From The RPG Consoler
|A slight improvement on the standard black screen with The End|
Well that was an unexpectedly fast end. In fact, the game itself feels rushed: combat has some serious balance issues, the Avatar’s companions don’t level up, and combat spells are superfluous with no way to generate income to replenish reagents. When I dropped Jaana for the escaped Gorn inside Blackthorn’s castle, I was expecting a higher level character. Instead, he was level 3 as well, but at least his strength was higher. I found Hassad inside a cell, and received the word of power from him. Blackthorn was in the central hall, watching me do both without reacting.
|Don’t mind us, we’re just going to take Gorn, and be on our way|
Blackthorn stands guard in front of a sealed door. Talking to him results in combat with four daemons unless the Avatar has learned the oppression’s secret password. There’s also an insignia badge to gain as well, but it’s only the password that’s necessary to avoid combat. Beyond that door is Lord British’s crown, the power of which was greatly overstated. It’s said to seal magic, but the enemies don’t even use magic.
|Banishing the second shadowlord, I just noticed that equipped items are all blue or white, which isn’t the same as they appear in inventory|
After Hythloth was completed, and the shadowlord banished, my only lead was to speak to the owner of the Arms of Justice. The reason it took so long to find was because I didn’t note the place. I didn’t note it because they didn’t sell anything there. It was just a man. His name is Chamfort, the smithy. He was already useful in giving me a mantra, so I wrote him off when I first visited Empath Abbey and Yew. On this subsequent visit, he gave me the password to the resistance. Giving this to Thurd, to get the jeweled sword, only rewarded me with a regular sword. Providing it to Landon, and then Fiona provided the power word for Covetous.
|At the bottom of Covetous was a full set of magic equipment for the entire party|
I was still missing the power word and location for dungeon Wrong, which was the key to getting rid of the final shadowlord. Without a good lead, I went through dungeon Destard, which led to the amulet that allowed me to enter dungeon Doom. I hadn’t found that either, or its power word (turns out it didn’t need one). So, without any more leads I dived into Shame, which led to Doom, where I immediately died to the shadowlord of hatred. I suppose that’s the reason we need to banish them.
|Dying is actually the only time we see Lord British, and he’s not even really there|
So, the way to Wrong was the only way to go. To find it I searched every mountain range, and discovered it far to the west of Minoc after searching many others. The word of power I lucked upon. There’s an NPC in the jail of British Castle. His greeting (first thing he says), is “Good Morning” with the dialogue option to ask his job. Every NPC has different options, and some unlock additional topics either through conversation with them or a different NPC that refers to them. The answer to his job, “prisoner.” That’s it. This gave me no indication, and no one else did, that he was a member of the resistance. A different prisoner mentioned the resistance, so I decided to check out his options after learning the password. Nothing new was gained, so I thought why not talk to the rest of the prisoners. Pure luck.
|British’s Sceptre was used to banish the magic barriers in Doom, and I thought, the crown must be useful for something|
With the final shard gained from Wrong, I banished the final shadowlord, and returned to Doom. With no guardians, the dungeon was the same as any other. I made my way through it thanks to the pack-in map, and arrived at a house with a mirror. Taking the direct hint to use the box from British’s castle on the mirror, I freed British and the ending played out. Suddenly, Lord British had an orb that opened gateways, and we were speaking to Blackthorn.
|Blackthorn was given an ultimatum of facing punishment or exile through a strange red gate I could swear I’ve seen before|
Blackthorn chose banishment. Lord British then sent the avatar home after a grand banquet. All is right once again. What was in the box? We’ll never know. A lackluster ending to a lackluster edition of this game. I’ll say it again, it feels rushed.
Elapsed Time: 4h25m (Final Time: 15h00m)
|We don’t even get to see the banquet|
Combatant – There’s no strategy to combat. In the beginning, monsters are so deadly it’s best to avoid it completely. The punishment for dying is nearly nonexistent though, so explore away. Stats do play a role, but there’s some reaction time to activating combat, and the AI won’t attack until the Avatar attacks. If monsters dropped chests or gold, maybe it’d be worth it; as it is, it’s not.
Admirer – The controls are terrible. There’s no customization (e.g. the Avatar is always male). The only thing I could partially credit here is the ability to advance in power through repeated combat. That’s a tedious proposition though, and not very rewarding.
Puzzler – There are enough clues to discover and continue on with the main quest. Strangely, there aren’t any side quests. I suppose some of the main quest feels optional (going to shrines and meditating), but they aren’t really differentiated from the main. I awarded points for the open world, and multiple ways to approach each task along the main quest. There wasn’t anything obviously out of place.
Instigator – The best aspect of this game is done better on PC with a vastly deeper world, more NPCs, and a parser far beyond what a menu driven system can handle. The descriptions for places, items, and inventory is severely lacking with 3 types of scrolls and talisman all with the same generic name (only color or shape differentiate them). For an Ultima game, I should give negative marks for the lack of player influence on the story. No matter who you rob, or how you act, there are no consequences. The Avatar can turn over Fiona to the oppression, or sell out the resistance to Thurd, and nothing changes.
|This wasn’t that bad, at least things were identifiable|
Collector – There are a lot of items, and a very limited inventory. I had to drop many items as I came across them. It’s hard to tell if one weapon is better than another, but the armor is fairly obvious. In the end, find the magic equipment, and you can ignore nearly everything else. I say ‘nearly’ because gold is still an issue, and the best way to accumulate wealth is by finding equipment and selling it off.
Explorer – During the game, the entire game, there’s one, one music track. In towns, in the wilderness, at sea, in dungeons, in the underworld, everywhere, one track. There are also no sound effects. Just the music, on a 20 second loop. All game. Now, that’s not the only music the game has to offer. There’s the title music, the intro music, and the ending music. Combined, you hear those for maybe three minutes. The world is somewhat interesting at first, at least the towns, but there’s nothing really to discover–merely equipment, potions, and scrolls.
|Second helping of blame|
Final Rating: 17 [28%]
Overall a poor rendition of an Ultima game. I’m not sure what motivated Origin to take over development of this console port, but as you can see, none of the Quest of the Avatar development team was involved. It’s difficult to find information on why the changing of the guard took place. Maybe the previous two games didn’t sell well in Japan… notably, it seems this title was released only in the US. Maybe the company that ported Quest of the Avatar were too busy with the port of The False Prophet, which we’ll see early in 1994 (although some sources place it in late 1993). Anxiously, I see that they were not involved in The Black Gate, which seems to be all Origin staff once again.
Moving on, we have Gauntlet IV. I’ll have an extensive post about why I consider it an RPG, or an extensive post about why I was fooled into thinking it was one. Place your bets now.