Everyone knows (or should know ;) that Ultima IV is still my favorite RPG. For all that, it wasn’t perfect – no game is – and I suffered through a couple of agonizing experiences during play.

The first came when Hawkwind told me I was ready for the Shrine of Humility. This was situated in a small enclosed area on an island; the only way to reach it was by ship. Naturally, we went sailing right off.

The party disembarked, took a step forward, and was immediately attacked by a bunch of Balrons. It was a tough fight, but we prevailed. Then I looked into some of the treasure boxes left behind (each critter dropped one).

Didn’t see much worth taking, so we went on. Another step, another bunch of Balrons. That should have told me something, but I’m persistent (some might say obstinate). We took them out, and continued on.

Every step along the path to the Shrine was another combat. How I managed to do it, I don’t know. But I was certainly determined to reach my goal, plowing on and ignoring the boxes, which by that time cluttered the screen.

So I do my thing at the Shrine, we come out, and head for the ship (no fights on the way back). It’s gone.

Gone? Now what? The only way off is by ship. I hung around the coast for awhile, hoping a pirate vessel might come by. Nope. Finally, though I really didn’t want to, I restored the game and did it all over again.

And yes, the second time we went back, the ship was gone again. I was really becoming…perturbed by this. Gritting my teeth (it’s hard to mutter imprecations that way), I went through it one more time. And again the ship wasn’t there.

Fortunately, a pirate vessel did show up, we took it over (piece of cake after three sessions of Balrons!), and I was done with the Shrine of Humility.

Later on, I learned a few things. The first was I didn’t have the Magic Horn. Blowing that after arriving on the island would have turned off the Balrons. The next one was a bit nastier.

The game could only hold so many items in memory. When that filled up, it started wiping out earlier objects. The old FIFO system. And what was first in? The ship, of course! So as we were killing all those Balrons, and ignoring the treasure boxes, the game was deleting the ship and some of the early boxes, too.

The last thing I found out, which slightly made up for this, was you weren’t supposed to be able to reach the Shrine without the horn. And here I’d done it not once, but three times in a row. I’d have preferred the easier way ;).

And then there was the very end of the game. The last dungeon was eight levels deep, and you couldn’t save in there. Also, in the dungeons, party members had to be moved around one at a time, where in the outdoors the group moved as a single unit represented by the Avatar.

So here we are, several hours of dungeoneering later, at the door to the Codex. Time for a pop quiz on the virtues!

So a question comes up, and the answer to it was either Honor or Honesty, I don’t recall which. Whatever it was, I typed in the other. Naturally, it was just after I hit return that I realized it was wrong. Oops. Honor/Honesty…they seem pretty close at 1 in the morning, when you’re somewhat punch-drunk from a five hour tour in hell.

The party was booted out of the dungeon, and deposited near the town representing the correct virtue. Love those subtle hints ;)

Of course, I wasn’t loving anything at that moment. The first thought that went through my mind (the first printable thought) was: If Lord British were here right now, I’d strangle him.

I did have a save from just before entering the dungeon, so I didn’t have to go around buying bunches of reagents for the spells. And the next day, I did go through it all again (faster, naturally, since I knew the way) and finish.

Yes, Ultima IV is still my favorite, but there are some parts of it I’d rather not think about….miniscorp