Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

RPG expert Ocean has already played Ultima V for the site, and now he's gone and found another one to play.

I'm not going to go and play EVERY Ultima ever, don't worry. I just happened to acquire Ultima IV from for free so I figured I'd try it out. I think Ray FORCED me to play it for the blog. He doesn't even pay me. Please donate a pizza to me...

In Brightgreen land, you are by... I guess a weeping willow. Looks like they went all happy with the MS Paint spray can. I feel their pain though, they had very few colors to work with.

Anyway, a blue gate comes up and drops an Ankh and a book randomly, you pick them up then you get here. I assume the book of history came packaged with the game because it asks you to read it, inside the cutscene itself. GOG is nice enough to include these as pdfs for you to download. You'll want to get these.

So you go to a Renaissance faire and go to eat a turkey leg. You are treated like a regular random customer until they notice you have an Ankh. Then you are sent to...

...a secluded gypsy wagon in the woods. Oh no, that "talks too much" gypsy will ask you a bunch of questions, like so:

And then have you narrow them down. I think these are more straightforward then the Ultima V ones. I ultimately got Compassion.

Sent out into the overworld with 300 HP, 300 Food, 200 Gold, and Britannia right by us. Reminds me of Ultima V already. I feel a lot stronger than my Ultima V self though, seeing as how I started with 60 HP there. However I'm travelling solo right now, so I'd need to look for my companions.

Here's an ankh. Since this is an earlier game, items on a level are not quite as defined as they are in the next game. Ultima V had all these dressers, cabinets, barrels, objects and all. This game usually likes to represent things as a box with a purple line around it with a word on it.

And sometimes I flat out don't know what I'm looking at. This purple/pink stuff I'm standing on is animated.

The seer tells me things, such as how well I'm doing in each of the virtues. You see, this game is less about DEFEATING THE DARKLORD, and more about finding the virtues and praying at each of the shrines. It is a nice change from the games of the past at least.

It'll still give me that "I don't know what you mean" dialogue if I respond this way. If this were a modern game, it'd have the list of topics you can talk about to someone, and open up more as you talk to them or find out more info. But here, you have to type out every keyword you know. 'Job' is the easiest one to start with at least. You can get more information from them after that.

Ultima V Lazarus does a system like the one I mentioned before. You can get that here:  It's based on the Dungeon Siege engine so I think you'll need to own that game first. You can get more info about that on the site.

Yeah yeah, that isn't gonna work.

I'm just over here to show Lord British, next to a sign helpfully labelled 'BRITISH'. He'll be reviving you (that's quite the power) if you get a game over while away. So basically, I'll be seeing a lot of Lord British.

Then I go to the nearby town....

We meet this bard named Iolo. I remember an Iolo from Ultima V, he was on my team!... Yeah thanks for not helping, I'll find someone BETTER!

Unlike Ultima V, I haven't found places to loot or search, so I've had to actually buy all my equipment. In that game there were lots of items to take from towns, and I liked that better.

Oh wow, I finally stumbled onto a helpful NPC? There is no quest log, so either you should complete each task before you forget, or write things down. I just relied on my memory, because I wasn't going to play the game for THAT long. Off to the hall!

I get another quest here. These aren't the "Gain 200 Gold, talk to the villager with the ! above their head to redeem quest" types of quests. Or at least I think they're not, as I never actually solved any. Here they tell me about Mondain and that a skull of his remains, so I should probably destroy it. I guess that is something I'll ask about if I find this den.

They mentioned a shrine to Compassion over in the east past 2 bridges, so I decided to go see if I could find it.

Bridge trolls attacked me while going over a bridge! I had a slingshot (that's all I could afford) so I am doing long ranged attacks. My in-battle character looks different. And weird.

I'm sure someone in-game or in the manual might tell you what the combinations of reagents will give you. From blind experimentation I've learned that combining 2 things I had in that time makes a Cure Spell which removes your poison. And knowing Ultima games, poison is THE thing that'll give me game overs.

I saw this and was like "woah, what is THAT?" and it turns out it's a Daemon. I thought it'd be one of those "too powerful for you" battles but it was quite manageable.

Just as I expected really. Enemies don't do much damage to me (like 10 damage or miss while my HP is 300), but poison quickly lowers my HP to 0. It wasn't even that Daemons fault.

I decided to go another way. South instead of east. So I (with the help of my map.pdf) found this town of Trinsic. Guess what everyone will be talking about here.

Honor. EVERYONE will be talking about Honor here.

Every NPC in a town talks about the one virtue their town is under. Playing this game, I've realised I really didn't give Ultima V enough credit. They had guards that wanted to arrest you if you didn't bribe them, people in resistance movements, people living their own lives, people suspicious of you... yeah now it just feels like a bunch of paladins talking about how it's good to have honor. Apparently they're still much better than the one liner Ultima I-III NPCs...

(TIP: People will only respond to the first 4 letters you type out. So if you want to ask about someones HEALTH, all you need to type is Heal. Want to talk about Britannia? Brit is fine.)

That's a random way of saying "Don't attack enemies that flee" and "don't steal". I attacked fleeing enemies anyway, but they still leave a treasure whether you kill them or let them run. I think it takes a hit on your honor or some other trait if you kill too many fleeing enemies. I didn't get far enough to check. Each of your virtue stats is being tracked though, which is what that Seer in the Britannia castle tells you. I had high compassion because I started off with that trait but I guess I have to work for the others.

I can't remember what compelled me to check, but I was just randomly asking people to join, and I got Dupre in my team! He has a Sword and a Chain Mail, which are pretty nice. I assume. It costs more than I could afford for my character so it must be, even if it doesn't show you their stats.

South and west? That isn't far from here, I think I finally have an immediate quest I could do! Let's check out that shrine.

With a name like Swindrik, I feel he's just gonna swindle me somehow. He asks me what the most powerful reagent is, which I wouldn't know right now. I only had Garlic, Ginseng and something else. I know Sulfuric Ash exists as one but that wasn't the answer. He does tell you some info if you figure it out.

With Dupre in the team, he goes in close and attacks with his sword, while I use my new bow and attack from afar. I can hit someone across the screen just as long as they're directly ahead of me. Which is nice. Mostly I still can't afford that sword and chainmail so that's why...

So I went south of Trinsic. Was just wandering around here wondering where that shrine could be, when eventually this blue gate came up! So it's time to see where it leads. Figures I got someone poisoned again. Chests can be trapped so that's usually how I get poisoned...

I thought I was gonna have to fight these monsters, but apparently it's a peaceful (mostly) monster town. Or undead town. You'll never guess, but I got poisoned later too and then we both died trying to find an inn to sleep at. Back to Britannia.

Decided to go northwest this time and visit this town of... Empath Abbey. I had to look it up because I forgot the name already. Nothing really happens in the town other than people talking about LOVE.

I love you both, my twins (who are actually the Lord and Lady of Empath Abbey). I think the R and M stand for the first initial of their names. Not sure. No shops in town, no one to join me on my quests, and it would be quite a trek back to Britannia or Trinsic or any of the other areas. So I decided to stop here.

How does Ultima IV compare with V? I think it's an unfair comparison honestly. Ultima V improved on a lot from IV, but I think Ultima IV was pretty innovative for Ultima at the time. Introducing the concepts of virtues, where it's not all about defeating some big monster and saving the world. I think Ultima IV was introducing a lot of the concepts that Ultima V would then expand on later. I actually thought it was a little easier to see what my quests and objectives were in Ultima IV but I guess maybe that's because there's less NPCs that flatout tell you where to go in Ultima V. I guess with all the additions V had, it felt like there was a lot more to do in each area.

I was still relatively enjoying IV though, though I knew I wasn't going to play that far into it. These games have some interesting ideas that I almost feel like doing something with, even if I'm not like the biggest Ultima fan or anything. Maybe I'll mock up something one of these days...

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