Never have I been so disappointed on entering a building as I was when Cate went inside the National Branch. Rather than a bank filled with all sorts of stealable valuables, it turns out instead to be Scientology Central where the head of the Fellowship, Batlin, lives.
Talking to him is predictably boring, but Cate does get one useful bit of information: Elizabeth and Abraham, two cultists – can I call them cultists yet? – who deal with the organisation’s money and who were up to entirely unsuspicious activities in Trinsic the night before the murder, have passed through Britain en route to somewhere else called Minoc. Next stop Minoc then, I guess.
But of course Cate isn’t going to leave Britain without visiting some of the tacky tourist traps every capital city sets up to part the unwary visitor from their cash. This fake plastic castle, for example, which is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see in the Medieval quarter of your favourite run-down theme park.
Cate chats to some of the staff, who are either paid actors or else are doing an astonishingly good job of impersonating a startlingly inbred family of servants. Communism always seems like such a good idea until you actually meet the proletariat, after which the petit bourgeoisie suddenly doesn’t seem that bad. There’s also a few bright-red gargoyles who seem to function as this subhuman caste of untouchables, proving that Britannia is in fact an awful imperialist dystopia.
And at its head Cate finds the culprit; the cause of the all the land’s woes; the Richard Garriott self-insert himself: Lord British.
British proceeds to vomit forth so much exposition. A new island has risen to the south, magic is failing, moongates no longer work yadda yadda yadda. He recommends that Cate mingle with the proles in order to find out the cause of these unexplained phenomena, Lord British apparently being too good to do it himself. He also gives Cate a boat, much in the same way a corrupt Russian oil oligarch would give his favourite dog a yacht. But I don’t want to talk about that. Let’s talk about the horrible Mary-Sue fantasy that is Ultima’s backstory instead.
Lord British, Iolo and the rest of the ruling class aren’t Britannia natives. They travelled to Britannia years ago along with the Avatar, found they had acquired superpowers – i.e. magic – and then promptly took the place over. They all seemed to acquire astonishing longevity to boot; it’s been two hundred years in Britannia time since Cate last visited and everyone is still alive, although some of this little band of would-be kings seem to age faster than others. Lord British in particular hasn’t aged a day, making him in effect the immortal god-king of Britannia. So you’ve got this situation where a group of white men from an advanced civilization travelled to a backwards, superstitious land and used their advanced knowledge and innate betterness to set themselves up as gods. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Wait no, I mean this:
Eurgh. I can only hope that Lord British and the rest of his cronies get the gruesome comeuppance they so richly deserve. Happily he has left plans for ending his reign just lying around his castle, so hopefully I’ll get to put them into effect at some point.
Lord British’s dickishness does not stop at third-world dictatorship; not by a long shot. He tells Cate he has a cache of her old equipment hidden somewhere in his fake Disney World castle, but that Cate has to find it herself as part of a “game”. I then spend the next half hour dragging Cate around the castle in an increasingly desperate and frustrated attempt to find this secret storeroom. Ha ha ha, Lord British! You’re such a hoot! Hope you’ll still be smiling when the peasant’s revolution storms these flimsy fibreglass ramparts and sticks your head on a spike over the gate.
Just before I give up and shut the game down in disgust, Cate meets the first likeable character in Britannia so far.
Two decades later and her work is not yet done.