Part 4: P-QN8The White Knight took a step back, and looked stern for a moment. "Before you can become a queen, though, you'll need to practice. A Queen must be strong. A Queen must be fast. You have a long way to go. I'd practice in the dungeons, but I wouldn't go down even to level 3."
Alice curtsied, adjusted her spacesuit helmet, and went back into the underground.
Monster difficulty in Ultima 1 isn't gated by location, but only by dungeon depth. We've seen the Thief, Skeleton, and Giant Rat already. The first two dungeon levels also have the weakest enemy in the caverns, the Ranger...
And the Bat, which is the strongest. At 17 damage per hit, it's over 8 times as deadly as rangers or skeletons.
I had mentioned earlier that Inform and Search was one of the most important commands. In dungeons, it checks your current location. That can be boring...
Or it can result in secret doors. Without heavy magic, secret door hunting is the only way to properly explore most of the dungeons. Of course here the secret door had a skeleton behind it.
Scattered randomly through dungeons are coffins and chests. You must Open coffins, and they either have monsters in them or some money. You can get a continuous stream of monsters out of a coffin, too. I dunno. Clown coffins?
Chests on the other hand must be Unlocked, because only coffins can be opened.
Trying to unlock a chest generally does us a tiny bit of damage. I think it's an Agility check; failing it deals damage equal to the level you're on, which is to say, nothing of consequence.
The reward is frankly insulting, though:
We ultimately find the level down, where exactly the same enemies await us. Enemies go up in tier on odd-numbered levels, and it is entirely not worth it to delve below level 2 unless you have something in particular you intend to accomplish.
We explore the map completely on both levels...
(Map is courtesy Grid Cartographer, a very fine program, and a thousand thanks to Luisfe for introducing me to it. Darkened areas indicate locations where magical force fields block passage.)
But the trip back is a bit more eventful than we'd like.
When Alice returned with her map, the White Knight was waiting for her. "Ah, you're back! Let's see what you've learned." Without a word, Alice raised her axe and lunged.
The Knight hopped nimbly aside and bopped her on the shoulder in riposte. "Better, but you'll need more practice if you hope to wear the crown."
Just then a Bishop approached from behind. He had just enough time to shout "You're needed on the King's File! Make haste!" before racing off like a shot to the southeast.
The Knight bowed. "I must go, little pawn. I shall see you later, I trust." And off he bounded.
Alice was left alone with her thoughts. "If I am to become a queen, then as a pawn, my job is to work my way across the board. I'm at the north end of this continent right now, so I suppose I shall keep to my plan of working my way south."
And off she went. An evil ranger tried to waylay her along the way...
... and while he was more dangerous than the ones underground, he was still easily dispatched, and also much wealthier.
The town to the east there is Grey:
Here we learn a horrifying truth:
Iolo cannot be escaped.
We stock up on food and head south.
Is that a dungeon?
It sure is. We map out the first couple levels without incident.
And when we leave, we're stronger than ever!
These maps won't do you much good if you play, mind you. These dungeons are procedurally generated. In a way, though, that makes them even more interchangeable. It's entirely possible to beat the game only ever delving a single dungeon ever, but where's the fun in that?
Some kind of giant eel is watching us as we make our way to this new town...
... Moon. Those of you who played Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle remember Moonshade; those of you who played any Ultima from 4-6 remember Moonglow. This is the city that ended up becoming both of those towns; those citizens who rebelled against Lord British moved on to found Moonshade and the loyalists remained to found Moonglow.
Moon has some new equipment!
We pick up a sword and continue on our way...
To a new dungeon, The Dungeon of Doubt. Maybe this will eventually become Deceit?
A map feature shows up here that we haven't seen before. See that little 1x1 room that "should" be a hallway on the second floor?
The rendering's a little odd, but that's a feature we haven't seen. Prior to this it's always been hallways only every other row, and north-south rows.
Continuing south, we find a pirate ship!
We murder the pirate ship to death with our sword. This does not score us a ship of our own, though:
I think it's because the pirate ship is alive. We killed it! It can't pirate ship anymore, because it is dead.
Also notice that it had 12 fewer coins on it than the evil ranger we defeated at the start of this update. Worst pirates ever.
This next town is actually very different from what we've seen before:
It's Montor! Serpent Isle players will remember the twin cities of Montor and Monitor. Here's Montor. Everyone here fled Lord British as he regained control.
New items here too.
Off to the west is a new dungeon, the Mines of Mount Drash II. I'm not sure what's up with that since this is a completely separate mountain range. Maybe it's actually named "Mount Drash II".
Also the instant we go down the ladder a Thief makes off with our sword.
The rest of the delve is uneventful:
Though at some point we did manage to level up;
As near as I can tell, leveling up actually doesn't make us any better at anything; our stats are the same, and we seem to be giving and taking similar amounts of damage. But by this point, I kind of expect no less.
Yet another dungeon, further south of that...
... and we finally see something interesting as soon as we enter!
Here in Death's Awakening, we are blocked into a three-square hallway as soon as we enter. There's nowhere we can go without a Destroy Field spell, which is kind of tragic because only Wizards can ever get them.
Fortunately for us, Alice is a Wizard.
But that's not necessary, because...
There's also a secret passage. I'm pretty sure secret passages are placed to make every dungeon fully navigable with no help, but I wouldn't put great odds on it getting it 100% right.
Magic will see us through even if the RNG doesn't, though.
We've explored entirely too many dungeons this update, and they're all pretty sameish. All are built around a series of five north-to-south corridors, with extra obstructions added on the second level.
Even more bizarrely, the ladders in every dungeon are in exactly the same place. This is true even across playthroughs. It's as invariable as the world map, despite the dungeons having very heavy procgen elements.
"Well, this is it," thought Alice, as she climbed out of the dungeon and looked upon the Southern Shores. "I've crossed the continent, but I feel about the same. I didn't find the Grave of the Lost Soul, either."
She began to make her way over to the city in the southeast, and was bombarded with fireballs from some kind of sea monster as she did.
Still, it took a lot more than that to faze Alice at this point. She made it over to the land of Tune, and found someone she had grown accustomed to seeing.
She walked over to Iolo and picked him up by the scruff of the neck. "Well, now, aren't we just a precious little snowflake."
Iolo struggled a bit in her grasp, but then went limp. "...drop, please."
Alice set him down, and he promptly began to straighten his outfit while trying his best to look like he had intended to be disheveled to begin with.
Alice waited for him to finish, and then pointed an accusing finger at him. "You are not Iolo. You are the White Knight! Have you enjoyed your tour?"
Iolo looked up from his tidying, and stood as best he could to attention. "I am, milady; and you are Queen Alice."
"Am I? It doesn't feel any different."
"A sign, no doubt, of your impeccable background. But we must of course raise you properly to the role. I would be honored to help Your Majesty in this."
Alice began to curtsy before realizing that as Queen this was not what was expected. She tried her best to look regal, and said "Oh yes, let's begin, then" in her most important-sounding voice.
She still sounded a bit like an excited little girl, though, because she was in fact very excited.