Sunday, August 20, 2023

Serpent Isle: Chaos Talking

 
If not humbly.
       
When I left off, we had entered a dungeon on the Isle of Crypts. This is apparently where the Great Hierophants of the past were entombed. We find several sarcophagi with corpses as we explore. We try "Summon Shade" on each of them, but of course the spell doesn't work except on the one corpse that it's programmed to work on. This is a little disappointing. There are books that fill in some flavor, such as Javalloja's treatise on Funeral Ceremonies; The Voice, a history of the first Great Hierophant to hear from the Great Earth Serpent; and The Great Hierophants, a discussion of the early leaders who built the temples to the various Ophidian virtues.
 
There are giant spiders roaming the dungeon. We barely notice them. The Ring of Reagents obviates the spider silk that would have been valuable to pre-Silver Seed players. There are a few light teleport puzzles, a couple of buttons, and a chest we can't figure out how to get to. 
        
"Awesome!" -- any poor bastard who bought this game between March and August 1993.
    
We run into one puzzle that I have to look up a hint to solve. A room has two pedestals, one with a golden serpent, the other empty. A plaque between them says "BALANCE IS WISDOM." A nearby scroll says that the golden serpent can send me "on the path to knowledge, but only if balanced by wisdom." The scroll encourages me to "use thy newfound wisdom to balance the power of gold." Clearly, it wants me to put something on the other pedestal, but what? I try just about everything in my pack except for the one item it actually wants--the very scroll that we've just read.
       
How meta.
       
We get teleported to a new area of the dungeon, where a skeletal dragon guards two huge serpent statues flanking an object encased in a force field. "Dispel Field" takes care of the field. The object is called a "Chaos Serpent Eye." All right.
     
What do you bet I'll need an Order Serpent Eye at some point in the future?
     
I can't figure out how to move forward from here. I start casting "Reveal" and "Columna's Intuition," and one of them reveals a secret door north of the serpents.
    
A few more corridors and teleporters, and I'm in the chamber of the Great Hierophant Ssithnos. I know this because "Summon Shade" finally works in his chamber. His ghost appears to tell me a few things:
     
  • I need to restore the Balance.
  • This is the will of the Great Earth Serpent, who has been speaking to me in visions. Ssithnos reiterates how the whole War of Imbalance started, with Exodus kidnapping the Great Earth Serpent from the void. 
      
Hey, I won Ultima III as quickly as I could.
       
  • To do this, I will need the "symbols of authority" of the Great Hierophants: A serpent crown, serpent staff, and serpent armor. I have the crown, which I found in a tree hollow. The staff is in Furnace. To get the armor, I'll need to ease the "troubled heart" of someone who was "once Beauty herself" but maimed by the Banes.
  • Before I can restore Balance, I'll need to "reunite the Chaos Serpent." Only the Chaos Hierophant can tell me how to do that, and Ssithnos doesn't know where I can find him. He was killed during the war.
  • Once I fix the Chaos Serpent, I'll need to hie to the Grand Shrine of Balance and do something there.
          
Our work done here, we exit the dungeon and take the Serpent Gate to Furnace. As previously discussed in the comments, the Serpent Staff is behind a locked door. I guess one of the cyclopes is supposed to have the key, but I missed it when I first killed him, and items left on bodies have no permanence. The "Fetch" spell just fizzles. Thus, I reluctantly enable the cheat menu and drag the door out of the way.
        
Belt of Strength for the win!
       
The person who was "once Beauty herself" must be Lady Yelinda, Fawn's former ruler, and apparently the most beautiful woman in the world if you like 1980s hair. We walk to Fawn from Furnace's egress. As always, the guard stops us on the way into the city and warns us to "avoid trouble whilst thou art here," as if the entire city isn't dead. 
      
The Avatar has a random observation as we wander past some skeletons.
     
We go through the city searching houses and bodies, finding little that we did not find on our last visit. There is a note on the body of Leon, the Fellowship leader, that indicates "Mad Iolo" had his tongue cut out. I loot some items from various houses and have the Hound of Doskar sniff them, but he doesn't pick up a scent on any of them.
          
"Woof woof" means "I only track uniquely-scripted, plot-relevant characters."
           
Eventually, I run into Ruggs (I reloaded after I accidentally killed him in an earlier entry), who tells me that Lady Yelinda has run off to the Gorlab Swamp, leaving her diamond necklace behind in the throne room. He also says that his true love, Delphynia, is dead. He buried her in her garden. He finds irony that he, the ugliest person around, is the only one left alive in the City of Beauty.
       
Iolo has absolutely no reaction to any of this, nor does Ruggs seem to realize that Iolo is standing right in front of him.
     
I find the necklace and summon the Hound of Doskar. It would be nice if you could just follow him once you show him the item you want tracked, but instead you have to re-summon him almost every screen.
       
Maybe the dog could lead instead of just pointing?
      
After about 45 minutes, the hound leads us to Yelinda in the swamp. "Mad Iolo" did something to strip her skin from her body. (Iolo has nothing to contribute during this conversation. It's not even clear that the companions are aware that they were inhabited by the Banes.) She's nearly suicidal over this, the loss of Jorbin, and the destruction of her city. Oddly, she attributes all the death in the city to famine and a "strange sickness" that "crept through the city like some silent predator," putting people to sleep. This seems to mirror what happened to the gargoyles and what's apparently happening to the emps in Britannia, but it contradicts Ruggs's statement that Iolo killed everyone.
        
I hear that "Body Worlds" is coming to Monitor in the fall.
        
Yelinda hopes I can cure her condition, and she gives me some information about what will likely do the trick: The Comb of Beauty. She'll give me the Serpent Armor (or, more precisely, the key that opens the door to the treasure room where the Serpent Armor is kept) if I give her the comb. This seems like an obvious place to use "Vibrate" to short-circuit the questline, but Yelinda doesn't drop the key when I cast it on her. I'll have to do it the long way. I know from previous NPC dialogues that the comb was in the possession of Columna of Moonshade, so I decide to return to that city and toss her place.
   
I do some mental math and decide that the serpent gate at the Sleeping Bull is the fastest way to get to Moonshade, so I exit and head south. Along the way, I come across the burning laboratory that commenters had warned me to avoid like the plague in a much earlier session, when I was looking for the transported Royal Mint. I save the game and stop in to see what all the fuss is about. There are two ghosts roaming around the building. I double-click on one, and what do you know: It's the Chaos Hierophant. I mean, it isn't really--I get the impression from his subsequent dialogue that Sethys (the imprisoned Order follower in the Temple of Ethicality) is supposed to have told me how to find him, and that the real Chaos Hierophant is somewhere else. But for some reason, these ghosts have the Chaos Hierophant's dialogue, so I figure that's good enough. The Serpent knows I'm not going to pass on a shortcut at this stage of the game.
         
"What am I doing in this house, and why are there two of me?"
       
The Chaos Hierophant is reluctant to help me because he knows I'll reunite the Chaos Serpent only as a step toward restoring Balance, and he believes in the supremacy of Chaos. "Chaos must reign supreme, and not be unequally yoked to Order in the prison known as Balance!" But he recognizes that "even servitude would be better than the damnation that Chaos now endures," so he tells me what I need to know. The Temple of Chaos is in the Skullcrusher mountains, behind some bronze doors that he suggests I detonate. We then have to use a Blackrock Serpent--ideally, the Chaos one--to open the Wall of Lights. We then have to place the prisms containing the Banes on their respective altars. A flame will appear if we do this right. We then recite a mantra: "IN PRI KLI ORT AILEM, PRIIN ORT INTEN MANI!" He finally mentions that "the rite cannot succeed without an allied force strong enough to weld the Banes together into the serpent." He disappears in a black funnel.
       
We finish the trip to Moonshade and head to Columna's house, even though I'm pretty sure I already searched it. But Columna herself is lying between the house and a fence that surrounds it. There are bushes and trees inside the fence. It takes me a while to figure out how to get into the little garden; there's a secret door in the bedroom. If Columna's body weren't in the garden, I wouldn't know to look for a way to get into it.
       
One of three secret doors this session. At least I found this one on my own.
     
Her body has some potions and a generic "brush." I suspect this isn't the Comb of Beauty, but I can't find anything else. So I take a save and go all the way back to Yelinda, who confirms (by having no new dialogue) that the brush isn't what she's looking for. I reload and look around some more. I move her body; I search the house; I cast "Reveal" and "Columna's Intuition" everywhere. I can't find anything. Back I go to the walkthrough. Apparently, there's a chest hidden by some bushes in the south part of the garden. I suspect my colorblindness is screwing me again. Tell me if you see it.
 
Am I supposed to believe that Columna went bushwhacking every time she wanted to use the Comb?
       
Before returning to Yelinda, I go to Monitor and pick up four of the powder barrels that [checks entry from a lifetime ago] Marsten had secreted there as part of whatever his plot was.
      
I'm surprised I even remembered this room.
       
Back to the swamp. Yelinda gratefully takes the comb and uses it to break the curse.  She gives us the key to Fawn's treasure room. One of the Monks shows up and says he'll take her back to Fawn, not offering to do the same for us even though we're obviously heading right there. (On the matter of "Vibrate" not working, I suspect that what happened is that Yelinda's "cursed" body is a different NPC object than her "restored" body and the former doesn't have the key on it.)
       
You and Ruggs have fun, now.
      
Thus, we walk back, head to the room below the palace, open the door with the key, and find the Serpent Armor in one of 12 chests. The others contain riches and magic swords, none of which interest us. 
       
I refuse to spell it that way.
       
I don't know what the Chaos Hierophant's "allied force" is, but I decide to see if I can just complete the damned ritual. We return to the City of Chaos and blast our way through the temple doors as instructed. (I verify later that "Explosion" doesn't work; you must use powder kegs. I don't know what you do if you've used them all.)
      
The party uses a "chaotic" way to enter the temple.
      
Naturally, the temple isn't in the room beyond. Instead, we enter a multi-leveled maze in which we have to fight giant scorpions, giant spiders, mongbats, wildmen, slimes, and trolls. There's a music room, a weaving room, a forge, an armory, and a kitchen, and if you're still in love with the Ultima VII engine, you can use this opportunity to play songs, turn yarn into cloth and then cut it up for bandages, forge a weapon (or at least heat up a sword blank; I don't think there's a hammer), play some music, and bake some bread.
       
The collapse of the Ophidian textile industry.
      
After multiple levels and a pointless teleporter detour to an enclosed field north of Monitor full of sheep and cows, we reach what appears to be the "final room." It has water, braziers, and plenty of serpent statues. There's even an altar. But nothing I do has any effect, and I know I'm looking for three altars, not just one. "Columna's Intuition," "Reveal," and "Dispel Field" show me nothing. Back to the walkthrough. There's a secret door behind the serpent statue that you have to reveal by double-clicking it. Ah, of course. How stupid of me. I should have just been clicking on every goddamned wall instead of foolishly casting spells like "Reveal." Honestly, how did anybody win this game when it was new? [Answer: Apparently, there's a button on a wall that I missed.]
        
I had one more chance to upset my party over wasted ale.
     
The temple with the Wall of Lights is on the other side. There's an indentation for the Blackrock Serpent and three altars for the Soul Prisms, but also (ominously) a fourth altar. I put the serpent into its crevice, which causes the wall to light up. I put the prisms on the altars, which cause flames to appear when you put the right prism on the right altar. But nothing happens after that. I run through absolutely everything in my backpack on the final altar, but nothing works.
     
The Black Sword is one of many items that doesn't qualify as an "allied force." Note that in this screenshot, I have the wrong prisms on the first two altars. I did eventually fix this, but I still couldn't get anything to happen.
   
Unwilling to walk my way back, I reload from outside the dungeon and try to figure out what to do next without consulting the walkthrough yet again. I remember that Xenka told me to return to her if I was unsure how to proceed, so I do. She has a new ominous keyword: "Sacrifice." I try it, and she explains that the imbalance has grown so powerful that one of us will have to kill ourselves. Huh? Before we can process this, she has us draw straws and she says that I drew the shortest straw: "Take comfort that thine ashes shall bind the wounds of the land." How, exactly? What does any of this have to do with the "allied force" that I need to reunite the Chaos Serpent? And who's going to restore Balance once I'm gone? Shamino? That actually wouldn't be a bad idea, but there's no conversation about it at all. My companions don't even react.
    
Xenka's mum on these issues, too. She just tells me to go jump in the oven at the crematorium in Monitor. At least the game will be over, I reason. (Aside: if all your companions are dead when you talk to Xenka, she still insists on the "straw-drawing" ceremony even though you're the only one there.)
        
Doesn't this violate literally every prophecy you made?
      
Of course, the Avatar doesn't sacrifice himself. I remember this part. But the dumbest part of an already-dumb sequence is that there's no way the Avatar could sacrifice himself. If anything kills him, the Monks just resurrect him. So the only option would be to throw himself alive into the oven. But he can't stand on the trap door leading into the oven and pull the lever, so clearly something else is going to happen.
    
What happens is that Dupre intercedes, claiming he can't let the Avatar kill himself nor live with the deaths he's caused (this is the first time any of the companions have mentioned this). Before we can say anything, he drops all his stuff on the ground and dives into the oven, emerging a few seconds later as an urn of ashes. None of the companions have any reaction. What an utterly ham-handed episode. The self-sacrifice of one of the Avatar's longtime companions deserved a lot more justification and reaction.
       
Come to think of it, who pulled the lever for Dupre's sacrifice?
        
You may wonder what happens here if Dupre isn't in the party. The answer is: nothing. You can't sacrifice yourself. The door to the oven just opens and closes. Dupre doesn't rush in from wherever you've left him. There's no way to progress in the game, with no indication of what you're doing wrong.

Back on Monk Isle, Xenka says Dupre's ashes are what's needed to power the reunification of the Chaos Serpent, which makes no sense, but at least the game is coming to an end. She also says that my destiny will be found on "the island known as Sunrise Isle." She gives me a Serpent Sword that will have some role in the final ritual. I talk to Gwenno while we're here, and she's suddenly willing to join us.
    
We go all the way back through the dungeon and perform the ritual, this time putting Dupre's ashes on the final pedestal. There's an explosion, and then I get an image of a serpent speaking to me in Dupre's voice. (I took screenshots of the text version, but the audio version of the episode has Dupre pronouncing his name as "du-PREE." I've been pronouncing it wrong for almost 40 years.) [Ed. No he doesn't. I'm not sure how I heard that on my first and only pass at the recording. He clearly pronounces it du-PRAY.] He says his soul has been fused with the Chaos Serpent, which allows him to restrain it from attacking me. He tells me to hurry to Sunrise Isle. If that's not enough, Xenka suddenly teleports in and also reiterates that I should go to Sunrise Isle.
           
Does anyone have an idea where we should go next? Anyone?
        
Naturally, she doesn't just teleport me there, so I have to take the long route back out of the dungeon. When I get back to the serpent gate hub (I think the game's official name for it is the Dark Path, which I haven't been using), I study my options because I can see Sunrise Isle on the game map, off the north coast, but I don't know how to get there. I suspect that where I really need to go is the Temple of Balance, which may be on Sunrise Isle, but it's hard to tell since once you get there, you're never outdoors.
   
Hoping to bring a hasty end to the game and subtitle this entry "Won!," I take the gate to the Temple of Balance, but it becomes clear that the temple is going to be yet another Whole Thing, thus pushing the conclusion of the game by at least one more entry. 
    
Time so far: 107 hours
     
Comments on Level 8/9 Spells
   
Level 8
 
Create Ice. Creates a block of ice. If you cast it on a target, it freezes the target for a while. Otherwise, it just provides a barrier. This is one of many spells that would be cooler if combat were more tactical and less random. I can't think of a good reason to use it here.
 
Mind Blast. Fires a bolt of energy. I've never had it not kill an enemy, so I guess it's pretty powerful. If any single enemy in this game was both a) hard to kill with weapons, and b) not immune to magic, it would be my go-to spell.
      
The Fawn guard told me to "avoid trouble" one too many times.
        
Delayed Blast. "Explosion" but with a five-second delay. As with its counterpart in D&D games, it would be useful in a tabletop session but not very useful in this game's engine. Enemies move out of its range too fast and anything that you might want to destroy with it is destroyed to the same degree by "Explosion."
 
Fetch. Lets the caster retrieve an object in view. Through testing, I learned that doors are no barrier, not even locked doors, but it only works on small things like potions and keys. It doesn't work on weapons or pieces of armor, including the Serpent staff. That still makes it theoretically useful, but I didn't find a single point in the game where there was an object that a) I needed, b) I couldn't reach normally, and c) was sitting in plain view (instead of in a chest or on a body). 
        
The one place it would have been useful.
      
Invoke Snow Serpent. Summons an adorable little blue snake that does absolutely nothing in combat.

Serpent Bond. Changes the Avatar into a serpent, which sounds like it would be useful in a million places but is actually only useful in the Temple of Ethicality puzzle. I guess some players use it to break the game's scripting (moving over trigger points as a serpent doesn't trigger the scripts) and keep NPCs alive who are supposed to die.
    
Firesnake. "Explosion" but with a superfluous trail of fire between the caster and the explosion.

Swordstrike. An offensive spell that creates a vortex of blades. Not as powerful as "Mind Blast," but can damage multiple enemies. The only caveats are those I attached to "Mind Blast."

Level 9
 
Death Vortex. Probably the best offensive spell in the game. Creates a black cloud that zeroes in on an enemy and kills him usually instantly, then often lingers long enough to kill someone else. Again, it would have been nice if there were more enemies in the game that required such a devastating spell. I found myself casting it towards the end of the game just to get people out of my way.
        
A "Death Vortex" heads toward Mad Iolo.
       
Mass Death. Sends a "death pulse" outward from the caster and kills everything, but it also significantly damages the caster (usually), so it must be followed immediately by a "Great Heal" or "Restoration." Still, it's immensely powerful and useful for packs of enemies.
 
*Invisibility All. Turns everyone invisible at once. I never got it, but I assume it's about as useful as multiple castings of "Invisibility," which don't last very long. I think I'd rather spend the points on one of the death spells. Again, I could see this being handier if it were harder to just run past enemies when you didn't feel like fighting.
 
Spiral Missile. I don't know why it's called this. The spell causes each enemy on screen to suffer a little individualized "Explosion" that does a small amount of damage. Why would I cast this when I can cast "Mass Death" for the same number of spell points?
     
"Spiral Missile" fails to even kill goblins.
       
Stop Storm. Messes with the weather and turns stormy weather clear. The effects are mostly cosmetic, but there are times in a game that inclement weather animation is annoying. I remember using its analogue in Skyrim a few times just because I found the constant snow oppressive. Still, it's hard to imagine using the points on it unless you knew you wouldn't be needing those spell points for a while.
 
Summon. Summons monsters to help in combat. I usually get trolls, skeletons, or ghosts. Companions are already pretty useless in combat, and summoned creatures even more so. Plus, a lot of the time it doesn't work (i.e., no one appears). I suppose you could use the spell for grinding, since killing summoned creatures gets you experience and, in the case of trolls, gold and gems. Summoned creatures never turn hostile even when you're attacking them. In general, I can't see wasting the points on it when "Mass Death" is right there. 
     
Some mongbats come to my aid.
         
Time Stop. It's supposed to stop time, which could be useful in combat. It could also be useful out of combat, if it stops traps or explosions and similar mechanical events. Unfortunately, it fizzled every time I cast it, and I gave up trying to make it work.
 
*Imbalance. According to the description in the manual, it casts a "wave of fire fields, explosions, and streaks of lightning" that is "difficult to control" and thus should be "cast only in dire emergencies." Sounds dramatic. Alas, I never found it, and I can't think of an emergency so dire that one of the death spells wouldn't solve it.
     
"Imbalance" occupies the spot given to "Armageddon" in The Black Gate. I can only imagine that they replaced it because a Serpent Isle player would cast "Armageddon" the minute that he discovered it without a second thought. This place sucks..
 

106 comments:

  1. Serpent Bond is a cute exploit forthe Gorlab dream world, as you can cast the spell before you go to sleep, return as a snake when you awaken, and due to the inventory mechanics you get to keep all the items from the dream when you transform back. I've used this primarily to get the Juggernaut Hammer, which I consider arguably the best weapon in the game. You can also bring back the infinity bows, which are nice in theory (unlimited ammo) but unfortunately, the damage is low and the explosion radius = friendly fire.

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    1. The point of Invoke Snow Serpent is that (per the manual) you need a serpent present in order to cast Serpent Bond; but in-game you actually don't need this. Even then, using an 8th-level spell to summon a tiny snake is rather silly.

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    2. Oh, yeah. It does say "exchange forms with a targeted snow serpent. I wonder why they made the change.

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    3. Could have been that they just forgot to implement it properly.

      There are at least 3 big puzzles in the game that the player can accidentally avoid without even being aware there was a puzzle.

      Serpent Bond puzzle (to get the key to open the door with lever to the drawbridge), because the drawbridge can also be lowered by a simple telekinesis spell.

      The other one is the acid room.

      And I would say the Magebane-Vasculio puzzle also counts. It has all the elements of being an elaborate puzzle. The ghosts in Skullcrusher guide you towards the penguins, but Vasculio is easily dispatchable even without the Magebane.

      And most player will probably find the Magebane on their way to the dragons.

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  2. "Apparently, there's a chest hidden by some bushes in the south part of the garden. I suspect my colorblindness is screwing me again. Tell me if you see it."

    It's obscured by branches and not really very different in color, but it's still visible. But I think colorblindness is a bigger issue with the chaos serpent eye puzzle; there's a switch on the left wall, green against a reddish background (so easily visible to most people) that you apparently missed.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I probably would have missed that chest. I rely on 'alt' to highlight things in pretty much every iso rpg.

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    3. I can generally see the things Chet can't see, but this chest had me stumped. Maybe because of the yellow writing. I think I may *kind of* see it now but I'd have to be used to the exact shape of chests.

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  3. Ah, the famous Dupre's sacrifice.

    Agreed, for being such an inpactful twist, it should have been handled way better.

    If we had some indication of Dupre being tormented with his actions as a bane, and if the need for a sacrifice was foreshadowed in advance by the prophecies, then it would have been more dramatic, as it stands it does feel coming out of the blue.

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    1. Gb znxr vg rira zber nagvpyvzngvp, hygvzn avar haprerzbavbhfyl haqbrf gur fnpevsvpr naq erfheerpgf qhcer.

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    2. It was foreshadowed somewhat in Ultima Underworld II, as I recall. I think there's an orb you can look into that hints at Dupre's fate. Should definitely have been more in this game though.

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    3. Re Radiant's rot13ed comment, reminds me of this comic: https://www.samandfuzzy.com/1126

      and the author's subsequent comment:

      Xvyyvat bss znwbe punenpgref vf ubj jevgref fubj gurl zrna frevbhf ohfvarff. Naq oevatvat gurz onpx gjb jrrxf yngre vf ubj gurl haqb fghcvq qrpvfvbaf.

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    4. They should have had one of the other companions draw the short straw, then have Dupre sacrifice himself for HIM. It was always obvious that the Avatar wasn't going to die in a crematorium.

      I did some Googling to find out what Nathan was talking about because I never recorded that in my own UU2 experience. I guess there was an orb in the ice world that offers a bunch of visions. One of them is: "You see the obscure form of an old and dear friend, as he sacrifices his life for the good of all."

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    5. All the way back in Ultima 4, Dupre was THE original Paladin, and mayor of the city of Honor. In later games, he goes more and more downhill and is mostly depicted as a drunken womanizer, essentially making him a fallen paladin. He is at his worst in U7, where his job is basically hanging out in pubs all day (that is, his worst before he slaughtered all of Monitor).

      That makes it a very fitting end to his story arc to redeem himself through sacrifice; although clearly this could have been written better.

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    6. Radiant - when I first played it, something strange happened to my tear ducts when Dupre sacrificed himself... Don't think I was alone - he was my first recruit in U4.

      Honour redeemed? Or perhaps more simply - had Dupre never lost his honour?

      For me, the greater heartbreak... Did the Avatar - the player - question Dupre's honour silently, wondering: only to realise in that last moment, that old Dupes had never left his post...

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  4. I've been also messing around with Vibrate spell and trying to get plot items before their proper time. The game often hides the plot items by not having them exist at all in the world, and only when a player follows a certain sequence of trigger flags, will it appear.

    Fawnish Ale at goblin camp, exposing Simon's identity, is one example. Simon's human body doesn't have the key to Goblin Camp, only his goblin body.

    Another case in point. Getting the the Serpent Staff is actually what triggers Xenka's "sacrifice" line. A famous plot-stopping bug can happen if somehow the player drags the staff in a wrong way to his inventory. I was actually worried that you might have also triggered this bug, but fortunately you only had to remove the door.

    I think the game would have been more stable if they'd just allowed the player access to plot items at all times. Let all doors and chests be destructible, let all NPC's be pickpocketable. Arcanum is really brilliant in this.

    Ultima 7 engine interactivity encourages investigation, but Serpent Isle doesn't want you to investigate at the wrong time. So it often says to the player, nothing here and then it expects the player to come back later to investigate again after a proper keyword has been triggered.

    It becomes a uneven experience, where sometimes player investigation and agency is rewarded (like skipping Test of Purity and using Serpent Gate to leave Furnace) and sometimes when the game just refuses to comply with player agency (some plot doors are indestructible, some plot important NPC's have empty inventories at *that* time).

    One of the worst example of the game refusing to reward the player is when the player casts Vibrate on Draygan and gets Orb of Elerion without killing him. Nobody recognizes the player possessing it.

    Some other minor notes. You first learn of the Comb of Beauty from Columna's homeless sister. When you find the chest then and remove the Comb, Columna will turn into an old hag and will have some unique reactions. But she still sleeps at Torrissio's place... I guess it's true love after all.

    The Temple of Chaos is accessible already in pre-Batlin death part of the game and an inventive player can still make use of those teleports to Monitor for quick travel for level ups (because Serpent Gates in the Frozen North are not available yet).

    But it would be cooler if all doors were destructible.

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    1. Wow, I did not realize that I wrote such a big wall of text.

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    2. I'm sure you had a plan to post it in two parts if it became too long ;)

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    3. For what it's worth, I read and enjoyed it :)

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    4. @Dan Thanks for the kind words. :)

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  5. It was always "du Pré" ; 11 years-old French me always assumed the avatar called Iolo and Shamino by their first names and "Dupré / du Pré" by his last name because Dupre was a knight.

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    1. Well, then they should have spelled it "DuPre" or "du Pre" instead of Dupre (which sounds like it's pronounced DEW-pruh, really).

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    2. Of course. I should have said "it was always and will always be 'du Pré' for me", because it was how I thought it was said when I first played the game almost 3 decades ago.

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    3. I always read "Dupre" the French way, even though I thought it was wrong. Last year, here in France, I had a student whose family name was precisely Dupré.

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    4. A pronunciation is first given in Ultima 6, when you ask him about "name": "It's Dupre - sounds like dew pray, remember?"

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    5. That's funny because it only makes sense when you read it, not when he would actually say it. Also, given the "britishness" of the language, would it then be dʒu prey?

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    6. Going to split the difference and pronounce it "Doopr."

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    7. "dew pray" sounds exactly how an American trying to pronounce French would sound, so I rest my case !

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    8. Ah, but is it DEW-pray or dew-PRAY? :P The game doesn't specify. Is the stand-in from Savage Empire DOCK-ray or dock-RAY?

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    9. The funniest thing about this dialog is that it's supposed to be spoken.

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    10. I don't know what Chet's talking about here - it is definitely not du-pree in the audio, it is du-pray. I just re-checked in a let's play on youtube (I'd link it here, but not sure I'm allowed to)

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    11. Yep, you're right. I don't know how I heard it the other way the first time. I should have listened to it twice. Sorry, everyone. Entertaining discussion regardless.

      Delete
  6. The point of Invoke Snow Serpent is that (per the manual) you need a serpent present in order to cast Serpent Bond; but in-game you don't need one. Even then, using an 8th-level spell to summon a tiny snake is rather silly.

    Time Stop sometimes works (and does what you'd expect it to), I guess it's a random chance. Imbalance is a mass damage spell that is less effective than the death spells on the same level. And note how the icon for the summon spell is (misleadingly) a huge dragon and how its Kal VAS Xen.

    Even in tabletop D&D, the primary reason why people use Delayed Blast Fireball is simply that it deals more damage than regular Fireball; it's usually used with a delay of zero (or, in a Time Stop, to explode immediately after the time stop ends).

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  7. This game feels, to me, almost arrogant in the way it keeps dragging on with endless obscure puzzles and presenting entirely unearned, and unwarranted twists like Dupres sacrifice. It's like the developers insisting "this is objectively the grandest adventure ever written, just look at all these twists and puzzles, no other adventure has so many epic twists and puzzles", but they don't actually know how to properly write impactful twists and intuitive puzzles that tie in well with the setting.

    My impression, and this goes for the entire series, is, that the developers at Origin never bothered to learn how to write stories, because they looked down on the "art school kids" who had actually studied writing. The game art is all so remarkably without style as well, like they made a conscious choice not to have an "artistic" visual style.

    Or maybe this view of the developers at Origin is just my anti-American bias showing, I don't know. It certainly aligns with the criticism I have of most American-developed RPGs (exceptions like PS:T do apply).

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    1. Yeah, huge disagree with your general tone.

      The original Ultima 7 had a lead writer that was an actual professional writer - Raymond Benson. There's enough depth to the worldbuilding and characters of Ultima 7 for several essays.

      The assumption that the developers of Origin would look down on art school kids is ridiculous.

      Many of the problems with Ultima still exist with RPG's and Ultima has the honor of being one of the first to try to explore and make the mistakes first.

      We will see similar problems even in Fallout 2.

      The specific problem with Serpent Isle is rushing. It's like a clever post in this blog, making very good points but with too many typos and ends up undermining itself.

      I'm sure there was an emotional scene written with Dupre's sacrifice, but which was lost due to an oversight once they started to cut things. Yes, in hindsight they should have made sure to value story moments over puzzle moments, because that really ruins what they were building up to.

      When it comes to the pacing of the game and how the player encounters these puzzles in his playthrough, it's all quite related to individual playstyles. Some players would stumble upon these puzzles earlier, when the exploration aspect is still fresh and rewarding.

      You never get the full game experience just by reading about the game.

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    2. Nobody who spends their free time romping around in silly costumes and pretending to be feudal nobility is going to have that kind of attitude. Garriot and Origin as a whole were, if anything, the "art school kids" with literary pretensions.

      The core problem is that Garriot always had a tendency to overreach with his games, which is a tendency that Origin as a whole inherited.

      This overreach got worse and worse the less it was bounded by technology, and by U7-2 computers were powerful enough that there weren't all that many boundaries to the scope of writing. That lets you get ambitious.

      The core plot here isn't that complicated or twisty, and would have looked very neat and clever in a bullet-point list in planning sessions. The problem is that they very clearly ran out of time halfway down the list, and had to kind of shove the rest of it in carelessly before EA said "SHIP IT NOW!".

      So you just get the barest strokes of what they intended.

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    3. The length problems would still be there though even if they could have finished it as intended. Especially if they would have cut down on the puzzle elements in favour of even more story. Judging it as an RPG, that is. I'm sure there are people for whom this would be just the game they want.

      The writer/director for Pt. 2 does have an engineering background, but I'm pretty sure it was just overambition and inexperience.

      (The advantage of the sacrifice hardly being acknowledged, btw, is that at least it's not bad. I remember a supposedly emotional cutscene from Risen 2 that just had me laughing)

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    4. The problem with Dupre's sacrifice is that originals Origin had a completely different chain of events planned for when the Banes possessed the Avatar's companion: instead of just killing everyone in every city outright, the Banes would go and completely twist the virtues in every city, causing immense pain and suffering. A few remnants of that original intent remain here and there, like Chet's commented on dialogue by the skinned Lady Yelinda, with her mentioning plague and famine instead of everyone being, well, simply dead. So the plan was that there would be a huge buildup and impact by witnessing the atrocities by the bane-possessed companions step by step - but since they ran out of time, this huge block of plot had to be scrapped. The end result left Dupre's sacrifice underdeveloped and sudden.

      So it's not hackneyed writing to blame - like others said, overreach, overambition and the need to finally get the game done are entirely to blame here.

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    5. It's a matter of priorities. If they had focused on writing the bane-run cities first, and the Monk Island / swamp dream / Gwani / Draygan plots later (or not at all) then the end result would have been better.

      But to be fair, that's much easier to say in retrospect.

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    6. Not sure about the precise development timelines of Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, but maybe they pushed the script heavy stuff towards the end until the engine became more stable / added some features.

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    7. @Buck

      If the game had been fully built to support the ambitions, the length "problem" wouldn't exist to the audience of 1993. There were far fewer games available to play in those days, and they cost far more money to buy once inflation is factored in.

      It would be an entirely common scenario to get 3-4 new games in an entire year, and if one of them took a few months to complete that was a feature, not a problem.

      Even today when there are so very many games available (not least because we have all the ones of yesteryear to add to the pile!), a game taking 100+ hours to complete rarely evokes complaints from fans - unless it simply sucks.

      If Serpent Isle actually lived up to the obvious ambitions, I doubt that either the Addict or the audience would be screaming "END! END!" at the screen.

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    8. I'm admittedly not too familiar with modern games, but I think they are doing more to support their long playtimes - better mechanics, rewards, more open world exploration, .... U7.2 is more linear/scripted, at least that is what comes across to me in these entries, and that seems to be by design, not by accident. I played games back then, and this one I wouldn't have finished or even played halfway through. After all, there were other things to do besides playing computer games.

      If the length is a problem is of course very subjective. Obviously, there are people here who think very highly of this game and would have thought of it as the best game ever made with a bit more polish in the second half (or even without it). But I think most players would have considered as way too long even in a more finished state.

      That's all hypothetical of course, and in the end the game being too long is one of the primary reasons it is in the state it was released.

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    9. Howlongtobeat has Serpent Isle ranging between 54-86 hours.

      It doesn't take all player 100+ hours.

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    10. Chet has mentioned (over in the Amber moon playthrough) the reason he's not enjoying SI so much is because he looks for a gameplay challenge beyond just puzzle solving and dialogue (e.g. challenging combat) in an RPG, and he's maxed out his character and left challenging combat behind ages ago.

      I have the feeling the devs at Origin were so focused on getting their story implemented that they put balancing the combat and leveling aspects last (or gave it low priority). When they ran out of time and had to hack their storyline down and adapt these scripts accordingly, that left even less time for the balancing and such. Someone who is more of an adventure gamer who puts story and puzzle solving above everything else will probably still love the game even at this point (and many, many do). But Chet is looking for a challenging RPG experience - and here, SI is lacking, probably due to the aforementioned reasons.

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    11. HLTB’s averages include players using walkthroughs and those playing the games for second, third, fourth times. all of its averages are artificially low.

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    12. I think the average values from HLTB are pretty much pointless, especially for long games. It is more useful to see the values corresponding to one’s playstyle, and if there are a decent number of samples for it, then it can give a relatively good estimate. In case of SI there are only 9 submitted times in total so yeah, not very high confidence.

      @Gnoman, that is a good point. Length was a feature in that era, and games had things like “At least XX hours of gameplay! XX levels!” in the back of the box, often greatly exaggerated.

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    13. I agree with what you're saying, but I have to wonder if even a teenager with no responsibilities in 1993 would want to play a game whose main quest takes more than 100 hours. That's enough to forget major plot points along the way. Very few games today, even with greatly expanded worlds, require more than 40 or 50 hours for the main quest. Certainly, plenty of them SUPPORT much, much more than that, and I actually like games that give you a near-inexhaustible amount of content--but I also prefer that such games let you beeline to the end of the main plot when you get sick of it.

      Finally, I'd say that 100+ hours of content is only a selling point if you like the gameplay. I like CRPGs. Serpent Isle stopped being about its CRPG mechanics a long time ago and frankly never used them well.

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    14. When I was in my early teens, I probably put a hundred hours into the shareware version of DooM or the original Resident Evil. In games that had playtime counters, I know full well I had multiple 70-80+ entries.

      If you don't have a ton of responsibilities and don't have parents demanding you get off the computer and go outside, that lofty figure could be no more than a month or two.

      And it wasn't that uncommon to have a very limited number of games to play, so something big enough that you'd get a lot of time out of it was pretty desirable.

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    15. Although not quite the same, it took me over a year to beat Bard's Tale 2, playing quite a bit of it during that time.

      Though in my case it was misunderstanding the manual saying to keep inventory slots open as meaning a few slots, not one on each character. I beat the game quite quickly once I learned that. And it made playing 3 even easier (the DOS port was incompletely done), with characters over level 100.

      Not everyone had dozens of games at that time. You learned to keep playing what you had a LIKE it. :)

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    16. My preference is that games are shorter and replayable. Instead of investing energy in more and more content, after a certain point, direct that energy towards deepening and tightening up what you already have so that you'd actually want to revist the game.

      I could replay through Wasteland or Curse of the Azure Bonds or U7: Black Gate this weekend and still extract more hours of enjoyment from them. Which is a more valuable way a providing hours to me than the sprawl of Serpent Isle.

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    17. I wish I had time to play anything at all right now. I bought BG3 about a week before my son was born and have been so busy changing diapers that I've barely had any time to get into it (not to mention the fact that when I still had time to play it, the game kept crashing).

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    18. I probably put over 1.000 hours into Kerbal Space Program but that's a very different kind of game.

      "I bought BG3 about a week before my son was born and have been so busy changing diapers that I've barely had any time to get into it "

      I'm sure you'll get into changing diapers eventually ;) Congrats.

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    19. I never knew any creature could poop this much without being sick.

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  8. Another issue with the game that you don't have to tackle as a 2023 player is that many puzzles require pixel-perfect placement of items. It is fairly easy to do with a modern [optical] mouse, but with the older mouse using a rolling ball, I remember it being incredibly frustrating at times.

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    1. Memory unlocked: Remembering to clean the mouse ball when you realized that you were never going to click on that key that was only partially visible from behind another object.

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    2. Oh, despite our improved mice in the 2020s, I had plenty of difficulty placing the blackrock serpents in their slots--so much that if I hadn't been absolutely sure that was the right thing to do, I would have given up and started looking for other solutions.

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    3. pixel perfect when you only have 320 x 200 to work with is not quite as bad as more modern games, surely!

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    4. Pixel perfect when you only have 320x200 resolution is surely not as bad as later years :)

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  9. "...and apparently the most beautiful woman in the world if you like 1980s hair."

    L - O - L !

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  10. Your appropriately surly attitude towards this game has made this my favourite series of posts here ever, I will be sad when it’s done.

    Your sacrifice is not in vain (unlike Dupre’s)!

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    1. Yeah, I always felt bad about not finishing this game, but I'm glad to experience it this way and know that it was never meant to be. Funny that I thought I just needed a little more persistence to see it through, but I only got as far as Moonshade. There's no way I would have ever finished this game.

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  11. I played the game at release and can’t remember that it was so complicated… finished it without a walk-through. But I remember that I was emotionally damaged after the sacrifice of Dupre. He was my favorite since Ultima IV ;…( I simply can’t believe that this was in the game

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    1. On the contrary, my thought was : "Good riddance ! He was a useful pack mule, though."

      I have a strong preference for magic-users, archers, and women.

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    2. When I was younger, I invested those canonical NPCs with detailed stories and personalities that went way beyond what the game offers--to the extent that when the series DOES start to give them characterizations in U6, they clashed a bit with how I imagined them. In any event, I could see Dupre's death offering a more devastating blow to a younger CRPG Addict who might have been having conversations with his companions for the last 100 hours and was probably desperately happy to have recovered them from their possession. Alas, the older CRPG Addict has lost much of his imagination.

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    3. I'd have a different problem then you do now, Chet, in that my sporadic playing means that I struggle to remember the overall thrust of the narrative, let alone clues offered hours ago game-wise but months ago player-wise. Let alone between games in a franchise.

      You've got an interesting perspective as an adult player with a focused practice, not to mention intentionally consuming these games in their published sequence... and faster than the time the creators spent making them.

      But at the same time, you've got a big list ahead of you to get through, that Younger Chet didn't have to worry about. Maybe hundreds of hours in Ultima might have felt like a wonderful thing then.

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  12. It's interesting to see your reaction to this because I loved this game when I first played it; it vied with Ultima 7 for my favorite CRPG of the period -- but of course I was a teenager and I haven't played the game in over 25 years so I have no idea how I would react if I replayed it now.

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  13. Chet?

    Chet?

    You need to go to Sunrise Isle.

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  14. I thought for sure this was going to be your "Won" post, I forgot how much this game refuses to end!

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    1. Sorry, Crpgaddict, U7 is a fractal. You've got your 'Ultima VII', then you've got your 'Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle', then you have 'Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle Part 2: The Silver Seed'. No doubt as soon as you think you're about to establish Balance, there'll be 'Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle Part 2: The Silver Seed Part 2'.

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  15. It's a shame seeing this game giving so much grief. I liked it when I was a much younger geek. Or I liked the idea of Not!Britannia and all the lore (even if the timeline doesn't make much sense and the execution is generally really goofy).

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  16. Gosh, I really remembered Dupre's sacrifice as being way more dramatic and a much bigger scene. I remembered it as being at the wall of light and happening with the voiceover all at once. I guess at the time it just had much more impact!

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  17. I feel bad for liking this game.

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    1. I don’t even dislike it. I just want it to stop.

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    2. Well, I'm pretty sure the next entry will be "Won!"

      It's just Sunrise Isle now.

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    3. Oh, I don't know. I could probably get 2500 words out of the damned lever puzzles in this stupid place.

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    4. I remember that Sunrise Isle and the endgame puzzles took me a long time to figure out. I might have called Origin's hint line.

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    5. Well it can't be that bad. I just finished Sunrise Isle. Took me a little bit more than an hour. I forgot the Ophidian Sword (somehow I had dropped it) and had to die and come back again.

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  18. I loved this game, but to be honest I forgot all the stuff that happend after killing Batlin. The athmosphere of the 3 cities and Gorlab Swamp as well as the mystery about the ophidians really intrigued me. But that's the good thing about memory, it tend to store only the strong (good or bad) things and the rest is covered by the mist of time.
    I am still certain that my favorite game of all times (PS:T) will hold up the test of Chet ;-).

    There is a well-done novelization of the whole Planescape game available - made by a fan.
    It is really great to read - and takes fewer time than playing it: https://www.wischik.com/lu/senses/pst-book.html

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    1. > I am still certain that my favorite game of all times (PS:T) will hold up the test of Chet ;-).

      PST is a good game but a pretty disappointing RPG. There's several GIMLET scales that I can't see it getting more than 2 or 3

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    2. At least it has a full-blown AD&D rule set and meaningful character development that's not finished halfway through the game... But I'll wait patiently for the verdict of Chet;-)

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    3. I'd be a bit surprised if Torment got 3s. While the AD&D levelling is pretty unremarkable, the aspect of development handled through dialogue (keeping this spoiler free) is one of the best parts of the game.

      Combat isn't great but the suite of spells is probably enough to get it to at least 4.

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    4. I also can't see Torment getting terrible ratings.

      The combat is still based on the super solid Infinity Engine, even if it's clearly not the main focus of the game. I can't really remember about the economy, but some of the best-rated games on the blog do still have a bad economy.

      I can definitely imagine it not getting a final rating as high as some of the contemporary classics that are more well-rounded, though.

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    5. "The combat is still based on the super solid Infinity Engine, even if it's clearly not the main focus of the game."

      I think the problem is not that there are not enough combat options or tactics, it's that combat in Planescape Torment is boring and pointless for some players because it's mostly risk-free. IIRC you can sleepwalk through combats in any of the following ways (ROT13 since these could be considered spoilers):

      1. Ohl cyragl bs onaqntrf (juvpu ner purnc). Va pbzong, cnhfr gur tnzr, hfr nf znal onaqntrf nf lbh jnag gb urny qnzntrq punenpgref, hacnhfr. Hayrff na rarzl znantrf gb xvyy n punenpgre va n fvatyr uvg, gurer'f abguvat gung pna fgbc lbh.

      2. Yrg bayl gur znva punenpgre, gur Anzryrff Bar, svtug. Vs ur qvrf, ur'yy whfg erfheerpg naq ernccrne ng gur fgneg bs gur znc. Zbir uvz gb gur pbzong nern ntnva, evafr naq ercrng. Oerj fbzr grn juvyr lbh'er ng vg.

      3. Urpx, rira vs gur bgure punenpgref qvr, gur Anzryrff Bar pna whfg erfheerpg gurz, nf ybat nf gur cynlre rkcyberq n fcrpvsvp qvnybthr gerr ng na rneyl cbvag va gur tnzr.

      Given that the distance between the respawn point and the combat location is much smaller in PST than the equivalent distance between the respawn point and the combat location in U7 (part 1 or 2), there's usually never a need to reload a save game in PST. So what's the point of those combats, anyway? I think the _motivation for combat_ is missing in PST in a quite similar but even worse way as U7.

      Or am I misremembering something? It seems strange that this doesn't get criticized more. Maybe you could say that the player shouldn't play like this, that this is similar to save-scumming. Well I don't know, to me that's something very different.

      Maybe a player can salvage his motivation for combat in Planescape Torment with a playstyle conduct: not using any of the three options above, and reloading whenever a character dies. Basically, treating the game as if it worked like Baldur's Gate. But I'm not sure whether the combats are balanced when playing like that, since the developers presumably didn't play that way while balancing the game.

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    6. I found combat tension much like other RPGs.

      The cost of character death is time and the horrible shame of defeat.

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    7. I'm not sure there's anything great about save-and-reload, so I don't see the issue with the game basically automating this with checkpoints (#2). If they can weave the concept into the narrative, even better.

      #1 is bad design if the economics are trivial. If you want an easy mode, it should be clearly offered as an accessibilty option. That said, players seeking a challenge can at least ignore or limit it.

      #3 really depends on how the encounters are designed and balanced. It's possible to design good combats where the only failure condition is loss of the primary character (or TPK), and the loss of secondary characters are just undesirable setbacks that can be overcome.

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    8. I mean, most modern-ish RPGs have some way of making combat risk-free, I don't think we should hold that against any one of them in particular.

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    9. @asimpkins: I agree regarding your first point in the case of Ultima 7, because after a resurrection of the party, when the player travels back to the location of the combat, the enemies will have respawned too. This makes it similar to a reload. But IIRC in PST, the Nameless One will just re-appear at the start of the level and the slain enemies are not respawned. The game could put 100 enemies into one place, and the player could just nibble away at them over the course of dozens of the main character's "lives". So U7's approach makes more sense.

      @Radiant: Not sure what you mean. Can even important battles in BG3, for example, be easily beaten by some trivial method like using lots of healing items while the game is paused?

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    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    11. Generally, yes: quite a lot of modern(ish) RPGs allow you to spam healing while paused; e.g. Bloodstained, Skyrim, Fallout, Breath of the Wild. I haven't played BG3 yet, but I said "most" games, not "literally all of them".

      Letting the player make combat risk-free (in this way OR some other way) is a genre convention, not something unique to PST (which, incidentally, does have respawning mobs). Meaning that the earlier argument, that PST would be a bad RPG because it can be made easy, is fallacious.

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    12. Ah, it's been a long time since I've played PS:T, but I see your point there. I agree that if you are primarily looking for combat challenge in an RPG then PS:T isn't the right game. But it works well enough if you can appreciate the combat as just an extension of the narrative.

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    13. PS:T is a great game but arguing about its merits as an RPG here means subjecting it to the Gimlet and it probably won’t score highly there. Surely better than the U7 games of course, but combat and economy weren’t very strong.

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    14. Hmm, I can see it getting 6'es for magic/combat and economy; not amazing but not actively bad either (and a nice touch is that PS:T goes out of his way to find really obscure magic spells from the D&D sourcebooks).

      Anyway, I wish Chet would do a once-per-year vote for which (pre-2000s?) RPG the blog readers would want to see covered ahead of schedule. I bet this one would win!

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    15. That would be awesome. Just once per year a poll to the community for an "early review" ...

      Delete
    16. AlphabeticalAnonymousSeptember 6, 2023 at 10:31 PM

      I'd have to put my vote in for Fallout, instead. I agree that I'd be interested to see what people would vote for... but I'd be surprised if our host here decided to actually implement such an 'early review' system.

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    17. Doing Fallout now would just mess with the concept of the blog too much. It's supposed to reach there naturally. Game history wise, it's just 4 years from Serpent Isle. Blog wise... who knows, inshallah.

      And we're actually reaching the Dark Ages of the mid-90's, where very few RPG's were made and which also tend to be very unremembered. We're going to get some really interesting and educational stuff in the next few years.

      However making an occasional contemporary game review would not screw too much with with the main purpose of the blog. I think Chet actually did something similar with Skyrim.

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    18. Fallout and Planescape are well-known, well-covered games. I don't see much difference between playing one of those or a modern game ahead of schedule, except maybe that for the former there's at least a little chance of reaching them naturally.

      I can't say there are any games pre-2000s that would interest me more than the games current upcoming list. Except maybe Jagged Alliance 2.

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    19. AlphabeticalAnonymousSeptember 9, 2023 at 3:41 PM

      @Joshua: I wasn't advocating reviewing Fallout now -- just opining that if an 'early review' system were implemented, that would be the game to get my vote. But I'm also perfectly satisfied with getting there 'organically,' with more surprises along the way.

      Re. the 'dark ages of the mid-90s,' don't expect any imminent speed-up on this account. The Master Game List has 173, 190, 187, and 184 games in 1992,3,4, and 5. Though there's a slight drop from 1996 onward, there are still around 120 games per year in the list. Perhaps many will get skipped or BRIEFed, but the number of games per year is actually still pretty high. It's a long road!

      Delete
    20. The last time I recall Chet considering 'jumping ahead' for individual games before finishing the current year, he already mentioned certain restrictions that would apply and in the end scrapped the idea entirely.

      Besides, my impression is: if too many people push for something, it often ends up with him not doing it or doing the opposite out of principle ;-).

      Anyway, over the life of the blog he has already mentioned and commented on more recent games which he either played earlier (on PC) or was currently playing on console. Based on that and his respective comments about them, he might have something to say about Starfield soon (other commitments permitting) and also about BG3 once it's released on Xbox.

      In the meantime and during this hiatus, one can always (re-)read his posts and/or comments e.g. about Skyrim or Oblivion, the ending of Middle Earth: Shadow of War, on the Dragon Age series and Fallout NV or the more recent Fallouts in general (on the occasion of playing 4), including why he then later thought that FO4 is much better than NV.

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    21. PS re Skyrim: for a more complete and current picture I'd add Chet's FAQ (the last one) and this post he also links there.

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  19. Memory really is a strange thing. SI was one of the favourite games of my childhood, but reading these entries now I realise I can't have played more than a tiny fraction of story. I must have filled the rest with my own imagination.

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  20. Long time no see, Chester

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  21. Back when the Serpent Isle playthrough started I had fairly morose view on the game. Despite the game clearly outstaying its' welcome, I've enjoyed reading about Chet's travails, and at the same time it has reignited a lot of the fondness I had for the game as a young teen. For me it has been a very fun series of posts to read.

    My guess that Serpent Isle would score just shy of Black Gate was overly optimistic. Objectively so many things that were strong in the previous entry just aren't that impressive here. Thus the Gimlet is going to be quite a few points off from Black Gate.

    The Video Game Atlas has full maps of the Serpent Isle. Especially the interior map is fun and depressing to look at. It of course is a huge spoiler until the game is over.

    https://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/PC/index.htm#UltimaVIIPartTwoSerpentIsle

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  22. Good luck with the workload, Chester.

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  23. Hello Addict!

    I just saw your latest post about a longer hiatus due to being busy but couldn't find out how to post a comment on it. I really just wanted to express my thanks for the heads-up and wish you a good several months, even though they seem to get very busy for you.

    Enjoy your autumn!

    ReplyDelete

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.