Ultima IV – the “Let’s play” files

This post was originally 5 separate posts on my original Blogger blog, chronicling my way through Ultima IV.  For various reasons I toned down the “let’s play” angle of this blog, but all this work was done so it seemed a shame to waste it.  So I’ve decided to combine all of the “let’s play” posts into one – that way they don’t swamp the rest of the site.  Oh, please excuse any formatting issues – there was a problem transferring from Blogger.

With that I give you – Ultima IV:  Quest of the Avatar.

ULTIMA IV – PART ONE.  IT STARTS

The first game on my list – Ultima IV.  Purchased on…16 July 2014.  Three years ago.  All right, let’s get this party started.

The Quest begins

 

I have mixed feelings about this.  One of the very first games I had for my PC (once we upgraded from an Apple IIe) was Ultima V, and I never figured out what the hell was going on with that game.  But I’ve heard so much about the Ultima series, particularly Ultimas IV-VI, that I couldn’t miss this.
I’ve finished Ultimas 1 – 3 recently (I might do a retrospective) and honestly they weren’t that good.  So it’s with mixed feelings that I click “install” on Ultima IV…

First impressions – there’s a lot of “feelies” with this game.  Maps, manuals, a spell book, quick reference card.  They started doing this with Ultima III, and I recall that reading them is pretty essential.  So I print them all out (thanks work!)  and read through them.

Yes, you really do need to read all these.  Closely.

 

Its about 80 pages.  And it’s not that interesting.  A description of the map layout, lists of armour, weapons and monsters, overly-detailed descriptions of the spells (a trick they’ve obviously kept from Ultima III).  I know disc space was tight back then, but isn’t so much “world building” as “info dumping”.  It could’ve been summarised or (even better) worked into the game.

I grind my way through the material, then FINALLY start the damn thing, expecting more of the same of UIII.

I was wrong.

Pretty soon I can tell that U IV’s reputation as the turning point in the series is well deserved.  The mechanics are straight out of the earlier games (overhead view of UI, “gate” system from UII, combat from UIII) but the big change isn’t combat based – it’s the “Talk” function.

 

It doesn’t look like much, but this textbox radically changes the experience
In U1 – U3 you would “talk” to characters and they would always repeat the same one line of text.  And usually it would be the same (“I”m a wizard!”).  Yawn.  But in U4 most of the characters have individual names, and you have to ask them about specific words based on their unique dialogue.
The effect is that, next thing you know, I’m writing a list of every character in every town, with one or two words about them or (if it’s obviously important) the precise hint that they deliver me.  I am already more invested in this world than I was in any prior Ultima game.

They’ve also learned how to give the player enough guidance to avoid the “what on earth do I do now?” problem that plagued U1 – U3.  I’m 5 hours in now, and I haven’t checked a walkthrough once.

My notes.  Unless you use a walkthrough, you’ll need to make them too

 

 

So what’s the game actually about?

Well after having defeated the various “uber-villain of the week” nasties in UI – III, Lord British, who now rules the world (which no longer looks like Earth) has summoned you from your world to show the people of Britannia how to live like good people.  You do this by becoming the “Avatar” – the living embodiment of the eight virtues, which are Honesty, Humility, Sacrifice, Spirituality, Compassion, Valour, Justice, Honour, Salt and Sugar.

Why you would do this I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure that on Earth, the life expectancy of “living embodiments of goodness” is about 33.  Anyway…

You become this “Avatar” by collecting various trinkets that increase your rating in each of the 8 virtues, and not doing naughty things that lower your virtue ratings.  So no more “killing all the guards for XP”.

On the surface, this sounds very different from the earlier Ultima games.  But practically it isn’t; there’s no real difference between searching for the “Rune of Honesty” or the “Silver Ring of Kicking Minax’s Butt”.  The gameplay is still wandering from town to town gathering clues and occasionally entering dungeons to get trinkets.

The difference is that for the first time, I am really invested in the world of Britannia.  There are mechanical incentives for me to actively interact with the characters of Britannia, and even treat them more like normal beings and not creatures I can slaughter for the hell of it with impunity.

It seems (and I could be wrong) that the basic goal here is to collect a Rune, Mantra and Stone for each virtue, then go to a Shrine for that virtue and chant there.  Once you’ve done that for each of the 8 virtues, you go to the “abyss” and read a “codex”.  Don’t know what that last part means yet, I imagine I’ll find out.

 

Oh – combat and magic.  I should say a word about both.

 

Combat is really a refinement of UIII.  When you enter a fight from the overworked map, you zoom down into a battle screen where you move around your individual party members and attack the individual monsters.  The refinement from UIII is that sometimes there’s terrain providing cover from missile weapons, and either you or your enemy can escape by leaving the map.  Also, while you no longer create a party of adventurers, you can recruit up to 8 additional characters (one for each virtue).  So it feels like a bit of a mix – there’s no more character creation, but it’s not quite as diablo-esque as UI and II.

World combat in Ultima I (top left) to IV (bottom right).  In both Ultima I and II combat visually changes in dungeons, but mechanically remains the same

 

The magic system is a bit weird.  In UIII, the game came accompanied with a “book of spells” which gave overly long descriptions of each spell including what ingredients each required and how to cast the spells.  Practically this information was irrelevant to gameplay.  UIV has taken that idea to the next level – you still get the book of spells, but this time you need to read each spell description for the spell’s ingredients, buy the individual ingredients and mix them together (ahead of time) to make each spell that you wish to cast.  Each time you cast a spell, you use up those ingredients, so you’re often buying them in bulk.

Cleverly though, Origin has used the ingredients consistently.  So Sulfurus Ash, for example, is necessary for all flame based spells.  They then tell you that certain other spells (such as “Kill”) exist, but won’t tell you the ingredients – you’ve got to figure it out by reading the spell descriptions and guessing what ingredients would be required.

It’s a good example of how a minor tweak has made this game so much better than UIII.  All of this information was there in UIII.  But only in UIV do I mechanically have a reason to care about it.

Loving this game so far.  I’m still working my way through the towns, talking to everyone and writing down hints.  I’ve got 3 party members in total (max 9), and the mantra and rune for about 3 of the 8 virtues.  I’ll finish talking to everyone in the towns, then it’s time for the dungeons….

Release date:         16 September 1985
Purchase date:       16 July 2014
Platform:                For me, PC (via GOG).  Originally, Apple IIe
Developer:             Origin Systems
Lead designer:       Richard “Lord British” Garriott
Time spent so far:  5 hours
Impressions:           Minor tweaks to UIII makes for a much more absorbing game

I’m now 27 hours into Ultima IV and my views have shifted slightly.  I still think it’s a good game, but the cracks started to show around 12 hours in.

ULTIMA IV PART TWO – EXPLORATION

My marked-up map.  I feel sorry for people with the original cloth version

First up I realised that the list of fetch-quest items is a quite a bit longer than I had first thought.  There’s the eight virtues (each of which require you to gather a rune, learn a mantra, find the shrine and have sufficient XP in that virtue) PLUS eight stones PLUS a bell/book/candle PLUS three syllables of a word PLUS the “axiom” PLUS three items required to explore certain parts of the map (silver horn, “flying device” and the word of passage) PLUS a sextant, so you can follow certain directions PLUS Mondain’s skull, which presumably does something.

All of these bar 6 of the 8 stones are found on the overworld map.  So there’s much less emphasis on dungeon delving than in Ultima III.

But that brings us to the next two tweaks UIV has made – the map is about double the size, and the random encounter rate is jacked up a LOT.  One of the problems with UIII is that it was pretty savage about food consumption, but in the early-mid part of the game there just weren’t enough random encounters to ensure that you’d get sufficient gold to buy food.  After exploring the UIV map for a bit I realised why UIII had fewer random encounters – party combat (introduced in UIII) very quickly becomes tedious.  UIII had the added bonus of more powerful and easier to use spells – the gathering of reagents quickly discourages you from casting spells too much.

To find all of various bits and bobs you have to do quite a bit of exploring, and if you retreat from combat you’ll lose virtue points.  So we’ve got this massive map that I hate exploring because I hate the random encounters.  For some parts I just saved my game, then ran away from each encounter until I found the item I was looking for, then reloaded and went straight for it the second time.  That doesn’t work at sea though, because you can’t escape (and at sea, you don’t even get any gold for your victories).  I confess I looked online to find the town hidden at sea, I failed to see what grinding through a manual search would prove.

Ultima IV has horror elements.  Or at least, by the 1000th overworld combat encounter I was ready to scream

I’ve also found that the hints and conversations, while a great improvement on the predecessors, can still get pretty obtuse.  Also there’s so many bits of disparate information (the significance of many aren’t immediately apparent) that it’s easy to miss what you’ve been told, even if you’ve been writing it down.

I snapped and looked at an online FAQ on three occasions – first, I was supposed to ask someone about a stone, and didn’t realise I specifically had to say “White Stone”.  Second, when I knew that Sniflet in Buccaneer’s Den would say something important (thanks to the cluebook) but couldn’t get him to speak about anything.  When asked about his “job”, he’d say he’s “hiding”.  But he wouldn’t respond to “hiding”, you had to ask him about “hide”.  And finally when I was searching for Mandrake Root – I knew the rough locations to search (which was itself tedious because the locations are a swamp, and each steps poisons you) but could not find the damn things.  Consult online – you can only find it during a double-new moon.  Checked my notes – no, I was never told that.

The problem with giving the player only one clue for progression is that if they misunderstand you, or you mangle the clue, they get stuck.

There were also a few times when I found items I didn’t even know I was looking for.  I went into the Lycaeum and searched the library, because why wouldn’t you, then found the “Book of Truth”.  Didn’t know I was looking for that.  Went through my notes and found it was mentioned by one person right at the start – wouldn’t have remembered that in a hurry.

So Garriot got a lot better at giving the player guidance with this game, but still had a ways to go.

Current status is that I’m an avatar in 7 of the 8 virtues (Compassion is not levelling up through normal play, I’m going to have to do some grinding) and got all bar two of the items.  So the plan is:

  • Go through the three dungeons that I’ve found to get three of the stones;
  • Find and explore the remaining dungeons to get the last of the stones;
  • Figure out what on earth said stones actually do; and
  • Find the last two items – a “flying device” (presumably a balloon) and something to magically strengthen the ship’s hull.

I’ve got a lead on the balloon, but nothing on how to strengthen the ship’s hull.  Cross that bridge when I come to it.

Time spent so far:      27 hours
Current impression:   Skyrim circa 1985.  With more annoying combat

ULTIMA IV PART THREE – VIRTUE HUNTING

Approx 30 hours in.

I’ve actually played more than that, but I really need two blog posts to talk about what’s happened in that time.  There’s two, maybe three blog posts left to this game (including this one).

But today I want to deal with an important announcement.  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that since my last post, I have become the Brittanian embodiment of all that is good and true.  I, am an Avatar.

No, not like that
This, of course, had no effect on gameplay whatsoever.  Turns out that my task is only half done, I still need to go to the “Abyss” and read the “Codex”.  Apparently there is no kindle version.
I had assumed that becoming the avatar would, at least, let me recruit all of the companion NPCs.  The manual tells me that there’s one NPC in each town, each town is associated with one virtue, each virtue is associated with one character class and that NPC’s will only join you once you are sufficiently advanced.  I suspect that this unnecessarily complex chain of logic is going to become a hallmark of the series.
But even after becoming an Avatar, there was one companion, “Jaana”, that I simply could not recruit.  She kept telling me I wasn’t advanced enough for her to join me.  Jaana is a Druid, who are associated with “Justice”.  Apparently even in fantasy times, hippies tend to the judgemental.  But even though I’m now an avatar in Justice and all the other virtues, she still won’t bloody join.  This was driving me nuts.  Eventually I took to the GOG forums to fix what I assumed was a bug.
Turns out that recruiting NPC’s has nothing to do with your virtues, it’s linked to your LEVEL.  You can’t have more companions than your current LEVEL.  And every time I went up a level,  would get a new NPC from some other town, so the problem wasn’t specific to Jaana at all.  This is not explained anywhere, and is so far the only time that my level has been relevant to anything.  In past Ultima games levels only affect your hit points, they didn’t even affect your stats.
The documentation for this game is about as long as The Great Gatsby (page-wise).  Why it chose to omit this little gem I don’t know.
By now I am determined to get this last bloody companion if it kills me.  So I do some research on the net – I’m currently level 7, level 8 is the max.  I’m about 1000xp off Level 8, which makes me groan because this is the era of games when Xp is only given to the character that lands a killing blow, and the average Xp value per kill is about 6.  By now I have 7 characters in my party, and I’d have to make sure my PC lands the killing blow…167 times….hm.  Fuck.  That.
More research – turns out that the REAL way to get Xp in this game is to collect the various items.  Each time you do that, each party member gets about 400 Xp.
Consult my notes – there are three items in the overworld left to get, the first two are the “mystic arms” and “mystic armour”, which can only be equipped by the Avatar.  They had something like this in UIII; the armour was gamebreakingly overpowerful (by now, I’m ok with that).  There’s also a white stone in the overworld if I can get a “flying machine” to reach it, which is located outside the entrance to the dungeon “Hythloth”.  I also need the three syllables of the “axiom”, which I can  pick up on the way.
This requires more toddling around the game map.  First, I head to the NPCs who mentioned the mystic arms/armour to me, who of course tell me to speak to two other people (in two separate locations) who each tell me where to search (again, in two separate locations).  This means I have to go to travel to five seperate towns, which I am utterly sick of doing.  BUT now I have a clever plan.  I’m the Avatar, right?  So I don’t have to worry about virtue points anymore, which MEANS I can run away from combat with no penalty!  Hooray!
So with a spring in my step my brave PC, Iiago, the Avatar of Justice, Truth and Valour, runs like a jackrabbit from anything more frightening than a rather stern shrubbery.
RUN AWAY!!
Finally, I go to the place where the arms/armour are hidden and search.  Not there.  Huh.  I search the room.  Not there.  I search the building.  Not there.  Check the net, I’m in the right place.  What is going on??

Turns out that you lose your avatar-ness if you lose your virtue points.  And now I’m back down to zero in Valour and Sacrifice.  I will have to start rebuilding them again, from scratch.  Did I mention this game has only one save slot?

It is at this point, that I utter the mantra of frustrated players everywhere – FUCK.   THAT.  There must be an easier way…

The “easier way”
Courtesy of a little known trick called a “character editor”, not only do I get my virtue points back but I become an avatar again without going to the shrines.  Hooray!  Arms and armour are where they’re supposed to be.  In the same trip I learn the three parts of the Axiom – “Ver”, “Amo” and “Cor”.  Apparently I say combine them into a word that I use to enter the abyss – whatever.  Right now all I care about is that I’m nearly level 8, I’ve got the best arms and armour.  All I need is one stone from one dungeon, and I’ll finally get the last companion.
The “ankh” symbol (middle-right) keeps track of how many virtues you’re an avatar in.  Each piece of avatar-ness builds the symbol into a complete ankh.  Also not explained anywhere.
So I think I’ve got the following left:
  • enter the dungeons I’ve found to get the stones from them, hit level 8 and get the last companion;
  • find the last few dungeons and get the stones from them;
  • get the flying machine from outside the “Hythloth” dungeon (which I need to find) and use it to find the white stone from the overworld map;
  • figure out what to do with said stones;
  • figure out how to strengthen the hull of my ship; and
  • get into the abyss, read the codex and finish the game.

So what have I learned from this play session?

The designers obviously thought that part of the fun would be figuring out how the game actually works.  To an extent that works; Ultima IV is about exploration, and its tonal theme is not really about avatars or virtues, but “stranger in a strange land”.  So there’s a nice verisimilitude in exploring the system at the same time that you explore the world.  The plot makes it quite clear that you’re from Earth, you’re in a strange place, and you’re learning how things work.

But you can only learn the Ultima IV system by trial and error.  Which is not great when either the feedback isn’t clear, or if new variables are introduced late in the piece without warning.  I got stuck on the “how do I hire this NPC” question because 30 hours in is too late to start referring to my character’s numerical level, at least without some sort of guidepost.   I got stuck on the “virtue point” issue because I didn’t know that losing virtue points still mattered until it was too late.

It’s fair to say that if I’d bought this game back in 1985 I probably would’ve quit at that point.

Thank God for cheating.

Time spent so far:        30 hours
Current impressions:   Trial and error is poor game design when errors take too long to fix

ULTIMA IV PART FOUR – THE DUNGEONS

Come back Ultima IV, much is forgiven!

I have made my way through the various dungeons and sorted out what the stones were for.  And fortunately my assessment of this game has strongly tipped back into the positive.  The dungeons are quite good, and I’m finally seeing some emphasis on the the “virtue” theme of this game.

When we last left off, I was about to enter the dungeons to get the stones.  I was not looking forward to this – Ultima IV combat had by now devolved to the point where I was ready to jump out of a window.  But the dungeons have three important differences:  (1) most encounters are pre-set, not random, and actually interesting; (2) the dungeons are quite small, so there’s fewer random encounters than on the overworked; and (3) you can run away without losing virtue points.
Dungeon exploration is 1st person, until you either enter a room or start combat
Far and away, the most important point here is the first one.
As you wander through the dungeons, which are quite simple compared to (say) Bard’s Tale, you will walk into pre-determined rooms.  Your goal in these rooms is not to kill everyone, it’s to exit the room in the correct direction and so work your way through the dungeon maze.  And the rooms, mercifully, are unique.  You will not the same damn arrangement of rocks 300 times, you will feel like you are actually exploring a dungeon.
 Three dungeon rooms.  Three distinct locations.  Three different challenges.
Because the challenge is now room traversal, Ultima IV can introduce a few interesting twists on the standard combat formula.  Specifically, it adds traps and secret passages that are triggered by standing on specific spots.  This adds a feeling of exploration to the combat map that did not exist in the overworld, and also a feeling of tension when you see a lone treasure chest in the middle of a room.
Why am I reluctant to get that chest?
There is exploration in the dungeons, mostly through finding secret walls.  But as I alluded to above, the dungeons themselves are mercifully straightforward.  By now, I have had enough of wandering around aimlessly.  Some direction is a good thing.
For comparison, some level 1 maps from (L to R) UIII, Bard’s Tale I and UIV

Each dungeon contains two things of note – a coloured stone and at least one altar room.  The altar room/s are always at level 8, and interestingly they always have 4 exits.  Each exit links to a different dungeon, so you can travel between dungeons via these altar rooms.  This helps me find the Hythloth Dungeon and the “flying machine”, which, as expected, is a balloon (eventually I learn that there’s a second entrance at Lord British’s castle, but I’ll skip that part).

This balloon is also a lifesaver.  The balloon travels at high speed either North, South, East or West, as dictated by the current wind.  There are no random encounters in a balloon – and you can use the “wind change” spell to steer the thing.  I can now find ALL of the dungeons and travel to and from the towns without a single.  damn.  encounter.  All praise Lord British!!!

L – finding a dungeon the easy way.  R – finding a dungeon the tedious way.

Eventually I’ve got all the stones.  I also find a way to strengthen the hull of my ship, although I had to look this one up.  In Serpent’s Hold there’s a sailor who’s from a shipwreck of the “HMS Cape”.  Alright, I obviously need to find it.  Ask him “where”, he won’t say.  Ok – go to all the towns, ask everyone about HMS Cape.  Nothing.  Give up, look online.  Apparently there was a secret passage I missed in Serpent’s Hold where an NPC told me that HMS Cape had a “wheel”, and that a survivor should know where the wreck is.  Duh – but he won’t tell me where!  Hang on…go back to the sailor.  Say “wheel” to him – and he gives me the location.  URG.

Ok whatever, I’ve got all the bits and pieces now.  But what do I do with them?

Going through my notes I realise that each stone relates to a virtue, and each altar relates to one of the three principles.  I can also figure out which combination of the three principles creates each virtue.

Eventually I figure out that if I “use” the “stones” on an altar, I get the option of inserting 4 coloured stones.  On each altar I have to insert stones for each virtue that relates to that particular principle.  This is quite clever, because you can just use logic to figure out that, for example, “Sacrifice” is a combination of Courage and Love, and that “Honour” is both Truth and Courage.

 L – an altar containing a virtue stone; R – an altar room for one of the principles

This is unique, even by modern standards.  I can’t think of any other game that requires me to think philosophically about what drives “compassion”.

Each time I sort out an altar I get “part of a key”.  I remember reading about this…I need a 3 part key to enter the Abyss.  So that’s what the stones are for!

Eventually, I’ve got the key, and it’s time for the endgame.

Join me next time for when I finish this beast.

ADDENDUM:
It later occurred to me that in my excitement of nearing the endgame, I skipped over the negatives in these dungeons.  There is one big flaw worth mentioning – the rooms are way too crowded for a party of 8.  Your characters move one square per turn, and they can’t move through each other.  So realistically only 1-4 party members will ever be meaningfully involved per combat, but you’ll be forced to move each character, in order, every round.  That means it’s easy to press spacebar one to many times and accidentally skip your sole effective character, and so have to wait another round before you can actually do anything that turn.

This game does not need party sizes of up to 8.  It’s another example of where some extra content just makes the game bigger not better.
Credits:  Maps for Ultima III, Bard’s Tale and Ultima IV from (respectively) https://strategywiki.org/; The Adventurer’s Guild (http://brotherhood.de/Bardstale/talefiles/about/index.html) and http://ultima.wikia.com/.

ULTIMA IV PART FIVE – ENDGAME

 
FINISHED!!!
About 70 hours in.  The game is finally done.  Apparently Richard Garriott still sends out completion certificates.  When I finish V and VI and I’ll have to send him the screenshot for the entire series and get the set.
So how does the endgame go?
Once you find the wheel, you need to head to the last dungeon.  It can only be approached by sea, and there’s a lot of pirate ships near its only entry.
Each ship fires cannons (range 3) that do about 20hp damage and cannot be evaded.
I soon discover two things about the wheel – first, you must “use” it or it doesn’t do anything (yet another thing not explained); second, it doesn’t make you invincible, it just doubles the HP of your ship.
How I made these discoveries about the wheel
You don’t actually need the wheel; if you defeat a ship in hand-to-hand you can take it over.  So you could daisy-chain the ships across the bay, assuming you can stand about 10 lots of combat without stabbing yourself.
Eventually I cross the bay and head ashore.  The final dungeon is surrounded by poison and fire tiles that damage your party.  You’ve been told by clues that you need to “use” the “bell”, “book” and “candle” items to enter the last dungeon, but not told precisely where to stand.  Fortunately it’s pretty obvious.  What’s not so obvious is that once you use them nothing on-screen will change; there will be no dungeon entrance, you just have to “enter” anyway.  I figure that out eventually but I dance in and out of the fire a few times first.
Finding the dungeon entrance was probably not intended to be a puzzle.
Before I head in I remember that I’m holding Mondain’s skull (the villain from Ultima I) and I can throw his skull into the fiery abyss to destroy it.  There’s no “throw” command so I “use” it on the same spot where the dungeon appears,
This of course achieves…absolutely nothing.  Reading online I learn that it increases your virtue points, but if I didn’t already have those I wouldn’t be here.  Oh well.
The last dungeon is by far the best.  There’s a lot of rooms, and the main trick here is that they interlock like a maze, and usually the only way you can get through the maze is to find a secret passage.  Fortunately I’m using the clue book so I can narrow the search down a bit.  But the constant searching is very effective at grinding my health down, and I start to worry about running out of magic spells.  I have 99 of each reagent (the max allowed), but only about 20 of each spell.  I could have made a lot more healing spells before heading it, but you can’t make spells in bulk, you have to manually combine each reagent for each spell one at a time, and I have better things to do with my time.
More busywork that could’ve been cut out
At the end of each level there’s an altar where, if you “use” the “stones”, you are asked to identify a virtue and enter a corresponding stone.  You haven’t quite been asked these questions before, and it makes quite a good logic game actually, and again reinforces the “virtue” theme.
Answer correctly, and the altar turns into a ladder leading down
When you get down to the bottom there’s no end boss.  There’s a simple door, with the last altar and last question about the stones.  Insert the right stone and…the screen goes black.
You’re then asked by a disembodied voice to state the word of passage and then identify each of the 8 virtues and 3 principles by a slightly cryptic description.  An excellent way to end the game – hammering home again that the player must not just accrue virtue points like XP, you need to engage with and understand the concepts behind the virtues.
It’s another example of what Ultima IV does best – mechanically incentivise the player to engage with and invest in its word.
As you answer the 8 virtue questions, a design on the left side of the screen is slowly formed (like Hangman).  Then you’re asked the final riddle:
The final riddle.  Even knowing the answer, it does not entirely make sense
The final riddle apparently spawned a running joke which (I’m told) continues through the remaining games.  You see, there’s a talking horse in Ultima IV (“Smith the Horse”) that’s supposed to give you the answer to the final riddle  But accidentally, the relevant text box is blank.  Apparently Smith shows up in Ultima V and says “Oh I meant to tell you that the answer was...”
Fortunately he’s not the only clue.  Each time you master a virtue, a rune appears on the screen, and sensible me wrote them down.  I was wondering what they were for.  The game manual come with a “runic alphabet” which allows you to translate the runes, which gave me “FNYTNII“.  Oh, I get it (SPOILER below):
Lucky I was writing everything down
And that ends the game.  A voice tells you that you truly are a jolly good fellow, and you should go back to Earth and live as an example to everyone else (P.S.  Try not to get nailed to any bits of wood). Then you’re transported back to Earth.
And that, ladies and gents, is the end of Ultima IV.
Unlike all the other games I think this one was long enough and is significant enough to warrant its own blog post with a final run down, some comments on its design and verdict on how it holds up.  Stay tuned!
Time spent:         69 hours
Thoughts so far:  End game is way better than the middle.  Full review to follow.

 

2 thoughts on “Ultima IV – the “Let’s play” files

  1. Thank you! I am still figuring out the line between a “let's play” description, a game design analysis and a review. Whatever I do, detail will be one of the hallmarks of this blog. I hate meaningless commentary like “this game was fun” without specifics of why it was fun.

    Playtime is varied. Currently, it's mostly while my darling wife is working on her post-grad stuff while I'm looking after bub. So finding time to play non-kid-friendly games is hard.

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