July 24, 2012

Ultima IV - Virtually Virtuous

Right.  About those stones of virtue.  We started off in an earnest attempt to drive hard for the bottom level where the stone presumably lies...  Got distracted by something.

♪ Call him Cash Cash Money
but his name is Jerome! ♫

The very first dungeon we entered had a level that contained a chest in every step.  These are replenished when the dungeon is exited.  The path down to the chesty level is quite short and fairly free of encounters.  Let's just say that even the high and mighty Dupre was caught drooling a bit at the notion of a gold grind.  Visions of heavier armour and +1 bows danced in our heads.  Wordlessly, we all glanced at each before giving a unanimous nod of approval.  No longer would the bountiful treasures in the castles and towns tempt us to steal them any longer.  These chests were rightfully ours!  Special thanks to whoever keeps replacing the chests!

Not so tempting now, are you.

This came at a good time as we needed new equipment since we had been leveling so much.  Encounter difficulty goes up along with level and our mediocre weapons just weren't cutting it anymore.  We also had plenty left over to top up on herbs to fuel our spells.  If I weren't so damn humble, I'd say our little group had become the muthafucking bomb and number one contender for the title of Avatar.  A quick trip to Hawkwind confirmed that I had achieved enough points in many of the virtues and could attain partial Avatarhood by visiting the corresponding temple and meditate.  Dungeons were on hold again as we took an all-expenses-paid, world-spanning trip to the temples.  We could have taken any one of our numerous ships that we had previously obtained by defending ourselves against pirates.  Pirates, while tough in the beginning, were now being cut down in record numbers and the ships they left behind were beginning to stockpile.  It got to the point that we could just hit up any coastline and there would be a ship full of pirates just waiting to get massacred by the destined Avatar.

Hey, Avatar!  Hey, over here!... OMG
you guys, he's coming over!  Squeeeeee!

Something seemed fishy about all this, however.  During all our times on the high seas, we never once saw a ship that wasn't a pirate ship.  I thought this was a time of peace but apparently the incredible pirate numbers have completely crushed all the trade routes.  Pirates are so desperate to be piratin' that they'll start a combat they have zero chance of winning.  Or perhaps they were hired by a certain Lord British who wanted to give us easy access to transportation but had the pirates put on a little act in order to disguise his helping hand.

Oh noes we have been defeated! The
ship is yours! *wink wink, nudge nudge*

With every party member carrying a missile weapon, most encounters are over fairly quickly (e.g. pirates have no missile weapons and therefore no chance).  Monsters are not fast enough to cross the distance of the battlefield and eventually succumb to heavy artillery fire.  There are some encounters that start with everyone mixed up (representing the party being surprised or ambushed) and melee weapons finally get some wear and tear.  I was hoping that the dungeon encounters would provide more opportunity for using terrain as cover, but unfortunately missile weapons ignore all terrains and can hit any target anywhere.

Jaana blasts an arrow through
several metres of rock.

Yeah, I eventually made it into the dungeons after achieving partial avatarhood to find my first dungeon stone.  I had already acquired the stone of humility aboveground (cuz I'm awesome like that) and so marched into the dungeon Covetous to seek the orange stone of sacrifice.  In addition to the normal random encounters, there are static room encounters that provide more than just a straight hallway to fight in.  Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned wall-hacking missile weapons, this means little to the outcome of the battle.  The good news is that there are chests and sometimes wandering around opens up a secret passage.  Making my way to the dungeon bottom, I used some gems (shows map of the immediate area) to sniff out some secret passages and found myself at the vault containing the orange stone.  A guardian at the vault needed to be sure I was worthy and so asked me, "Art thou one who would withhold the gift of thy own blood from a dying companion?".  Being one who is bursting at the seams with virtue, I of course answered no, I would not refuse to give my blood for a companion.  My reward was to be scolded and kicked out of the dungeon.  FFFFFFFUUUUUUUU-.  Thankfully my poorly drawn, mistake-laden maps led me back down in semi-hurry.

Fine, have it your way.  I WOULD
withhold my blood then.

Just the two stones are in my possession now.  Really have to get serious about those dungeons, right?  But wait, I just got a key which unlocks all those doors I've been seeing in the castles and towns.  Shouldn't take too long to go on another global tour and explore behind those doors.  It's mostly just meeting a few hint-happy folk anyhow.  What could I possibly find that would distract me from those dark and intriguing caverns?

Hot air balloon: The poor man's airship.