July 13, 2012

[Game 023] Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (NES - 1989)


Sequel to the very first game of my gauntlet, Quest of the Avatar improves on every single aspect of Exodus.  Not a particularly hard challenge, I know, but QotA also does something unprecedented up until now — the main quest is not to save the world or kill a foozle.  Britannia is enjoying peaceful times and Lord British is looking for the one who would become the Avatar, a living embodiment of the eight righteous virtues.  In order to become worthy of Avatarhood, Shen must excel in all the virtues: honesty, valour, compassion, justice, sacrifice, honour, spirituality, and humility.  It is because of these virtues that I never finished the game while I was a hormonally charged youth.

FILTHY URCHIN!  HOWST DARETH
THOU BEG UNTO ME?!  *facestab*.

Some of the virtues translate pretty obviously into gameplay elements.  Losing valour for fleeing combat or giving gold for compassion are pretty self-evident.  Virtues like spirituality or humility are tougher to figure out.  Just by wanting to become "the best" in all the virtues is already at odds with humility.  Luckily the game employs a virtuous gauge in the form of a wise seer residing at Lord British's castle.

♫ The wind of time is blowing
through meee...  ♪

Each virtue is connected with a character class (e.g. Paladin is linked with honour) and the player's starting class is determined by a series of scenario questions related to the virtues.  I used to think that this was an awesome way of determining a class.  Looking at it now, however, the system used is extremely basic and obvious.  The questions are always the same and pit two virtues against each other.  After half are eliminated, the process repeats two more times with the remaining virtues until just one is left.  Making things even easier is having the character class picture on each side of the scene.  One could get the class they wanted without even having to read a single word; just pick one picture and then always choose it.  The other virtues don't matter.

Duhhhh, I think I'll be the shepherd, duhhhh.

The MacGuffins needed within the game are all virtue-aligned as well.  QotA utilizes two sets of items: runes and stones.  Runes are usually found in towns and allow access to the corresponding temple where the hopeful Avatar can meditate (oh hey, that probably increases spirituality, duh).  Stones are found in dungeons and also have a colour associated with it.  I haven't found any of those yet.  In fact, the entire group is around level 6 and I've only mapped one level of one dungeon.  The beginning of the game starts the player off with just the main character.  In order to gather more members, travel to the other towns is necessary.  But the other characters don't always join right away and a certain level needs to be reached before they will.  I had my heart set on the paladin, Dupre.  Every time I would gain a level and still get rejected by the sassy Dupre, my determination to grind out another level was increased tenfold.

*sigh* I should have just started as you.

The mage, Mariah, was another one that I wanted but would not initially join.  For a paladin and a mage, this makes sense.  They belong to powerful classes and I respect them for not just idly joining any old group.  Katrina the shepherd though?  This is a character that the game manual itself describes as having no fighting or magic ability and limited use of weapons and armour.  She should be begging to join with Shen and the others.  BEGGING!  Not only that, but her hometown is in ruins, the ground is poisonous to walk on, and the majority of the inhabitants are monsters (albeit the chatty kind, not the fighty kind).

Oh, okay, we'll come back later.
*snicker* (We totally didn't)

Anyway, the four characters I wanted now comprise the core group: ranger, fighter, paladin, and druid.  Druid could be swapped out for mage if more spell power is needed down the road but I doubt it.  Anyone with magical ability has access to the same spells as everyone else.  The more dedicated spell casting classes just seem to have larger reservoirs of magic.  There's no major distinctions between the classes, similar to Exodus, so swapping will likely be at a minimum.  With Dupre by my side, the party is finally ready to tackle some dungeons and get us some stones.