From The CRPG Addict
|Our hero meets a “dame der nact.”|
Things are coming together in the Dark Dimension. You will recall that I’ve been warped to this land to save it from an Evil One who shattered a crystal that previously “kept the land in balance.” I need to find the crystal’s splinter and then somehow unite it with the crystal to restore the sun and save the land. Along the way, I might need to solve a couple of side quests, like rescuing the princess from a dragon.
As I wrapped up last time, I was recalling a clue that said to talk to the mages of the Black and White circles about the Evil One. I began this session with such a discussion and received, in turn, a major part of the main quest. It turns out that the Evil One was conjured by the master of the Black Circle (no matter how much German games try to sell you on the idea that black and white don’t necessarily mean good and evil, the black mages are always up to something sinister). When he realized what a mistake he’d made, he wrote the name of the Evil One on a clay tablet, which shattered when the Evil One crispened the Black Circle’s master. Each piece was given to a druid and hidden in one of the seven major cities.
|A druid knows the order of one of the tablets.|
Last time, I was a bit mystified as to the use of the druids and mages in each city. It turns out that the mages know the location of the tablet in their cities, and the druids know the order of the tablets. Together, I’ve figured out six of the seven letters, spelling TROFN_H. I haven’t found the final city yet. I’m frankly surprised it wasn’t MONDAIN.
|Finding another once of the pieces.|
I continued my systematic exploration of the main island. In the city of Ackbah, in the southwest, I met a prophet named Mohammed who preached about the god Rastullah. Mohammed said that he used to be a warrior, wielding a dragon-slaying sword called Sicaria Draconem, but after Rastullah told him to lay down his weapons, he buried the sword. He’ll reveal its location for 1,500 gold pieces. I left the city with three major financial goals: 1500 for the location of the sword, 1000 for the location of the magic elven bow, and 1000 for a ship.
I did buy a horse in Ackbah. When you spur it to a gallop, it goes double speed and finally I could outrun monsters.
|Coming upon a dungeon entrance while on horseback.|
I ran across the first dungeon I’ve found, called Höhle, but I couldn’t explore because I didn’t yet have a “Magic Light” spell or any torches. I also suspected I wasn’t smart enough to learn the spell even if I could find the White Circle.
I thus settled in for a period of grinding, focusing mainly on the bridges. Trolls deliver a reliable 12 gold pieces per troll plus often double that in gold. I soon had over 1,000 gold and rose two levels. Last time, I said that enemies scale with you, but that isn’t quite true. The maximum size of an enemy party seems to scale with you, and some individual enemy types don’t appear until higher levels, but you still often find parties of one orc or a single skeleton. It thus seems that the maximum difficulty scales rather than the minimum, which in my opinion is the way to do scaling.
|Large enemy parties like this are more common as you level up.|
Horses make it possible to cross swamp without inevitably getting poisoned, and thanks to my horse I was able to cross a swampy patch in the northeast to find a new city, Muspel, populated by dwarves. Unfortunately, I spent all my hard-won gold on a magic lamp (300), the location of the reagent Alraune (500), and the location of the wreck of the Windjagd, where I can supposedly find a magic axe (500). I also found an intelligence trainer in Muspel, but I had only leveled enough to increase by two points, and when I finally found the White Circle tower nearby, that still wasn’t enough.
Back I went to grinding, but this time (now that I had the magic lamp) in the dungeon Höhle. As in the game’s source, Ultima IV, dungeon exploration is in the first-person. Levels are a small 11 x 11 and use the “worm tunnel” approach. Progress seems to be about navigating all the up and down passages and finding copious secret doors.
|There’s a secret door in practically every wall.|
Unlike Ultima games, enemies don’t appear in the environment. Neither do traps or treasure. Instead, any step has a possibility of generating a monster, gold, or a pit, even ones you’ve already been over.
Combat is much quicker and more direct than on the surface. You only face one enemy at a time, directly in front of you. There’s no consideration of terrain or distance. It was much faster to grind in the dungeon, except that I kept getting poisoned by zombies or slimes and had to keep leaving to walk to the druid’s hut for healing.
|Fighting a headless in the dungeons.|
You can’t save in dungeons, so I didn’t get very far. I left when I had over 1,500 gold again and could finally purchase a ship.
After crossing the continent to Thorwal again, I finally had my ship. Just like Ultima IV, it comes with cannons, but you don’t get any experience or gold from blasting enemies with them. Still, they’re a great way to take out parties that you’d rather not fight, leaving only more desirable foes. It’s also convenient to fight from the ship because the limited terrain helps ensure that you can funnel them to you.
|I’ll blast the horses but fight the orcs.|
I begin exploring counter-clockwise around the continent, checking out various islands. I found the wreck of the Windjagd and its magic axe, which just as in Ultima IV (sorry to sound like a broken record with that phrase) serves as both a melee weapon and ranged weapon and returns to your hand when thrown. It’s handy, but not noticeably more likely to hit or damage foes than the regular axe I’d been using previously.
|I’m not really sure how I’m searching.|
An island off the west coast is this game’s version of Buccanneer’s Den. Called Mubrak, it offers illegal reagents, prostitutes, gambling, and a peep show. I had to bribe guards just to enter. Paying money for the peep show was necessary to see this town’s piece of the clay tablet. Meanwhile, one of the prostitutes said she’d been with a druid and confirmed everything the Black Circle representative told me about the tablets, the druids, and the mages.
|I hope Google doesn’t slap a “mature audiences” tag on my blog for this.|
The gambling game was a fun little version of blackjack (called teufel, or “devil”) where the goal is to reach 13 rather than 21. I lost more than I won, however, so I didn’t spent a lot of time there. A broke gambler sold me a compass for 150. A warrior named Arnor confirmed that I’d need a magic weapon and armor to kill the evil dragon (I’ve heard nothing about magic armor yet).
|This was not a smart wager.|
I also found a beggar playing a magic glass flute and bought it from him for some large amount of gold. In another city, a bard had told me about losing the flute and said that it had something to do with making crystals vibrate. I suspect I’ll need it at some point.
After Mubrak, I continued searching islands and one of them turned out to be the lost island of Uyrp, yielding a 1000-gold piece treasure. That gives me enough for the magic bow. I need to grind some more for the dragon-slaying sword.
|Searching every island pays off.|
I know there’s at least one city left to explore, but I think I’ve hit most of them, which means the hard part of the game (all the translation) is mostly over. I need to keep grinding, raise my intelligence some more (I found a charisma trainer, but I can’t see wasting slots on that), buy the magic items, and then see about heading towards an endgame.
Time so far: 17 hours