Part 35: Lord British's Castle, Where We Wrestle With Gargoyles & The User Interface
Lord British's Castle, Where We Wrestle With Gargoyles & The User Interface
When we last left Steve the Avatar [s?]he was about to get stabbed by some daemons, only they're calling themselves "gargoyles" now. Fortunately Shamino and Dupre showed up with Iolo following them around and we hightailed it back through a Red Moongate.
Right into the middle of Lord British's throne room. This would be a convenient spot, except that three of the gargoyles came through with us.
It's difficult to see them because it's dark (remember, it was almost 4am when the game started, and as you can see from the top right the sun hasn't risen yet). So things will look like darkened ass until dawn, or until we can get a damn torch. At the moment, however, we have to resolve the minor issue of the gargoyles trying to kill us.
The game starts us off in Solo Mode, controlling only the Avatar. I don't know why it does this, but the first thing to do is hit 0 to turn us back to Party Mode, then click this icon in the lower right corner, which will activate combat mode. Or are we already in combat mode? I forget.
Oh well. Let's go over the interface as we kill these gargoyles. You'll note Steve has only a sword right now, but since I transferred over from U5 with max stats these gargoyles can't do shit to me anyway.
The first icon is, of course, attack. You can either click it and click your target, or hit A and move the keyboard icon around. I prefer to use the keyboard because it's easier to me sure of what you're attacking and you have to hit enter to confirm so I won't go accidentally whacking Iolo (I prefer to keep my Iolo slayings deliberate). Steve's got a strong arm and Dupre, Iolo, and Shamino are attacking automatically (you can set them to be player-controllable, but for the moment I won't), so this doesn't take long.
The second icon is for spellcasting. We can't do that right now because we don't have a spellbook. Or spells.
Moving right along, we have the Talk icon. Again, you can just use T on the keyboard for this. Let's talk to Iolo, much as it kills us.
Talking to someone shows their portrait. I'm going to cut down on conversational screenshots where possible and just do them like so:
You see your old friend Iolo.
"Well, Steve, do you need help with something or maybe you've got time for a story, eh?"
The highlighted words are actually highlighted (in red). They indicate something the NPC will talk to you about, which cuts down on guessing the critical words. They may talk to you about other things too, but you'd have to find that out. Name/Job/Bye are still there, but Name is largely unnecessary because the Avatar is psychic and remembers the name of anyone she's spoken to at least once, whether she asked their name or not. Anyway, let's see what Iolo of all people can help us with.
"How can you help me?"
"If you want me to gather all our gold together so you can carry it, just say so. Or I could split it up evenly, if you prefer."
Iolo is our accountant. He's also the bearer of the cheat menu for the game, which is acquired by telling him, in order: SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, HUMBUG. The cheat menu isn't as fully-featured as the one in Ultima VII so it will only see a few uses. In many ways there are more effective ways to gain money and power through exploits than cheating.
"Tell me a story."
"My favorite one is about the time I had to wake Dupre up for a tournament..."
"Iolo! You promised NEVER to tell anyone about that!"
"Yes, you're right, I'm sorry." He whispers to you, "Ask me later when he's not around..."
"Alright, later then."
"I've still got to tell you that story about Dupre sometime..."
Conversations are a lot longer now, more coherent, and capable of going on between more than the Avatar and the target; companions may have things to say as well.
Next icon is look. Look tells us what things are, how much they weigh, how powerful they are (in the case of weapons or armor), and if we're standing right next to them, it searches them for items or secrets. In this case, rifling through the corpse of a gargoyle turns up a club, boomerang, and leather helm.
We can get them. We can also get the corpse. We can cart corpses around all day if we want, as long as someone can carry them. I can even use them as storage, but since corpses are quite heavy, it's not really worthwhile. Still, might as well clean up the gargoyles and get their rotting bodies out of the throne room.
The next icon is drop. If we want to drop something from inventory, we just hit D or click that icon, then click the item in inventory. Then where we want it dropped. The next next icon is move, which lets us rearrange furniture, push boxes around, and also move items in inventories to the inventories of other characters or containers. Also, it lets us attempt to push people around, which never works. The icon after that is Use, which allows for flipping switches, opening doors, manipulating vehicles, etc. The last two icons are rest and toggle combat/non-combat mode. So we don't have Iolo running off shooting at ever deer he sees, not that he would do such a thing!
Oh, and while we're here, how about we also talk to Dupre and Shamino?
You see a ruggedly handsome man, wearing a gleaming suit of armor.
"So I haven't seen you lately, what exactly is it you do?"
"Why, questing of course! We've been on many a quest together, you and I."
"Quests? You weren't even there last time! Well you were, but I didn't bother to recruit you."
"Yes, you've gone on some really fine ones. When you're not around I have to settle for rescuing damsels, finding grails, and the like."
"It could be worse. Some of them are pretty eager to show their gratitude, if you know what I mean..."
"Gratitude, huh? Humor me."
"Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more."
"And what's this about grails?"
"That's right. Lord British likes to keep grails around to use at his banquets, but he's always losing them."
"That seems a bit implausible, but alright."
"He'll throw us a fine feast if you can deal with the gargoyle invasion somehow."
"What's with those gargoyles anyway?"
"They may be the toughest threat we've ever faced."
"I guess I should ask Lord British about it."
"Yes, enough chit chat. Let's go find some action!"
You see a quiet man, who almost seems to be a creature of the forest.
"Yes, my friend?"
"And what have you been up to? Keeping away from evil Shadowlord bolts I hope."
"I help my friends when they need it. The rest of my time I prefer to spend exploring the woods."
"If you can call Iolo and Dupre friends."
"Though we have spent much time apart between your several visits to our real, still I consider you one of my closest friends."
"That's alright I guess. How are the woods lately?"
"I prefer the Deep Forest. Spiritwood isn't as dense, and it has those strange wisps everywhere."
"The Deep Forest is near Yew, I think."
"It is home to me."
"Home? You have a house or something?"
"A home needs not walls to make it so."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"When folk ask why I have no walls in my home, I ask where are the trees in theirs!" He smiles.
"Well, most people don't keep trees in their homes, no."
"In many ways they are the lifesblood of the realm. Without trees, we could not long endure."
"So what are wisps?"
"I know little of their nature. I believe there are some mages who have investigated them, however."
"Perhaps one of the members of the council could tell you more."
"You mean the Great Council?"
"Ask Dupre about that."
Well, we may as well get the chat with LB out of our way.
You see the noble ruler of Britannia.
"Steve! 'Tis good to see thee again. Much hath happened since thou last departed our realm. But I must make sure 'tis truly thee. Only the true Avatar would know what was contained in the Compendium I sent."
Now, it's not that Lord British is being a complete asshole to the person who has saved his life several times in the past, but because the game has copy protection in the form of manual-related questions. We'll get these a couple more times in the game. They're not too hard and of course in the glorious era of the Internet you can probably find these things without even trying very hard.
"What item canst one find near the spawning grounds of Hydras?"
"Nightshade, of course."
"Thou art correct. How canst one fend off rotworms?"
"They hate heat, so I imagine a torch."
"Thou art correct. How doth giant squids crush their prey?"
"A trick question! But the answer is with their beak."
"Ah, 'tis thee indeed, Steve. Take this key. It will unlock the gatehouse by the southern entrance to the castle. Then you can use the lever inside to raise the portcullis, and the crank will lower the drawbridge. The same key will also let you into the sewers under the castle."
"Sounds like fun."
"Now let me tell thee what hath transpired since thy last visit. The vast underworld from which thou didst rescue me hath collapsed. Yet still there are forces of evil abroad in the land. Britannia is under attack by gargoyles such as those thou just fought. They have been coming up through the dungeons. Thus far they have mainly been attacking the shrines of the eight virtues. When the Shrine of Compassion didst fall, Sir Geoffrey sent a party to free it. Do thou ask him of this mission. Perhaps thou canst prove of some assistance. Whilst thou art here, I have a room in the castle set aside for thy personal use. 'Tis in the west wing of the castle, just south of mine own chambers. I have had servants place some equipment there, in case thou shouldst have need of it. Of course, thou mayst feel free to borrow anything in my castle, if thou shouldst need it. Lastly, any time thou dost need healing, do thou but ask me."
That's right, Lord British has pretty much laid things bare. Anything we need of his is pretty much at our disposal, plus he'll resurrect and heal everyone for free as many times as I need him to. He can even resurrect non-party members, in some cases. We also now are getting a room and actual equipment, which is a hell of a lot better welcome than we got the last two times we showed up. Let's pump him for more information first though.
"Why the shrines?"
"By now the gargoyles may have captured them all. Thou must hurry if thou wouldst foil their evil schemes..."
"You don't think they appreciate the virtues, then."
"It is our belief in them that sets us apart from the cruel invaders who would destroy all that we hold dear."
I don't mean to here, but that's... oddly prescient, isn't it? Foreshadowing!
"What's Geoffrey up to lately?"
"He is the Captain of the Guard."
"I'll talk to him then."
Steve's inventory is pretty loaded down. Let's see what the others are carrying.
You can examine what people are carrying. Dupre's got a kite shield which is a little bulky, but provides good defense.
He's also carrying a bag. Bags are kind of the holy grail of the later Ultimas, the almighty lightweight storage containers that make inventory management sensible and sane. One can never have too many bags.
He's got some gold nuggets and a little cash in his bag. Nothing major, but those nuggets could be worth a bit of money. Fortunately, there's a mint in Britain just outside the castle, where we can exchange gold nuggets and other valuables for cash.
Shamino's also got some cash, and a little food. The icons next to your companions with the crossed swords represent their combat AI, which is displayed on the right. Here, I'm setting Shamino to try to flank enemies during fights. I can also set him to manual control from here if I feel like it, but I don't really. I'm kind of glad I only have to control the Avatar now.
Iolo, meanwhile, is carrying the book he stole off the gargoyle priest in the intro. That's an important item, probably too important to leave with a loser like Iolo, so...
...we can move it...
...to Steve's inventory.
Now, let's use the little face icon to check out everybody's status.
Here's Steve, the Avatar. I picked #2 because it technically won and it's the only female Avatar I can stomach. Steve's got full Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, tons of magic and HP, and is already lv5. Like in U5, Avatar is the best class you can possibly be (although classes no longer exist at all), and the Avatar is the best character you can be.
Dupre is the bruiser in the party. He can't use magic, and never will, but he's got great Strength and decent Dexterity. He doesn't need to do much else.
Shamino's pretty average. He's got some magic but nothing special. His stats are balanced, but since he won't be casting any spells he's only mediocre.
Iolo is a little better than Shamino, but not much. Fortunately, there are several reasons to keep him around. The first if of course hilarious comedy. The second is his ability to collect and distribute all our gold. The third is the cheat menu. So, might as well keep him around.
More folks to talk to. The guy to the left is Nystul, Lord British's personal mage.
You see a concerned looking mage.
"Hail to thee milady, and well met. 'Twas I who learned of thy peril through my mystic arts, so that aid might be sent unto thee. Iolo, I saw that thou didst find a book. Might I examine it?"
"I no longer have the book, milord."
"That is too bad. I had hoped thou might take it to Mariah and have her translate it. One more thing, Avatar... I noticed that thou didst arrive through a red gateway. Dost thou have the stone that opened the gate?"
"I do, yes."
"From whence could it have come? The gargoyles perhaps? Best ask Lord British about it. I believe he has some knowledge of such items."
So let's do that. Oh, and the game wasn't expecting me to take the book from Iolo this early. He admits he doesn't have the book, which is true, but apparently forgot that Steve has it. Oh well.
"Good morning, Steve. What wouldst thou speak of?"
"I found this at the gate which brought me here." You show Lord British the black stone.
"Hmmmmm... I have such a stone, as thou may recall. I did not know that there were more such orbs. 'Twill serve thee well in thy travels if you dost learn to master its powers. To open a gate, use the stone, and carefully position it a few feet from thee. Thou wilt discover that the placement is the key. In the proper positions, the stone canst conjure gates to take thee to numerous destinations."
Basically, the Orb of the Moons we have will cut down on travel tedium immensely. By using it in any of the grid squares around Steve, a red moongate will appear. These moongates go to cities, shrines, and a few other places that might be a spoiler to explain. Experimentation would reveal most of these, but of course having a guide to know exactly where I'm going is nice as well.
Geoffrey happens to be standing right next to Lord British as well:
You see a tall, handsome man.
"I'm glad to see thee, Steve. Perhaps thou canst prevail where others could not. I sent a party of ten to recapture the Shrine of Compassion from the gargoyles. Alas, they failed dismally. The survivors are recuperating in the town of Cove. Thou wouldst do well to speak with them first. Mayhap they learned something which might aid thee. I must confess I fear the worst. The gargoyles are such powerful foes, and they are spreading so fast... Perhaps the end of the realm is nigh."
"Aren't you all smiles and sunshine, Geoff."
"Best not waste time talking... who knows what acts of villainy the gargoyles are committing even as we speak? I hope you've had a chance to visit Cove and speak with Gertan."
Well, Lord British did say I could borrow anything in the castle. And this technically is a portrait of the Avatar, which means it sort of belongs to me (when did somebody have the time to paint it? Were they guessing what Steve looks like?). I can't actually take it, because I'm carrying three dead gargoyles, but I think I could take it, if I really wanted to. It's probably not worth anything though.
On the way to the west wing, we encounter a generic guard:
You see a muscular, well armored guard.
"Hello. Can I help you with something?"
"What's your name?"
"I'm not allowed to give out that information?"
"Not even to the Avatar, huh? Oh well, so what do you do?"
"I am one of Lord British's elite guards. We keep order throughout Britannia.
"From what I'm hearing, there's not much order right now."
"Lately our ranks have thinned. Many have been lost in the war against the gargoyles.
"How's it going?"
"Few of us are left to patrol the cities, and those may be sent to the shrines soon. I fear we may lose this war."
"You think we'll lose?"
"Not a single shrine have we liberated. The gargoyles fight like daemons!
"I have noticed a certain resemblance..."
"Patrol is important, though."
"That is our only job, in times of peace. May we see such times again!"
Even they're pretty talkative.
Lord British's room. There's a key here, which I take, because he said I could, so there.
And some grapes. I also take these, because hey, free food.
And Steve's room. It's not huge, but it's pretty swank and it's loaded with loot. Strangely, I haven't found a way to actually use the bed, or I would've gotten in a few hours of sleep so the lighting would be better.
Here on the table is a spellbook. It doesn't have many spells in it, but I can buy more from mages across Britannia. Since there's now a menu, I don't have to memorize the incantations, although I can use them if I still want to. The spells here are pretty self-explanatory, except for Help. Help is an instant, free, no-reagents-required teleport to Lord British's throne room, but it carries with it a small experience penalty. Generally not worth it, but good in a pinch. Understandably, I yoink the spellbook.
This brown thing is a chest. We need to use it to open it, and when we do...
A veritable flood of stuff. Food, armor, torches, lockpicks, a bag, you name it. Not much in the way of good armor, but it'll do for now. The chest itself weighs 2 stone, and I can pick it up and use it as a container too if I want. It's also useful for blocking off paths. Anyone who has played Ultima Online may have some idea of the kind of mischief this can allow for...
The bag next to the chest contains 10 of every reagent. Unfortunately, by searching it, I've taken them all out and have to put them back in. Generally, it's better to get a bag or container and examine it inside your inventory before opening it, to make sure it's not crammed with tons of stuff.
I'm getting a little weighty, so I dump the corpses of the gargoyles in a corner of my room. I might be back for them, who can really say?
On the way out, I grab a tunic from the chest of drawers and ready a sword and spellbook. We're finally ready to, uh, go poke around the rest of Lord British's Castle. This could take a while.