The Let's Play Archive

Ultima 1

by ManxomeBromide

Part 2: Looking-glass

We seem to have come to a consensus rather quickly; our heroine shall be young Alice, presently sitting over there in the drawing-room, lecturing her kitten.

I'm putting 10 points into strength, none into charisma, and five into everything else; Alice's humanity and wizardliness then boost our Intelligence to a respectable 30. We won't be able to sell anything for any decent amount of cash, but we'll start the game getting significant discounts. Human Wizard and Dwarf Fighter are pretty much the two best selections, so good work there; it'll all even out in the end, but Alice will have access to the complete spell list.

But this is taking us away from Alice's speech to the kitten. "---and if you're not good directly, I'll put you through into Looking-glass House. How would you like that? Now, if you'll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I'll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there's the room you can see through the glass---that's just the same as our drawing-room, only the things go the other way. And the RPGs are something like our RPGs, because I have seen it in the glass when playing one over here, but then I cannot see how the mechanics work. It may be quite different on beyond. Oh, Kitty, how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I'm sure the Looking-glass RPG would be ever so interesting! Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare!"


Looking-glass RPGs, such as Ultima 1, should not be confused with Looking Glass RPGs, of which Ultima Underworld is probably the most relevant.

At any rate, Alice now finds herself in the fabled lands of Sosaria:

Unfortunately, we now have basically no information regarding how to proceed. Where, in a manual in our world, you might expect a table showing which keys to press to take which action, in the Looking-glass world we instead have a tentative translation of an "arcane manuscript" that "appears to hold instructions for the use of some form of transport", but for which "certain terms and phrases have no meaning even to the most erudite sage". Alice has better things to do than bother with that for now, but as a young girl, she is also well equipped with her ABCs.

We begin with A.

A is for Attack. Alice has nobody to attack right now, but she may practice some of her fencing moves with the knives she kept from afternoon tea.

B is for Board transport. Once we have a way of going somewhere besides walking, we will be able to use this command to use it. We don't have one right now, so it just complains at us.

C is for Cast, and it casts whatever spell we have equipped. Right now that's "Prayer", which as near as I can tell does nothing. We are urged only to cast it in direst need, but I prefer the effect description from Ultima II: "Results simulate reality". We also get a bit of dog-Latin for each spell; unless I miss my guess, this particular spell comes out as "Praise the Power".

D is for Drop, a command that apparently makes no sense in this context, so it just gives the command back to us as a question. I'm not aware of any inventory limits and cannot recall ever using this command.

E is for Enter, and it lets us go into castles, towns, and dungeons.

F is for Fire, which is what we do to cannons once we get access to something with mounted cannons.

G is for Get, which is self-explanatory.

H is for, um.

H is, in fact, for HyperJump. The opening screen wasn't kidding about "deepest space". We don't have anything warp-capable yet, so this is another command like Drop that makes no sense in this context.

I is for Inform and Search, a tremendously useful command, though perhaps less so while outside:

This lets us know which continent we're on. The Lands of Lord British ultimately become the Britannia we know and love, but there's a lot of migration and seismic activity that needs to happen on the way to Ultima IV.

J isn't for anything:

K is for K-Limb, which Alice suspects may be some kind of Looking-glass dance, but is actually Richard Garriott running out of letters.

L and M also aren't for anything, which takes us to N:

Ultima has no illusions about what it is getting to come out of the PC speaker here. Note that toggling sound in fact takes an in-game turn, costing us food and opening us up to attacks from adjacent monsters.

O is for Open, a command that only works in dungeons.

Q is for Quit, which is a bit interesting...

... because it doesn't actually do any quitting. We'd mostly outgrown this in the DOS world by 1987, but earlier---and really, even in 1987 on the Apple II or the C64---the way you quit a piece of software is by turning the computer off. At least DOSBox means we don't need to bother with that, and can just quit out.

R is for Ready, which we will use to change our equipment and spells.

S is for Steal. which is presumably why it can't be for Save.

T is for Transact, which is like stealing but they get something too. Actually mostly means "talk".

U is for Unlock, another command that turns out to only be useful in dungeons.

V is for View, a command that isn't presently available, but in Ultima IV let us look into magical gems that mapped dungeons for us. We don't have any magical gems yet.

W is unused.

X is for X-it, the opposite of Board. We can't ride horses or frigates (or starships) into dungeons, so we have to get out first.

Y is unused, which is way better than the "Y-up" command it was in Ultima IV.

Z is, as it continues to be, for Ztats:

A couple of these stats were visible on the main screen: hit points and coins. Note that instead of saying how many coins we have here it breaks it out into copper (1), silver (10), and gold (100). That's a neat touch, but it's worth noting that we can apparently make change off the corpses of copper-bearing enemies we slay, and there's no encumbrance limit anyway, so this is just using 3 inventory entries to display one number.

Her experiments complete, Alice is now prepared to take on Sosaria. There's a castle visible already, and perhaps more to see as we go.