After consulting a walkthrough to find out just where the hell I should be looking for this storeroom, Cate eventually finds the entrance concealed behind a secret door activated by a hidden lever – a hidden lever in a game where pretty much everything can be interacted with in some way. I’ve heard that the designers of Ultima VII loved hiding secrets behind the curious isometric viewpoint they’ve chosen to portray the game, but I wasn’t expecting them to secrete plot-critical items (a spellbook) inside a hidden object puzzle. There is definitely something to be said for the last two decades of progress in this regard.
After wandering through the castle’s secret passages for a while Cate comes across the secret dungeon where political prisoners are locked up by Lord British. This man, for example, has been imprisoned for stealing an apple from the Royal Orchards to feed his starving family – and even he is so brainwashed by British’s regime that he’s convinced Dear Leader has no idea he’s up here and that he’d reverse this travesty of justice if only he knew about it. Really? A man who had a life-sized statue of himself installed as the centrepiece to Britain’s museum? Honestly, it’s like a peasant in the gulag asking Stalin for clemency.
Cate eventually locates the storeroom and spends a tedious ten minutes hunting through all the junk items in her backpack to try to uncover the key. After this I vow to keep my party inventory in slightly better order and dump all the pointless documents I’ve been given on Spark and – with some misgivings – hand off the party’s food supplies to Iolo. With the aid of some more bags to further organise things I should be able to cut inventory-rummaging times down to a mere minute or two of battling the horrible UI. Cate swipes a pretty natty pair of magic boots and a new shield, and then leaves the castle to try and find this boat Lord British said he’d given her. It is at this point that I realise I have no idea where the docks are. Perhaps this sign post will have answers?
Oh, thanks very much, Origin. Writing all the signs in this bizarre fantasy rune-language may be thematically consistent but it’s not particularly helpful. Cate finds a number of things whilst blundering around Britain trying to find the docks: a museum with a Cate exhibit, a very bad injoke referencing the Wing Commander series (also by Origin) and this lecherous piano player called Shamino, who promptly attaches himself to the party. And when she does finally locate the docks, the shipwright she’s supposed to isn’t even there since it’s late evening by this point and he’s buggered off to do something far more interesting than wait around for errant PCs.
Taking a cue from the shipwright, Cate also heads off to do something more interesting. I have her wait around on the road outside Britain and then, when an hapless wayfarer happens along, I activate the combat AI for Iolo, Shamino and Spark.
The wayfarer is dead less than two seconds later without Cate even having to lift a finger – and to think I was worried that combat in this game would be overly complex! After stripping the corpse of his shiny chainmail armour Cate continues on down the road to hunt for some more victi- I mean, “bandits”. Unfortunately her life of crime comes to a premature end; the blood-crazed pack of NPC characters is let off the leash once again but before they can make contact the screen flashes red once, twice, and then fades to black. Guess I should probably have looked up how to get the Avatar to fight rather than having my party do everything for me. Oh well, I suppose that’s the end of Cate’s story. Nothing more to see he-
Wait a minute, she’s still alive? And not only that, she’s been abducted and taken to Minoc by the very people she was hunting: the foul murderers Elizabeth and Abraham! Oh, they say they found her bleeding out on the road and brought her here to recuperate, but this is just a ploy meant to lull her into a false sense of security. The moment her back is turned she’ll find herself staked out on the floor and cut into parts just like that poor blacksmith. As and when Cate finds Elizabeth and Abraham she’s going to have to pre-emptively do unto others before she’s done unto herself.