comment about the curse spell cursing yourself? I didn't bother with the bullfrog puzzle, and I don't see the purpose of the orb either. I didn't actually beat Roderick until I had explored well into the seventh floor though.


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.