The Let's Play Archive

Ultima 4, 5, and 6

by Nakar

Part 20: Let's Play Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny!

Let's Play Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny!

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny is, naturally, the sequel to Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Many years after the player becomes the Avatar, Britannia has need of him/her again. This time, mysterious Shadowlords stalk and corrupt the country and the draconian Lord Blackthorn oppresses the people with a self-righteous police state that twists the Virtues into inflexible laws.

Also, there are Glass Swords. Awesome.

The Story (Taken From The Intro)

The Summoning

From nowhere, smoky wisps of clouds begin to form in the clear, moonlit sky. In a few short moments the sky is filled with dark, ominous clouds that completely block the moon's pale light. Your bedroom is bathed in quiet darkness as you lie sleeping lightly.

Something rouses you and your eyes open sleepily to be met by a soft, blue glow reflecting from the wall. Slowly, you turn your head until you can see the source of the light. You take a quick breath as you see that the light is emanating from a shimmering circle suspended over your bed.

As you look at the light, a darkening begins to appear in its center. The darkening gradually materializes into a form you suddenly recognize as the symbol of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom! The last time you saw such as this light was beyond the circle of stones in the nearby woods. That prior occasion marked the quest that forever changed the course of your life.

You stare as the light begins to diminish and finally wink out. Something falls softly onto the bed. Reaching out, you turn on the light at your bedside. There, lying before you, is an amulet. You hesitantly reach for it. Gripping it tightly in your hand, your finger automatically traces over the familiar etching on its surface. Finally! Finally! A sign from Britannia! It has to be! It could be nothing else.

Jumping from your bed, you hastily pull on some clothes. With a few long strides you cross the room to stand before a glass case sitting on a shelf. Visible beneath the glass, resting upon a velvet cloth, is the Ankh, symbol of your avatarhood. Reverently, you open the glass case and remove it. If what you think is happening is truly happening, then you may have need of this.

You open the door of your bedroom and step out. Hesitating, one hand on the door, you look back wondering if you will ever return. Shaking your head of these thoughts, you pull the door closed and leave the house.

With the aid of an occasional moonbeam piercing the dark cloud cover, you head for the circle of stones near the willow tree in the nearby woods. Strange shadows cast by the moonlight filter down through the treetops as thoughts of the past race through your mind. Your attention is returned to the present as you see, just ahead, the circle of stones.

Often had you come here and sat for hours at a time, hoping to once again see the shimmering blue door that would allow you to return to Britannia, to those whose friendship had come to mean so much. But never had the blue door reappeared. Less frequently you came, until finally, sadly, you gave up altogether.

With renewed hope, you stand before the circle of stones, the Ankh in one hand and the amulet in the other. Minutes slip by and nothing happens. Impatience turns to anxiety. The gate must open! The mystical arrival of the amulet could mean nothing else! Long do you stand htere, until the amulet slips from your grip and falls within the circle of stones.

While you stare dejectedly at the amulet lying within the circle, you notice a bluish shimmering in the air above the amulet. Looking down at the ankh in your hand, you see it is also enveloped in a soft blue glow. Carefully, you place the glowing Ankh beside the amulet.

Instantly, a shimmering blue door springs up! With heart beating rapidly, you step into it.

The Arrival

Your senses are jerked from their momentary disorientation by a blinding streak of lightning that strikes with a thunderous crash not more than a hundred feet from you.

You are standing in a clearing surrounded by a dark and forbidding forest. Overhead, roiling, black clouds fill the sky while thunder and lightning continue to crash around you. Britannia! It must be Britannia! But something is wrong. Instead of the sense of elation expected upon returning here after all these years, you are overcome with a foreboding sense of wrongness.

"My friend!" shouts someone from behind you. A familiar voice from the past causes you to whirl about. Racing toward you is Shamino, someone you thought you might never see again.

Strongly grasping your hand, he exclaims, "We were afraid the summoning would fail! 'Tis nigh impossible to use any magic without invoking intervention from Blackthorn. Let us not tarry for the summoning has surely not gone unnoticed."

Trusting your friend's judgment, you hold your many questions until a safer time. Hastily you retrieve the amulet and Ankh that lie at your feet, but before you can move, the very darkness about you begins to swirl and change. Three shapes begin to materialize in the murky gloom. "Shadowlords!" hisses Shamino through clenched teeth. Quickly, he draws his sword and moves between you and the barely discernable shapes.

The foremost apparition traces a pattern in the air with a wispy forefinger. An ebony black arrow solidifes before it and hangs suspended for a moment, then, with a flick of its hand, the Shadowlord casts the glowing bolt at Shamino. The arrow strikes him full in the chest! Dropping his sword, he sinks to the ground, lines of pain, and something worse, etched into his face.

The dark forms close in around you. At your feet, Shamino's body convulses in pain, but not a sound escapes his lips. Without warning, the amulet, tightly gripped in your hand, emits a bright blue glow. Upon seeing the amulet the Shadowlords shrink back. The wispy shadows start to swirl and fade back into the inky darkness from whence they came.

Shamino lies upon the ground, body twisted in agony, the dark arrow protruding from his chest. A normal arrow could not cause such pain; it must be the evil enchantment with which it was created. Realizing it must be removed, you jerk the arrow from Shamino's body and hurl it with all your might. The air about the arrow crackles as it flies into the darkness.

Shamino's body relaxes. Inspecting the bloody wound, you notice it is already beginning to fester from the foulness with which the bolt was conjured.

"We will find aid at Iolo's. It is but a short walk to the east," Shamino mutters. With a grim determination, you help Shamino to his feet and half-carry him out of the clearing and eastward through the forest.

The Story

Within a short time, the soothing sounds of a lute being masterfully played can be heard through the forest ahead. Rounding a bend in the path, you see a dim light emanating from a small hut nestled among the trees. Approaching the hut, you loosen an arm from around Shamino and knock on the heavy wooden door. The lute playing stops abruptly to be replaced by the muffled clinking of metal.

"Who goes there?" demands a familiar voice from within. Leaning wearily against you, Shamino mutters, "Open the door, thou son of a goat, before I donate all my blood to decorate thy doorstep!"

The door jerks open to reveal the familiar form of Iolo standing framed within the doorway. Reaching out to help Shamino, Iolo turns to you with a grimace. "My friend, thou art a sight for sore eyes! I see that Shamino, as usual, has been unable to stay out of trouble." His casual remarks cannot mask his deep concern as he helps Shamino to a bed and carefully tends to his wound.

After seeing to Shamino, Iolo fills two mugs with a foaming broth and beckons you to a coarse wooden table next to the warm hearth. "'Tis good to see thee after these many long years, my friend. It seems thy summoning didst not go unnoticed. From the looks of Shamino's wound I'd say thou dost now know of the Shadowlords."

You recount to Iolo the events of your arrival. Your patience giving out, a flood of questions erupts from you.

"Slowly, my friend," Iolo smiles, "make thyself at ease and I will tell thee of the bitter events that have brought us to these dark times.

"Not long after thy departure, Lord British and the most prominent wizards of Britannia gathered at his castle and called a meeting of the Great Council.

"Among the acts of the Council was the sealing of the dungeons that lie beneath Britannia in the hopes of entombing the foul denizens that dwell within. Some creatures still manage to escape, but their eyes are unaccustomed to light. They rarely roam the countryside by day, but wary must be the traveler by night!

"Another act of the Great Council, and by far the most difficult, was to raise the Codex from the depths of the Abyss. The influx of the combined magical power of the Great Council disrupted the very bowels of Britannia. Where once was the Abyss, now stands an immense mountain, created from the molten lava that spewed forth.

"Unbeknownst to the COuncil, our new and glorious mountain left an enormous void over which all of Britannia rests. Some speculate that the dungeons may reach into this underground void at their deepest levels. It is believed that the underworld has become a vast breeding ground for creatures who have grown into horrors far worse than their original forms.

"A band of adventurers chanced upon a tunnel beneath the river that flows through Spiritwood, where one of the caverns collapsed, opening a passage to the Underworld. They returned, weary and bewildered, with tales of creatures that mount the dark air and others that shake the ground.

"Lord British was intrigued by these tales and gathered an entourage of stalwart fighters to accompany him into the Underworld. But his party was overwhelmed by the tremendous number and power of these creatures, though they fought valiantly.

"Panic erupted throughout Britannia when the sole survivor of the expedition returned with a small parchment upon which was recorded the dread tale of their journey!" Iolo pauses momentarily as he reflects upon these dark thoughts.

"Blackthorn, a trusted but ambitious subject, took over the ruling of Britannia to calm the ensuing chaos. This we accepted until the Shadowlords appeared. They corrupted Blackthorn in some manner unbeknownst to us, and Blackthorn's reign is now one of oppression and tyranny. Through him the meaning of the virtues have been corrupted to serve the self-righteous!

"Shamino, myself, and others thou hast known have been declared outlaws by Blackthorn's regime and must skulk about as common criminals. We keep distance between ourselves so that we canst not be rounded up in one fell swoop. But this cannot go on forever. Blackthorn and those hellish Shadowlords are bleeding Britannia. Rule must be restored to Lord British, if he still lives!

"The gravity of the matter compelled us to risk a meeting. We arrived at the only possible answer: attempt to summon thee, my friend, to aid us in our quest to discover the fate of Lord British. The risk was great, for no use of strong magical power goes unnoticed by the Shadowlords, but we felt there was no other choice."

Shaking off the gloom of his tale a jovial glint returns to Iolo's eye. He nods in Shamino's direction and says, "But, since thou art here, my friend, and hath not else to do I'm sure, what say thee we nursemaid this poor excuse for an adventurer back to some semblance of health, then embark upon our quest? If life still breathes within Lord British, we shall restore him as the rightful ruler of Britannia!"

What's New in Ultima V?

U5 plays very much like U4. Same top-down grid-based view and everything. The primary difference is that U5 has a generally more approachable interface, although it is controlled mostly by the same hotkeys. Let's take a moment to go over some changed game features.

First, there's the character transfer. The Avatar starts U5 at level 3 or so with stats close to 20, varied a bit by the answers you provide to the gypsy (which is identical to the one in U5). This determines what class you "were" in U4, and gives you some adjusted stats accordingly.

However, transferring a maxed-out Avatar is a lot more interesting. First notice our experience. It gets slashed all the way to 999, but that's enough to make us start several levels higher, at 5. The Avatar him/herself must be level 8 by the end of Ultima V! It's absolutely required for completing the game. Fortunately, only the Avatar needs to be level 8, and there are ways to get lots of experience for only the Avatar. It doesn't hurt that we now start much closer to the goal.

Stats in U4 are the same in U5, but what they mean has changed. They went up to 50 in U4, but in U5 they go only as far as 30 (where they will largely remain capped for most of the games). While I don't retain maxed stats, it will be pretty trivial to get from 25 to 30 over the course of the game. Leveling up can grant some stats, and there are quests the Avatar can embark on to gain up to +4 in each stat.

As to classes, there are now only four, and they mean a lot less than they used to. They are:

Avatar - The Avatar is you. The only Avatar in the game is you, the Avatar, which is what you are, an Avatar. The Avatar gets all the advantages of every other class and none of the downsides. Powerful stats, all weapons and armor available more or less immediately, full spellcasting power, the works. Get used to it, you've earned it (well, I've earned it), now you're the Avatar and you're awesome.

Fighter - Fighters, Rangers, and Paladins (and possibly Shepherds) are now just Fighters. They have good strength, can use weapons and armor faster and more adeptly than others at first, and have no spellcasting ability. They're not all that useful, which is unfortunate since both Shamino and Dupre are Fighters.

Bards - Pretty average, with some limited spellcasting ability. They can handle weapons pretty decently and are a good compromise. They also have good Dexterity which is nice for hitting things. In addition to Iolo and Gwenno, who were bards to begin with, Julia is now a bard. She's okay.

Mages - Full spellcasting like the Avatar class, but not as much physical strength or gear handling. Mariah is of course still a mage, as is Jaana (who was a druid, so we never had to talk to her in U4).

There are more NPCs available than just the eight companions available in Ultima IV. Their classes and starting levels vary. Some are good, some are bad. Some are trickier than they seem. We can only have 6 people in this game, down from 8, and of course one has to be the Avatar. Having more Bards and Mages than Fighters is a good idea because, unlike Ultima IV, gear isn't class-based. It's mostly just whether you have the strength to wield it and are sufficiently experienced. So while Mariah can't pick up a Halberd at first, if she levels up enough she should be pretty good to go. Since mages therefore have rather few disadvantages besides slightly lower stat growth, going heavy on mages makes sense. A couple bards to pick up the slack isn't a bad idea either.

We can dump NPCs at inns, so there's no reason to make hard decisions immediately.

The most obvious thing you'll note about the game is that the graphics are better. That's us sitting in a chair in Iolo's hut. The graphics are much improved, creating illusions of depth, texture, and perspective. Incidental objects are lying around in buildings and some of them (like barrels and shelves) can be searched, sometimes turning up loot.

We can swipe things using get, including torches right off the walls. While "Borrowing!" can lower karma, for some strange reason stealing torches is immune from this effect, so I'm going to steal absolutely every torch in Britannia because I can. It also seems taking items found by searching doesn't count as stealing, though taking things from plain sight or swiping food off tables (yes, food is placed on tables and yes, you can steal it) does lower our "Karma." Karma is a general figure of how much of a dick we are, replacing the individual virtues. In general we want to keep our karma up so people don't think ill of us.

Outside, visibility is determined by the thickness of foliage and the presence of obstacles. Also of note is the top part of the screen that used to show the phases of the moon; it still does that, but Britannia now has a night and day cycle so the moons are only visible when it's nighttime. The sun and moons creep across the top of the screen, giving us some idea of what time it is. Moongates only appear at night now, and work slightly differently (and worse, to be honest, with the exception of one feature). Visibility drops at night, but a torch can help remedy that. Oh, and those numbers in the middle of the screen refer to the date; there's no time limit, but you can see how long the game has been going on.

There is now a look feature which tells you what you're looking at, or who you're looking at, without needing to search it extensively. We can also use it to read warnings, books, and signs.

Unfortunately, it's a little trickier than that. You see, the Runic Alphabet is firmly entrenched in the Ultima series now, and some poor sucker (read: me) is going to have to translate this shit. This one says "Beware the deep forest." But it won't be a major problem unless we need to memorize the runic alphabet for important things, like stuff in our inventory! Oh wait, we do.

The first thing you might notice is that equipment is more robust. Instead of a weapon and a piece of armor, each character now has two hands (which can hold a two-handed weapon, two one-handed weapons, or a one-handed weapon and a shield), a helmet slot, a body armor slot, and an accessory. The Avatar and Shamino start with swords, while Iolo starts off dual-wielding a sword and a main gauche.

The second screen shows off general party equipment. Food is gradually consumed like in the previous game, and gold is still gold. Keys unlock doors, and skeleton keys (we don't have any of those yet) unlock magic doors. Gems are used to view a wide area in the over and underworld, and map dungeon floors in those places. Torches are for collecting, and also for light.

The reagents are the same, but spells are different. Instead of being tied to an (english) letter, spells now use the Ultima system of incantations. This system won't change, and if you're at all familiar with Ultima Online you probably know what a lot of these are already. I'll cover what the incantations mean later. Each is tied to the first letter of each word in the incantation, so to cast An Nox (which is Cure) we'd type AN after hitting cast. To cast An Xen Cor we'd do AXC. You also do this when mixing reagents. Fortunately, you no longer have to mix one spell at a time; just select how many of a spell you want to prepare when mixing reagents and it will make that many if you get the incantation right and have enough reagents.

In our inventory are two scrolls of what I believe is Protect, three yellow potions (which have the same effect as Heal), and a Pocket Watch, which tells the exact time.

Exciting, isn't it? Since Ultima V is less obvious in what actually needs to be done, there are several things we can do right now. Iolo's hut is near Yew, which means several things are possible:

1) Visit the city of Justice, Yew. We might be able to supply ourselves there, and find out what life is like in Britannia now.
2) Visit Empath Abbey, the castle of Love, and see what's going on there.
3) Try to take a Moongate or walk to Britain, and investigate Lord British's castle for anything that might help us find him.
4) Take a Moongate somewhere else in Britannia, perhaps someplace where we might be able to seek information or find some of the Avatar's other companions.

Each of these has its upsides and downsides. The game's sole objective is to locate and rescue Lord British, but exactly how that is done is not yet obvious. How best to get on track?