45 - Gathering Steam

Level five of Ultima Underworld is definitely the most bizarre design I have experienced so far. Although the map and layout is symmetrical, the individual areas seem very disconnected and each has its own quirks. They all came together with some strange puzzles and even crazier references that were a completely surprise. This is a pretty quick one, so let’s dive right in.

Quick Advances

In the

last post

I had mentioned that I visited the tombs of Level 5 to retrieve the hilt for the sword of justice. I returned to explore the rest of the area from that starting point, but found it was actually cut off from the rest of the floor. Returning to level four, I found more stairs in the meeting hall that led to the central area of level five proper. Ripping my way through spiders and skeletons using my newly forged (and indestructible) Sword of Justice, I found myself in small room with one lever at its four corners and a pedestal in the middle. This is the site of the

Ring of Humility

that the knight had tipped me off about in return for the gem cutter. Using the correct combination, I found myself in possession of the ring and halfway to all eight of the talismans of Cabirus.

Continuing south I arrived in a large meeting room presumably used by the organization different societies attempting to create a utopia in the Abyss before it all fell apart after Cabirus’s death. Taken over by rodents and rubbish, the whole area was quite effective in conveying a feeling of ruin, decay, and tragic failure of an idealist’s plans. Sound familiar to anyone? (Bioshock)

Other than that, the other portions of the level surrounding the central hub were quite straightforward. The east was blocked and had a set of stairs heading down to level six, south led to a large cavern with a lava river and a sad mage pining for her lost boyfriend named Tom, and the west contained a shrine and an NPC named Anjor. Anjor is a wizard looking for eighty rock samples contained in the mines to the southwest to aid his magical studies. Unfortunately, the mines can only be accessed through a teleportation chamber the ghoul mine foreman knows about. I was not interested in carrying around so many rocks, but I retraced my steps to level four to return in the southeast portion of the map to talk to the ghouls.

[My map of level 5.]

Not quite the crypt keeper.

As a pleasant surprise, the ghouls were very helpful and formerly part of the larger society being formed in the Abyss. One ghoul, named Marrowsuck, converted some string and the dragon scales I had traded the trolls for into a set of dragon scale boots allowing me to walk on lava. I also spoke to a friendly ghoul named Eyesnack who taught me a song for a flute I had found in the meeting chamber that I am sure will come in handy later. After finally getting the combination to open the teleportation room for the mines, I stepped in and worried about how I would ferry all these rocks back to Anjor.

[All the other kooks with the dragon scale boots...]

What a weird surprise this turned out to be. The mines are laid out in a symmetrical grid with the required rock samples that actually have zero weight laid out as evenly spaced dots. Four ghosts flew around as I collected the dots in a giant and tonally

inconsistent Pac Man reference

. Even though this is not nearly as egregious as

Minecraft in Borderlands 2

or ‘lol bacon’ type jokes in other games, it really tore me out of the experience since the rest of the game was moderately serious.

Goofiness has always been part of the Ultima experience

, but this one was just so out of the blue it seemed strange. I imagine it was cool on release, though, and took quite a bit of quest scripting to get working. I’ll let it slide.

Returning the stones to Anjor, I was given a giant chunk of gold that I am not sure what to do with and sent on my way. I explored a few more corners that hadn’t been revealed, found a hidden door that connected to the tombs, and finally made my way down to level six.

[Anjor the mage: giver of Pac Man quests.]

Next Time

Next post I will get into my adventures on level six and my delight of how everything is coming together. I think I am actually getting really close to finishing the game (at the time of this post I am on level seven) and am looking forward to seeing its conclusion. Thanks for checking in even though this was a short level without much content besides the Pac Man reference. Level six has much more plot relevant action.

As always, follow me


on Twitter and leave any comments you have about your experiences with Ultima Underworld. It remains a joy to play and is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had while gaming for the blog. Every session reveals more influences it has had on game design solidifying its legendary status more and more for me, personally. I can’t wait to see what it offers up next!

--Backlog Killer

[I'll just be chilling in this lava with my new footwear.]