Pagan picks up right where Serpent Isle ends, with the Guardian’s giant red hand snatching Avatar in the Ethereal Void. Rather than doing a sensible thing and, say, trapping Avatar in an energy field somewhere much like the Time Lord was in The Black Gate, the Guardian decided to dump Avatar in a world he’s already crushed. During the transit, he also felt the need to change my outfit from the Great Hierophant garb I wore at the end of the previous game. I guess he favours the red and yellow colour scheme?
Not sure why the Guardian stresses the fact that no one on Pagan knows the Avatar, when I just came from the world where nobody knew the Avatar either save for my companions.
Anyways, upon waking on the grey beach, I briefly chatted to Devon, the fisherman who rescues you from the sea, then headed out towards the city of Tenebrae. But before you can enter, there’s a compulsory execution at the docks to watch, where you quickly get the idea that Mordea, the Tempest ruler of the city, is a royal tyrant bitch. It also sets the tone for the game: you are no longer in any sort of friendly place, and blood will flow.
The lack of character portraits in U8 is truly disappointing, so much so that at one point years ago, I had an idea of drawing everybody’s portraits myself. The NPCs still feel like distinctive personalities thanks to the decent job the writers did with the dialogue, but it’s just a shame that they all look like featureless blobs. On the positive side, the game still looks damn beautiful and I absolutely love the rich, intense colours of the grass, red brick, water etc.
I spent the whole day exploring Tenebrae, talking to the townspeople and looking for things to steal. While in the Royal Palace, I made sure to activate the teleporting platform on the roof before I ventured out to the Plateau, to save myself extra hopping and skipping. The most important person to talk to in Tenebrae is Bentic the librarian, who never ever leaves his chair and who directed me to Mythran, the sage residing at the Plateau. The best mansion to rob belongs to Salkind, a pompous Seneschal to Lady Mordea, where, after some effort, you may collect 300 obsidian coins. He also has a journal titled Enemies of Tenebrae, which lists pretty much every single character in the city; if they all got executed on suspicion Tenebrae would be populated exclusively with guards, beggars and creepy annoying children.
Speaking of creepy children, one of the mansions’ top floor has been converted into a kindergarten, I presume? Or are these kids plotting something? Why are their faces of a greenish hue??
I visited Beren the Sorcerer in his Tenebrae abode, I guess his services are part of the uneasy truce the city has with the Sorcerers? He had some obsidian coins stashed on the bottom floor, but just as I pocketed them Avatar instantly exploded into bloody chunks. Ouch.
Over in the poor West Side, Orlok the bartender chews your ear off with tall tales and gossip, and Jenna, the sword-wielding barmaid, is rather feisty and touchy about the whole marriage thing. Just like the East Side, this area feels underpopulated, with many lived-in but empty houses. There’s also a prison-like building with a troll inside, and an abandoned burned-out house where I had my first fight with a ghoul. They’re slow and weak in combat, but it was still pretty unnerving hearing its shuffling walk and roaring noises from the unseen top floor.
Some new touches, like the reflection you see in the mirror as you approach it, are a nice addition, but I hate the fact that you can no longer sit down on chairs and lie down on the bed. The NPC schedules are also kinda half-assed and mainly involve some of the characters hanging around different parts of the city at different times. Mordea seems to be the only character who has regular meals and rest.
It’s good to see the light and silly Ultima humour pop up here in Pagan’s darker world:
I went even further to the west beyond the city gates, where there’s a smattering of fishermen cottages and nothing much else. The only person available for chat is Kilandra, the crazy fish lady, who, I noticed for the first time, actually carries a fish everywhere she goes:
Closer to the city gate, I discovered a pretty waterfall. Try and make one careless step though and it’s instant death by water, since Avatar has apparently turned into the Wicked Witch of the West.
I tried to climb the ledge by the waterfall, which sent me trippin’ off the world grid: