From The CRPG Addict
|The King of Syree bestows the main quest.|
Facing an Ultima clone often sends me into a process akin to the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief.
- Denial: “Aw, hell. Not another Ultima clone. What–it even has a (Z)tats command? No. No $&@#!* way.”
- Anger: “What the hell was wrong with independent developers of the period anyway? Why did they all have to clone Ultima? Why aren’t there more Gold Box clones? Bastards!”
- Bargaining: “Okay, if someone has posted a world map to a spoiler site, I’ll play the damned game. Otherwise, I’m going to find a reason to reject it.”
- Depression: “Of course not. No one’s ever heard of it. Well, I guess I’ll start character creation. Oh, just a name? That’s original. Let’s enter the starting town. There’s an NPC. NAME. JOB. Good god, how many times am I going to have to do this?”
|The world of Sheol.|
|Was the jester really necessary?|
|Specifically, EIDO shows a 17 x 15 area where the regular view shows a 9 x 7 area.|
About half this session was spent grinding in the dungeons. The dungeon called Kehol has a particular purpose, which I’ll cover in a bit, but most of them seem to exist for just gold and experience. They’re all multi-leveled, the highest I’ve found going to Level 9. It’s probable that they all go that deep and I just didn’t find the ladders in all of them. As you descend, the monsters get harder but the chests have more treasure. More important, the dungeons are seeded with fountains. Some of them harm you, some heal you, and some do nothing. You have to find and record the positions of those that heal you, at which point you can grind nearly indefinitely on those levels.
|Opening multiple chests while I approach a fountain.|
Via grinding, I slowly assembled better equipment, culminating in a crossbow and plate armor, and then saved enough for a ship. (The game is like Ultima II in that killing enemies with cannons still rewards you with gold and experience. But it makes things fair by requiring you to shoot from an adjacent square, allowing them to attack you at the same time.) I then mapped the world and revisited or re-visited most of the locations. I was stymied in many of the cities by locked doors, and only late in this session did I finally find a guild shop, where you can buy keys, in the city of Yew.
|I blast a dragon off the map with my cannons.|
It also took me a while to figure out the magic system. I kept getting hints about spells and spell names, but I was unable to cast them because I didn’t have any magic points. It turns out that to cast spells, you have to develop a “wisdom” statistic which is set to 0 at the outset of the game. To do that, you have to descend into the dungeon called Kehol. At various level intervals, you find altars that increase your agility, stamina, and strength by 1 for every 100 gold pieces that you sacrifice.
|Approaching an altar in Kehol.|
On Level 9 of Kehol is an altar that gives you 1 point of wisdom for every 1 point of strength that you sacrifice. So you want to pay to build up your strength first, then trade it for wisdom. This involves multiple trips to other dungeons to collect money first, since Kehol has no chests of its own. Once you have wisdom, your spell points start to generate–1 for each point of wisdom. Spell costs start at 15-20 for basic offensive and healing spells and go as high as 99.
|Sacrificing strength for wisdom.|
On the main quest, one element of frustration is that NPCs are extremely obtuse in regards to the keywords they respond to. One says, “I used to forge armour.” The prompt for the next point is not FORGE or ARMOUR or even ARMOR, but rather USED. Late in the session, I discovered that if you only feed a single letter, the NPC will automatically fill in any keyword that begins with that letter and answer to it, so if you find yourself talking with a particularly taciturn NPC, you can get information out of him by just going through the alphabet.
Some of the quest lines I’m following:
- Grover the Terrified was hiding in a cave in Yew. He said that he was hiding from King Dakar of Garrett and his “hallucinations.” He recommended that I find a dispel spell to reveal the king for what “it” is. This spell might be the same as ALETHEIA, which “forces a liar to tell the truth.” ALETHEIA requires “infinite” magic points, but I met a former wizard named Donnal in Lost who said that he used to have “infinite magic” and that by talking with him I acquired his power to “cast one infinite magic spell.” I don’t know if that means one spell one time or one spell as many times as I need it. In any event, casting ALETHEIA and then talking to King Dakar doesn’t seem to do anything.
|I did hear he’s HYDRA.|
- At the healer in Barren Sheol, I find a king’s guard named Swiftwind who was injured trying to slay the wizard. Of the wizard, he’ll only say that he’s not where one expects him to be. But anyway, to defeat him I will need the Sword of Emara, forged by King Emara ages ago. (Emara is also the name of a city.) At the castle, King Telbor of Syree tells me that the Sword of Emara was stolen by Rancit (the evil usurper from the backstory), but King Emara might know where it is. This confused me, as King Emara is dead and buried in a sepulcher in the same castle, but another clue that “white blocks mark the tombs” inspired me to try talking to the tomb. When I did, I somehow ended up conversing with Emara, who told me to ask around the city of Coel for the saber.
|Speaking with King Telbor about the Sword of Emara. He’ll HEAL me if I ask.|
- I visited Coel late in this session because it requires a key to enter the main building. Coel is hidden amidst dark mountains and forests. The people are obsessed about their own safety and beg me not to tell other people that the city exists. No one responds to SABER, EMARA, or SWORD, but there’s a wizard on an island that I don’t know how to reach.
|In keeping with their desire to remain isolated, Coel’s prices are 10 times higher than anywhere else in the kingdom. I don’t even think you can amass that much gold. I think it caps you at 9,999.|
- Among the spells that people have told me about are EIDO (magic map), THERAPENO (heal), HAELAN (heal a lot), SEQUITU (escape a dungeon), THANATOS (kills an enemy), and HORATOS (see around trees–basically “lights up” dark forests). MAVETH causes “unnatural death,” but it just seems to kill me, not enemies.
|A wizard teaches me a new spell.|
My biggest obstacle at this point seems to be an inability to cross water without a boat. There’s one town, one dungeon, and at least one NPC that I can’t reach because of local water squares, so there must be some spell or device that I’ve missed that allows crossing water. I’ll have to circle the towns and try again.
- Ultima had a problem by which you could find artifacts by just searching at obvious places even if you hadn’t received a clue about them. Syree gets around this by making you specify what you’re searching for when you hit (S)earch.
- One of the things you can search for is books. There are two libraries in the game where you find books by standing to the right of the appropriate letter. It was a book called Treowth that gave me information about the ALTHEIA spell.
|Searching for a book in the library.|
- About half of the game’s files are music files. It apparently has different tunes for different situations. I can’t get any of the music to work, owing to some kind of Adlib problem. I wouldn’t play it anyway, but I at least wanted to mention it.
- Like a few of the early Ultima games, you can (T)alk to enemies as they attack. They shout insults and threats.
- Last entry, I couldn’t enter the castle because I was a peasant. The solution seems to be purchasing and wearing chain or plate armor, which marks you as wealthy, if not nobility.
- Other past kings named in the sepulcher: Donovin, Sharella, Favren, and Basilikos Mnemeion.
|I speak to a dead king among the remains of his ancestors and descendants.|
- You occasionally run into enemies frozen in place in the dungeons. You miss them with every attack and they don’t attack you at all, but they will insult you if you talk to them. I’m not sure if these are bugs or if they have some other purpose.
|I’m just going to have to find a way to live with not having access to that fountain.|
- One interface improvement over most Ultima clones (and Ultima itself): turns don’t automatically “pass” at regular intervals if you just stand there doing nothing. I appreciate not having to hunt for a “pause” if I want to take a break.
- You cannot save in dungeons or towns, only outdoors.
- If you try to cast a non-existent spell, the game wipes all your spell points. That seems a harsh punishment for a typo.
- Supposedly, “taphouses are a great source of rumors,” but I’ve never gotten a bartender to respond to a single keyword. I’ll have to re-visit them all and try the “one letter” trick.
- The game preached to me at one point. I don’t know if this is a reflection of the author’s beliefs or if I was supposed to get something in-game from this. I tried all the keywords from the resulting passage and got nothing.
|Why would this world even have the Christian bible?|
In the end, Syree has shaped up into a fair Ultima-like treasure hunt. I like the character development system (experience goes directly to maximum health) and the way that the altars serve as a near-endless money sink after you’ve bought the best stuff. If I can conclude it in another session, it will be a satisfying game.
Time so far: 11 hours