Ultima VIII: Pagan

a game by Origin Systems
Platform: PC
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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See also: RPGs, Ultima Games
Ultima VIII: Pagan
Ultima VIII: Pagan
Ultima VIII: Pagan
Ultima VIII: Pagan

As the game begins, we see you (aka the Avatar) clambering to your feet on a rocky sea shore. You don't have a clue where you are or what's what. You're damp. You're wet. You're in a bad mood. Poor old Avatar. A quick bumming of facts from Devon, the kindly fisherman who rescued you from the ocean, soon reveals a few interesting details.

Pagan, you learn, is a sprawling island realm, with big mushrooms instead of shrubs and large armadillos instead of cows. The capital city is Tenebrae. Medieval in looks and smell, it boasts impressive walls and magic lamp posts. Demographically, it sports a neat autocratic monarchal government and a nice growing class system (poor folk live in the west, richer folk to the east).

The Lady Mordea, a tart without a heart, rules Tenebrae with an iron fist. In the kind of regime usually reserved for friends of the American Government, the Tempest (as she's affectionately termed) has been executing dissenters and rumour-mongers without ceremony. You arrive just in time to see one such criminal having his block lopped off, while Mordea, her seneschal, and the captain of the guard calmly wipe the splattered blood from their garments. The wife's a blubbering wreck, the head tumbles off the jetty, and everyone goes home for tea. It's a nice place this Pagan.

Bordered on one side by a massive mountain range and on the other by the big sea, Tenebrae is the ideal starting set for an rpg. It's a microcosm, packed with a soap opera of classic rpg stereotypes and dramas. You've got an assortment of beggars and mad people, salespeople and inn keepers, guards and servants, scholars and hermits, mages and necromancers. Some are devout Mordea-ites, some think the old Guardian is a real good egg, and some are subversives, worshipping the big chin but secretly wishing they could land a large club on it. As you explore further, the realm expands into islands, plateaus, villages and underground dungeons, embracing subplots, tests and quests, while the lines between good and bad, honest and treacherous, boring and interesting in the characters become ever more blurred.

Using but your wit, your charisma, and kleptomania, you must choose your destiny - progress from possessionless vagabond to all powerful, all knowing mage, finding and using people and purloined possessions along the way, or eke a life out as a lowly seamstress in a mud hut in lessex Tenebrae. Not a very difficult choice admittedly, but the pathway is long and hard, pock-marked with acres of exploration and hours of interaction.

How?

Exploring, combat, conversation and indeed everything in the game is mouse driven. An arrow cursor stretches to three lengths as you whomp it around the playing area. Holding down the right button moves you in the selected direction, the length of the arrow determining your speed (short and stubby - small step, average length -canter, extremely long and extended - gallop). Clicking the left button in sprint mode makes you leap. Both buttons while standing still force Avatar up into the air to grab onto any overhead ledges or platforms.

On the taking and dropping side, a double left click on yourself will bring up your stats box, revealing a pretty pictoral depiction of your Avatar-ness sporting his current weapon, clothing and armour. Another left click on your backpack blows-up an image of your inventory. Objects are grabbed by holding down the left button and dragging them into your pack. Things (barrels, chests, wardrobes etc) are looked into by double left clicking.

A double right click on yourself puts you in combat-ready stance. Clicking left around your lean, mean self will swing you in eight directions to face any sneaky little monster who has the guile to challenge you. A swift double left click launches a lethal chop of your weapon onto the gizzard of your foe, while a swift double right will send a perfectly executed kick the same way. If the pressure gets too much, a held-down left button will block an attack.

As the game develops and mini-quests -rescuing stolen daggers, finding hermits etc - come your way, you'll invariably end up engaging the old brawn and broadsword on a regular basis. Strength and dexterity form the backbone of your fighting skills. Practice on weedy spiders, torax and ghouls soon develops into pitched battles against ghosts, trolls, shape-shifters and grizzled mages. The more scraps, the more your stats develop. And, of course, in between these rather sweaty confrontations you must rest and recoop, keep up with the gossip, read books, explore the nooks and crannies of the landscape, and generally gather all the info, objects and knowledge about your quest.

Questy

There are four prongs to the Avatar's quest. First prong: become big and magically tough. Second prong: bash the elemental titans who rule the world. Third prong: beat the Guardian. Fourth prong: get the hell out of Pagan. The first prong is the real chore. The magic of Pagan is divided into four schools, each ruled by respective elementals. Lithos, titan of the Earth, controls necromancy.

A devotee of this art can use the dead and slightly decomposed for their own ends, or just manipulate and stone for their protective or housebuilding properties. Hydras, alternatively, rules the water and can endow a follower with walking-on and breathing-in water skills as well as limited knowledge of the weather (a la Michael Fish). Mastering the skills of the air, elemental Stratos can provide healing and jumping power-ups while the study of the elements of Pyros can bring Hollywood style, explosive pyrotechnic ability to its most heathen of disciples. However, before dead bodies can be resurrected, soaked, thrown into the air and then toasted, the budding Avatar must a) work his way up through the ranks from neophyte to master, passing all sorts of tests and disciplines, and b) possess certain 'reagents'. These are ordinary domestic objects such as rocks, mushrooms, blood, and chocoloate, combinations of which focus and control 'magic energy'.

The second prong naturally develops from the first. As you rise through the ranks of wizardry, you'll get closer and closer to selling your soul to the Titans. Only once you know them and their art can you hope to find some kind of weakness, flaw, or fault in their make-up. Tramping the Titans should give you enough power to beat the Guardian (I'm guessing here) and then you should (er, I'm really floundering now) be able to 'magick' youself back to Earth or Britiannia or where ever.

The verdict

That's the game. That's Ultima VIII. Ultima die-hards will notice that this is a substantial depature from the Lord British norm. LB and his minions have taken an eminently marketable step into the Land of Accessibility For All. Gone are Dupre, Shamino, Iolo and all the 'chaps' from the previous games. Gone is the endless, confusing heritage of Ultima - the weird troll-packed history which is nudged and winked at by every game in the series. Now, everyone can take part. Hey kids - you can beat people up. Hey grown-ups - there are puzzles too. Hey sad people - you can interact with characters. Hey hippies -there are lots of mushrooms in it (nudge). Hey show-offs - the graphics are great. Hey neighbours - the sounds effects are good and loud. Hey rpg stalwarts - it's an Ultima game.

Unfortunately all this is at the expense of what we used to treasure about the Ultima games. Sure, we treasured a lot, the whole damn troll-packed lot of us, but mainly Ultima stuck out because it was so... unself-conscious. Lord British and his dwarves toiled away for 10 years, bringing out games which, if they weren't groundbreaking, at least didn't give a toss about any other game which was going on. Who could have taken a esoteric viewing angle, the standing-on-quite-a-high-up-ledge-looking-down-and-about-to-fall-off angle, and made an excellent game of it (Ultima VT?) Who could have kept the angle, sculpted the hugest plot and playing area in the universe, and still managed a thought-provoking and engrossing game out of it (Serpent Isle)? Who could have designed the first and most revolutionary and still, as yet, unbeaten (architecturally), texture-mapped, dungeon extravanganza (Underworld I)?

But now, with Ultima VIII, Origin has bowed to influence and to the mainstream. Basically it's taken the real-time Ultima Underworld movement and combat system and transplanted it into a 45 degree isometric landscape, picking up huge movement and scenic qualities from Prince Of Persia on the way. It works. But only just. There are some problems.

Gameplay

Ultima VIII is, for the first 10 or 15 hours of play, boring. You will spend hours and hours wandering around sections of landscape, interacting with frankly dull characters, getting lost and missing out huge sections of the map because there's no auto-mapping; going into houses and shifting things and searching innumerable barrels, drawers and wardrobes for useful objects - only to find fish and clothes. It's as long and as repetitive as that sentence. Pagan's audio-visuals make up a bit for this initial slow poke start. The graphics are excellent: nicely coloured, fluidly animated, detailed and well-drawn - all the cliches. The sound is pleasantly ambient: fires crackle. Avatar's footsteps change from cloppety, cobble footfalls to scrunchy, walking on grass sounds as he treks about. Monsters roar, steel 'sings', blows crunch, and the Avatar goes 'oof.

This new great-looking system is. however, flawed big time. The scrolling is awful. The playing area will shift smoothly for a few inches and then jerk, pausing for a moment, before carrying on. As you run, it's step. step. step. jerk.... step. step. step, jerk. Having more memory or a faster computer doesn't help either. We ran it on a Pentium with 16 megs and it still jerked. This arthritic action renders the Pagan's arcade elements almost unplayable. It's nigh-on impossible to judge running leaps. There's a section later on where you have to leap onto sinking platforms in the middle of a lake. It's ridiculous. It takes hundreds of attempts, saving and loading each time. Pagan has puzzles abungo - big thumbs up for that - but the arcade element is weak and irritating.

Niggles

There are some other things too. Your Avatar may well slow down under Pagan's relentless processing demands but traps and platforms don't. You can die before you've even seen what you're supposed to be reacting too. Also, it's really easy to 'lose' objects. If you fumble the mouse as an object is mid-way to your backpack, it will fall to the ground. If it falls behind an immoveable decoration, a wardrobe or torture rack for example, it's lost - you can't pick it up again. And as most adventurers don't bother saving before they pick up a key. you can end up losing acres of progress with just one fumble. And even if you managed to get that key in your backpack, it's no guarantee you'll be able to find it again. The inventory is a jumbled mess, with items and objects piled willy-nilly all over the place, under other objects, behind this, in the corner of that. It's a nightmare trying to initiate any kind of'Inventory Management System'. And the combat is. in short, a pain. There's no real skill involved other than bashing quicker than your opponent. And how do you know how much damage you're doing? Answer: you don't. You have no idea. And if you get killed, you'll be waiting ages for a reload.

Good Things

Of course, it's not all bad. A great deal of work has gone into the creation of the Pagan world - the storyline, the graphics, the characters and the quests. The lull at the start begins to fade as you start to achieve and work out where you can go and what you can do there. The intro sequence is great. The animation is great. The sound is great. The graphics are great - the 'layered' scenery is clever - if you walk into a building the roof swiftly disappears to reveal the interior. Walk up a flight of stairs and the second storey is flipped over the first floor. The single character emphasis allows more chance for that elusive 'character development' so enthroned in the rpg ethic, but it's a shame that the classic Ultima 'a blown up face of the person you're talking to' is missing, reducing your sympathy and identification with most characters.

Unfortunately, Pagan is a game you will either love or hate. 'Unfortunately' because I hate it. Its minimum technical requirements are way too high: it chugged away on my 486DX and Pagan hasn't enough Ultima-ness to engage my little grey Ultima chromosomes, and not enough Prince Of Persia to lure my arcadey bits away from the Shores Of Hell toTenebrae's pleasant shores.

If you get into it, it will last you weeks and you'll think it's brill and you'll love it and you'll play it and play it. But personally, I don't think it's much good.

Download Ultima VIII: Pagan

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

And into the feisty innards of Pagan we go, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with Aidan Reeves' rather shoddy and hot-potch solution. Those starting off from scratch with zzzzi may want to skip this walk-through until they've accustomed themselves to Pagaifs dreary depths. Aficionados, however, will find important clues buried in this mass of disjointed prose. The ThiePlayers take no responsibility for confusion or death caused by this scatty solution.

General Stuff

First things first - talk to the heroic fisherman, Devon, and then spend three to six hours scouting Tenebrae, getting your bearings and making your introductions. Glean as much info as possible while avoiding fights, confrontations, thievery and other anti-social behaviour. Help yourself to any weapons, money or artefacts you find (useful objects are usually buried beneath other objects like clothes and fish).

Mythran

You can find Mythran in the Plateau area by following the path north of Tenebrae into a cave. Jump across the water using the stones (save regularly for this sort of stuff) and watch out for zombies on the other side. The two big gates are opened by leaving each of the six levers in winch-moving position. Operate the seventh lever and the broken one will be fixed. Don't forget to buy a scroll from Mythran.

Necromancer's Dagger

Mordea has the dagger tucked safely away. Aramina, her servant girl, has the key. You need to visit her at home in Eastern Tenebrae.

Essential Items

The sticks are found in Western Tenebrae by a big tree near an abandoned house in the north-west corner. The executioner's hood is west and south of the archway which leads to the Necromancer's domain. Watch out - it's protected by changlings.

Necromancers

To find the Necromancers, look for a small room in the north-east without a roof, cobwebs on the doors and a ghoul inside. Enter the room and you'll fall through the floor and into the lower catacombs. After the necromancers, you re-enter the catacombs via a cave. Go immediately south until you find a door. This will lead you to the Mountain King.

Mountain King

Head south through the caves. Look for a set of large double-doors. Conjure a golem from the dirt to open them. Once inside, head north and east until you find some ruins and two levers. Pull both and then head back south until you can go west. You should now find some flickering red stepping-stones. Hop across these (very hard) and continue in this direction. Once you've solved the ForceFields puzzle, unlock the door and bear south-west. More jumping over stones is needed here to find a key on a skeleton. Head back and then northward, past the fireshrooms, until you reach a small lake. Cross the lake and take the second left into a small crevice. This will lead to a door which you're recently appropriated key will unlock. Run down the corridor, jump some more moving-platforms, and then head into a massive room with a corridor of ghouls and skeletons. Walk up this corridor and find the Mountain King at the top.

Lothian

After your rather noisy encounter with the Mountain King, head south. If you have the Recall Item from Mythran, visit the transporter, or else just step on the rune icon and you'll be teleported to the front of the hall. Head back to the Necromancers. Talk to the chief and then double click on Lothian to inter her. Talk to the Necromancer again and then re-enter the catacombs.

Obelisk Tip

Find the room with the plaque which reads "Toward fate do you travel". Unlock it with the Key of the Scion. Head into the Shrine area. Look for the five levers and work out how to get the key from the chest. Open the door to the north with this key. In this maze you can find the "Skull of Quakes". Work your way through to a jump over a small chasm and then find the gravesite. Cast "Open Ground" here and fall through the hole.

Look for all the Rolling Spheres and the blue floor. You'll need to toss something (a skull) over the gate onto the raised platform to open the gate. Grab two keys in this area. Jump over the light-ray to save hit points. To solve the "Hanoi's Tower" puzzle, move all the stairs into the middle. Your first step will take away a stair and your second will place it. You cannot place a larger step on a space where there is a smaller one. Cast "Rock Flesh" to walk through the light-rays unharmed and then unlock the doors. By the broken bench under the Skeleton's body is a key. Go back to the Rolling Spheres by unlocking several doors with this key. Get the Ceremonial shield and return to the place with the benches. Place the shield on the altar. The door to Khumash-Gor is opened with the scroll you get from Mythran's. To defeat him easily, cast a "Grant Peace" on the ghost which attacks you. Get the Obelisk Tip and leave the Catacombs.

Devon In Jail

If Devon is placed in Jail, you will need to use Mythran's scroll to open the wall where a small purple book lies encaged.

Doorways

The doorways to the areas of Fire, Air, and Water are near the gateway you went through before finding the Double-Doorway to the Hall of the Mountain King and can be unlocked with the Key of the Caretaker.

Earth

You can get the Heart of Earth by transporting to the Hall of the Mountain King and heading out the doors to the south, then unlocking the door to the east and heading up the west-fork. Make your way behind the Conventicle and keep moving until you find a plaque with the words: "Conventicler", near a grave alongside a gate and a lever. Get the key from the corpse. Head back to the Conventicle. Unlock the doors with this key. Cast "Open Ground" near the Grave. Take the Heart of Earth.

Water

Find Hydros by walking to the south side of the lake and hopping across the broken land-bridge. Enter the cave entrance near the south-west side of the lake and then jump through the wall with a hole in it. Go through a few more walls, and eventually find a grave above a cliff and next to a small pond. Cast "Open Ground" to free the water. Go back and talk to Hydros then go back to Tenebrae and talk to Devon for the Key to the Tear of Seas. If he doesn't offer it to you yet, go on to the other elements and come back to him for this later.

Air

Find your way to town. Talk to Stellos, and then talk to the guy with a sword who Stellos tells you to see about joining their order. Pass the first test. Go west of the town to the point for the test of Centeredness. This test is a bit hard, but the trick is to be in the centre before each new gust of wind. Go back to the town and talk to Stellos who'll give you a key to the mines. The mines are below the Monastery. Take the stairs down in the Kitchen. Look for eight pieces of silver. The building with no door can be opened with Mythran's Scroll, and contains The Protector sword. Return to Tenebrae, go to the Blacksmith in Western Tenebrae and have him make you 7 Foci. Then go back to Argentrock and place the foci on the altar. To pass the third test you need to return to the mine. Cast "Aerial Servant" on the wounded Torax in the west-end of the mine to bring him closer. Then cast "Healing Touch". Talk to the Xavier again. To find his focus; cast "Hear Truth" and ask both he and Stellos about people. Finally, ask Holy "Cyrrus where Torwin is. Go to "Windy Point. To reach Stratos; hop from between the pillars at 'Windy Point. Hop your way up to her (save regularly if you need to). You can save some time for yourself by casting "Reveal" while she's visible and then cast "Aerial Servant" to get the Breath of Wind.

Fire

Find the point where Devon talks to you and cross the Lava-River here. Cast "Air Walk" and leap across. Jump the water and climb the cliff to "Daemon's Crag". Visit Bane and get her trust, then visit Vadion and get his trust. Give either one the other's TrueName. Learn to cast Fire Spells in the Library. You'll need reagents and a few candles. Make sure the reagents are close to the candles - they're supposed to be. Return to whomever you chose and take the casting-test. Then head west and cross the Land-Bridge and enter the Obsidian Fortress. Run away from the Demons. Talk to the third Demon you see. The bare minimum of spells you should now prepare are: Flash, Endure Heat, Extinguish, Banish Demon, and Armor of Flames. You can prepare others if you think they might be useful. Solve each of the 4 puzzles, and when you have all four symbols, return to-the Talking Demon. Finish the Master's test, making sure to have a Banish Demon ready. After the scene with Pyros, return to the Obsidian fortress and kill the Master and take the Tongue of Flame from him.

SOME MORE

Go back and visit Mythran and learn some spells from him. You will need the "Ethereal Travel" spell from him for 250 coins. When you cast Ethereal travel you'll need to defeat each element. Use each symbol on each respective Titan.

Earth: Use "Endure Heat" to get past the lava. Water: Lots of hopping Fire: Drop white balls on the glowing squares. Air: Ignore the treasure, just keep hopping.... When you have beaten them all and have the four glowing objects, place them on the Pentacle in this order: Mesostel Pa - Heart of Earth Perivolcan Pa - Tear of Seas Perivolcan Ze - Tongue of Flame Mesostel Ze - Breath of Wind Aphelion - Obelisk tip Double-click on the Tip and then click on yourself. This should then open the Black Gate if you have them in the right order. Fini.

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