Ultima IV

OK, so Gametap has a bunch of Ultima games. I figured I would skip 1-3 (I actually played 1 back in the day) and go for IV. So I made up my character by picking cards, despite having no clue what they meant. And I am in the game…on an island. There is a city. I go inside and try talking to people but no one responds to any of the words I type in (seriously, I can type in anything but have no direction? great!). So I leave. Nothing to fight, nowhere to go. I walk into a swamp (looks like) and I get sick. Now I am dying. I have no idea how to stop this. A gate opens…ah, a porter. I step inside and get taken to another island, very similar to the other. I am still dying. I walk around, nothing to fight. I die of some sickness, I guess. Lord British rezzes me! yay! I walk outside. There’s a fight. I win. I may get stuff…can’t tell. I can’t figure out how to open my inv. I hit a lot of buttons and find my character sheet (Z button? ok). I’m a warrior! Good to know. I go back into the city and talk to Lord British. He has nothing to tell me, really…something about a quest to be virtuous, but he won’t say any more about it. I try to get party members by asking people to join me, but they all say no. I quit the game.

OK, I am completely lost. I am told this is a wonderful game. I believe what I am told (always). But I can’t find it. Where is the game? What am I missing? I read the rulebook, but it tells me nothing. I don’t know where to go or what to do , or if there is a story, or any of it.

It’s been a long long time, but IIRC in conversations, you can always say NAME and JOB. Any words that are bolded or a different color or something in their responses are other things that they will respond to, then of course you will eventually have plot-related things to ask about, and things to ask specific people about, etc.

LOL. My first ever real game was Ultima V…loved it to death, played all Winter during my 4th year in college. BUT, after reading your short adventure, I remember having to type in so many different words to try and get information…I can’t imagine going through that ever again.

Uh, in V I remember going through the portal, talking with some people in my starting village, hooking up with Iolo or Shamino, and just exporing…went to different towns, talked to everyone, it was awesome. I’d try and hit the main castle and talk to everyone you can talk to…there should be some kind of quests you can start on or story that starts the main quest…but again, I never played 4 so I can’t really give any specific advice.

I beat Ultima IV, but I played the Sega Master System version which had a list of “word” responses like later Ultimas. It also had better graphics and music and nothing was changed like the NES version which was totally different.

The tough part is figuring out what you’re suppose to do, and gathering info. Lord British will tell you to “Become the Avatar of the Eight Virtues” or something like that but will tell you different things as you progress, and he also levels you up so make sure to revisit him after getting lots of XP. The idea is you must travel to all 8 towns, each town is grounded in one of the 8 virtues. Interact with the people therein, and gain avatarhood in all 8 virtues. Talk to Hawkwind in the castle too to check your progress in the 8 virtues.

So quite literally go to all the towns, talk to everyone! Give gold to beggars as often as you can, try not to ever run from a fight, and if you must, die in battle so your companions can live(res yourself in a town with healer) donate blood, be humble, and don’t lie when people ask you something.

Info to look out for: Rune, Mantra, Shrine (use in conversation)
Once you become an avatar in a virtue(talk to Hawkwind remember?), you must travel to the virtues shrine and meditate for 3 cycles with the correct mantra. To gain access to a shrine you must have the rune!

Also: You must TAKE NOTES. No journal.

minor spoilers

A lot of the more important information in the ultimas came in the reference cards rather than the book manuals.

U4 is a wonderful game but an old one. Its interface isn’t particularly difficult, but it’s different from the modern stuff.

Avoid swamps, they make you poisoned. Later you (or someone in your party who can cast spells) will be able to cast a poison cure spell (“C” I think, I forget what the reagents are). The spellbook lists all the spells that you can cast and they have a simple keyword system. Different spells require different reagents, though, and different amounts of spell points if memory serves. At first you might be able to cast Heal and Magic Missile and that sort of thing, because the reagents for those aren’t too difficult. You have to buy reagents from a reagent vendor in a town, with the exception of Nightshade and Mandrake (required for more advanced spells) which you will have to find on your own, and the locations of which is one of the game’s puzzles.

The thing about the game is you have to talk to every NPC. EVERY NPC. And write down what they say; there is no journal function but you will need to remember stuff. If you want to play it without recourse to a walkthrough, you need to have a notebook at your side. Like graph paper, it’s just the way RPGs were done in those days. Every NPC conversation should begin with you asking them “job” and then finding keywords from there to progress the conversation.

You can start at any of the major towns; each one has a miniquest involving the rune and the mantra for that town’s specific virtue. You will need all 8 runes and mantras in order to progress along the avatar path. There’s more, but that should get you on your way. Also, you will recruit other party members in the towns. As you talk to NPCs, take note if they mention that they would like to join you.

Also check in with Hawkwind in Lord British’s castle to see how your virtues are progressing. If you want to gain in Valor, don’t run away from battles; if you want to gain in Compassion, give money to beggars. That sort of thing.

I hope you enjoy U4, but it’s hard for me to know how difficult it would be to start from scratch if you aren’t already familiar with the old Ultimas. I find the interfaces of those games to be quite elegant once you know how they work, but I got over that hurdle 20 years ago.

Ginseng and garlic, or something like that?

I do believe those are the reagents for the cure spell. :)

I think the heal spell involves Spider Silk (to bind the wounds) and probably ginseng for the other.

It’s actually kinda neat – the reagents are logically related to what the spell is supposed to do. For instance, a projectile spell like Magic Missile will require Black Pearl (for the hard projectile) and Sulfurous Ash (for the explosion). Most of the reagents are listed in the spellbook,* but I think there are a couple of spells whose reagents you are supposed to discover for yourself from NPCs.

*I mean the spell documentation; U4 doesn’t have any sort of ingame spellbook.

a bit more info…

I forget what the inventory keys are – it’s all a text list and you scroll through it, obviously there is no paper doll etc. I always played the Commodore 64 version, either real or emulated, and I always forgot which keys you used to scroll up and down the inventory. (I think it was a couple of the Function Keys actually.) But there are different pages, for armor, weapons, and utility items. There are a number of utility items, including specialty stuff as well as consumables like Torches, Lockpicks, Mapping Gems (press P “peer” at a gem* for a map of your surroundings, but the trick is finding the shady merchants who will sell you gems and other thieves’-guild type merchandise). I think you can equip weapons/armor from the inventory page by scrolling down them and pressing Enter or something like that. But that’s one part of the interface I’ve forgotten about.

Your class is determined by the gypsy questions at the start. Each virtue corresponds to a class. If your final choice was a Valorous choice you will be a warrior and start in Jhelom, their home town. If it was an Honorable choice you will be a Paladin and start in Trinsic, etc. If you start as a Warrior or a Ranger (Skara Brae) you have the problem of starting on an island, but before long a Moongate should appear near the town that will take you elsewhere. Every town has a moongate not far from it. Its destination will depend on the phases of the moon. The game kind of expects you to figure out some of this stuff along the way.

You can game the Gypsy thing by steering your answers in the direction of the class you want. If you always pick Honor when it is available, you will end up a Paladin; if you always pick Valor you will end up a warrior, and so on. I liked to start as Paladin because you begin in a good location, and you have a good mixture of melee and magic at the start. You don’t need to sweat your class too much though – you will have 8 people in your party by the time you are done and they will be able to do all the casting/healing/whatever you will need. I’d advise you not to pick Humility, as that gives you the weakest starting spot.

Again, the main thing is to pick a town, start talking to NPCs and taking notes. A path begins to emerge from there.

*Unless they had already changed it to V for (V)iew. I know it was §eer in Ultima III at least.

No, it doesn’t have any sort of in-game spellbook, but that’s how it was back then. I kind of preferred it that way, with the elaborate documentation and things included in the box. A lot was done to try and draw you into the gameworld, in that regard. I particularly remember the Ultima IV spellbook, with its lengthy spell and reagent descriptions, and full page illustrations. Also, the cloth maps were always welcome, as were the trinkets, such as the Ankh, the moonstone, the coin, etc…

Infocom was probably the best at the packaging contents, though. From the boatload of stuff you got with Hitchhikers, to the very cool Wishbringer stone and letter you got with Wishbringer, they threw a lot of nifty stuff into the box to help absorb you into the game.

I mean, the graphics weren’t going to do it back then…especially not in the text adventures. I also think that was part of the allure then as well, though…you had to create so much of the game, visually, in your own imagination. The more stuff the game provided you with, from documentation and trinkets, to game narrative and such, the more that little castle tile became a great large fortification, and the more your little two-animated-frames character became a strong and virtuous hero, valiantly fighting the good fight.

Hey, that reminds me…anybody want to buy some glasses? I’ve got some right here. They’re rose-tinted and everything!


You’re probably right. I was relying on memory, which is a bad thing when you played the game about 20 years ago on an apple clone (or was it the ol’ C64? I forget…)

U4 was probably the only game with reagants that didn’t just annoy the crap out of me, in part because they did make some (minimal) sense. When you contrast that with Oblivion’s potion system, you have to wonder whether we’re really making forward progress on these things.

You’re probably right. I was relying on memory, which is a bad thing when you played the game about 20 years ago on an apple clone (or was it the ol’ C64? I forget…)

I was agreeing with you so well done. :) But I’m relying on memory too…

I’m remembering (possibly incorrectly) that at one point you get a magic carpet, and using that through the swamp allowed you to avoid illness. Though that actually may have been Ultima V, or completely out of my imagination. Sorry, I’m no help at all.

If you like these games. I say, play online :)

The carpet was in Ultima V actually. In U4, the only way to go over swamp without walking on it would be to use a hot air baloon, and they are kinda tricky to control.

There I go, giving away stuff again…

Usually you can walk around swamp, although there are a couple occasions where you do have to go through it and had better just have some cure poison spells ready to go.

I actually rolled a toon on that and played a bit before getting sucked back into WoW. I’ll have to give it another pass at some point…

LOL… I definitely need to hire an editor to review my posts after I’ve taken Benadryl!

But hurray for the gray matter (at least this time…)

A quick google confirms Ginseng and Garlic (see http://www.uo.com/archive/ultima4/u4encore.html for all the spell reagents – or at least all the ones you don’t need to find from conversations)

Thanks. I’ll try it again then. It’s been very frustrating because I just seem to have NO idea what to do. But I’ll try the job approach. And I’ll grab a notebook! I have the spellbook too, I think, from Gametap. They scan all that in for you.

Is everyone forgetting Swamp Boots, or are we just exploring ways to go around or over a swamp, rather than walking through it. Swamp boots let you walk in the swamp and not suffer the ill effects…

Are you vouching for this?

I don’t think Swamp Boots were introduced until VI or VII, unfortunately.