One thing I love about TBG is the way every location is made distinct even though the architecture doesn’t change all that much. You get your stock-standard houses everywhere you go, but you also see unique topography and people’s personalities tend to differ: the laidback folks who live in New Magincia say are very different to the industrious inhabitants of Minoc. I always dug New Magincia’s atmosphere of calm and isolation; it’s predominantly wide open spaces with grazing sheep and it’s sprinkled with the locked and abandoned buildings to show how underpopulated it is.
Before talking to Alagner the Sage, I met the rest of the inhabitants, including Katrina and this young lady, who’s supposed to be a local beauty but whose portrait made me think of a boiled lobster. Maybe it’s time to put on some sunscreen love!
I also talked to the greasy-looking professional gambler and his two cronies whose Owen-built ship crashed on New Magincia. Because I’ve blown all my cash on spells, I couldn’t pay Dupre’s running tab at the local inn, so Boris the innkeeper wouldn’t talk to me and I couldn’t progress with the stolen locket subplot. Thanks Dupre you drunkard. I saw Alagner, who is rather jaded about the state of Britannia and the Fellowship, and promised to lend me his notebook after I learned the answers to the questions of Life and Death from the Tortured One.
The Skara Brae subplot is hands down my favourite in TBG; I love the desolate and haunted island with its tragic history, the stories of the ghosts, and the whole thing is just so imaginative and gothic. To cross the river Styx… I mean the Misty Channel, you need to pay the Ferryman, who is one of my favourite Ultima characters. What’s not to like? He’s stoic, dedicated to his job, and has a flair… to his dialogue… with lots… of dramatic pauses.
Mistress Mordra, the town healer, is also an intriguing character, especially since you find out about her connection to Pagan later. She obviously spent enough time in that world to entertain her grandson Vardion with the tales of Britannia. I have a long-defunct fanfic somewhere where I tried to explore her backstory and how she managed to make it out of Pagan without all the trouble of becoming a Titan of Ether (it involved time travel).
I also love Horance the Liche’s evil Dark Tower, where you get your first glimpse of The Black Gate in the crystal ball, and can browse through the Black Compendium, a grisly family labour of Mondain, Minax and Exodus. Becoming immortal sounds like a chore, frankly.
First time I played Ultima, I got stuck in Skara Brae, big time, for a really embarrassing reason. When preparing the magic potion that would exorcise the Liche from Horance’s body, I misread the instructions and kept on trying to put the three potions inside the body of the apparatus, instead of under each individual nozzle. A misunderstanding that stalled my game for half a year, before I finally figured out what I was meant to do.
Once the Liche was gone, grateful Horance gave me a firedoom staff, to which my reaction was, no thanks, I’d prefer to leave my companions intact. I asked around for volunteers to destroy the Well of Souls, an idea that only the Ferryman found appealing, but he couldn’t quit his job so it was up to the bumbling incompetent mayor to sacrifice himself. Fair call since he’s obviously the one most responsible for the fire that had destroyed Skara Brae in the first place, by giving Caine the Tortured One a misinterpreted recipe. It always kinda irked me that you couldn’t tell Caine that maybe he’s a bit too hard on himself and the punishment of eternal flames is an overkill.
Anyways, the Tortured One’s answer was that there are no answers, only questions, a revelation that had apparently totally blown Batlin’s mind, but left the Avatar unscathed.
Back in New Magincia, Alagner was satisfied with my answer, and gave me a key to his giant storeroom, full of teleporters and levers just for funsies. I cheated and cast Telekinesis on the master lever, and retrieved the notebook after some mucking around with the crates. I rather like it when these games get a bit three-dimensional.
After reading Alagner’s expose of the Fellowship, I solved the lost locket case and brought yet two more star-crossed lovers together. Then I went back to the house of Wisps to trade the notebook for the dirt on the Guardian. While going through the Deep Forest, one of the Wisps attacked me out of a blue; I actually never fought a Wisp so I foolishly went for it. You can’t mess with those interdimensional blue balls! I was immediately knocked out and my valiant companions fell around me in pools of blood as the Guardian jeered at my misfortunes from above.
I was revived at the Fellowship shelter in Paws, where I was apparently brought by Elizabeth and Abraham, a story detail that never made any sense to me whatsoever. Why wouldn’t they just slit your throat when they’d surely know you’re working against their plans?
After I finally exchanged the notebook and learned of the Time Lord’s request to see me, I decided I had enough of walking and it was time to board the flying carpet from near the Dungeon Despise. I was finally airborne! Yet something was missing, a personal touch. I flew to New Magincia and raided the flower man’s shop for some decorations.
I tried to return the notebook to Alagner… and it’s honestly still a downer when you find his mutilated body and see the chilling vision of his death in the crystal ball.
I used my Orb of the Moons and saw the Time Lord, who sent me to search for the generator that’s screwing up the Moongates. But before the big trip, I decided to find the treasure cave on the tiny island south of Trinsic that the parrot tells you about. On my flight there, I spotted a cave on the south-western edge of Serpent’s Hold that I’ve never seen before! Did I mention how much I love this game? Inside the cave there’s a big underground lake and a locked chest that was immune to hitting and lockpicks; I presume that the key is somewhere in the Hold so I’m leaving it for later.
The treasure cave visit proved to be most useful – gold bars, four glass swords and a lightning whip; it’s not the most powerful magical weapon there is but I was always partial to it so I gave it to Spark.