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Submission #6623: Twisted Eye's NES Ultima: Warriors of Destiny in 20:29.79

Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game name: Ultima: Warriors of Destiny
Game version: USA
ROM filename: Ultima - Warriors of Destiny (U).nes
Branch:
Emulator: Bizhawk 2.4
Movie length: 20:29.79
FrameCount: 73909
Re-record count: 306
Author's real name: Denny Betterman
Author's nickname: Twisted Eye
Submitter: Twisted Eye
Submitted at: 2020-02-08 20:15:51
Text last edited at: 2020-03-23 04:12:37
Text last edited by: Dacicus
Download: Download (22541 bytes)
Status: published
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Ultima - Warriors of Destiny (NES) in 20:29


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"Ultima - Warriors of Destiny" is the NES port of the fifth entry in the Ultima series, and a direct sequel to the fourth entry, "Ultima: Quest of the Avatar." Returning to the land of Britannia, you, the Avatar of Virtue, find that its ruler, Lord British, is missing without a trace. His replacement, Blackthorn, seems possessed and the land is in turmoil at his hand. Your mission is to travel the land, converse with its citizens for clues and answers, conquer the dungeons, and ultimately rescue Lord British and return him to his rightful throne.

With Ultima 4's NES port being one of my favorite JRPGs in my youth, I was always disappointed by Ultima 5. It was slow, overly complex, and I never got a grasp of what I was supposed to do. Turns out being a weak port put out five years after the original game didn't help its playability. 20-something years later I decided to grab a walkthrough and finally get my head wrapped around this one, and decided afterward to make a TAS as a personal project. Turns out, despite all of the game's depth and mechanics, there are very few quests that actually have to be completed in the stripped-down NES port. Parts of Ultima 4's main quest is duplicated here--find the key to accessing the eight Shrines of Virtue (runes in 4, key words in 5), journey to each shrine, and adventure to the Codex at the end of the world. But in the NES version of 5, your only reward comes when you return to each shrine: a minor stat boost. Not of much use even in casual play. Other major quests include obtaining proof of being a part of the resistance group and/or a part of Blackthorn's forces, but all of this work is only to provide you with information and lore--totally irrelevant to repeat playthroughs.

INTRO

For this TAS, the Avatar only accomplishes the barest necessities to gain access to the new dungeon, Doom, and free Lord British. This playthrough can be split into three parts, each roughly seven minutes long. Before starting, you're tasked with classing your Avatar. Unlike in Ultima 4, the virtues here are introduced in no set order. Picking a virtue will grant you a stat point in each of the matching Principles of that virtue--Truth is INT, Love is DEX, and Courage is STR. By going full Love (Spirituality, Sacrifice, Justice, and Compassion), I start with the highest possible DEX score to help evade monster attacks. Since Ultima 5 does away with 4's random battles and is fully real-time in-world, no time is wasted killing, or taking damage from, a single enemy in the whole run. With class in hand, the prologue plays out, and Iolo the Bard and Shamino the Ranger are put into my party. They do nothing else ever.

PART ONE -- THE OVERWORLD

My first goal is to clear the overworld of Britannia of any necessary steps. The Escape spell is essential here--intended to be a random 'get out of trouble free' skill, luck manipulation allows the TAS to use it instead as a quick warp to one of eight locations on the map. Magic requires that you have necessary reagents in your inventory to cast, but Ultima 5 starts you out with so many that no management is ever necessary. Since most of Part One's checklist starts from a use of Escape, the order is a little flexible.

STEP 1: SERPENT'S HOLD

I immediately swap my useless sword for my powerful spellbook and Escape to Serpent's Hold. This southern castle is the land's center for all things related to the Principle of Courage. For this TAS, it's just a quick shopping run. First, I visit Siegecrafters and purchase a Skiff. This boat is necessary for safe ocean travel. Then, I visit Kristi the Cook, who slyly sells Skull Keys on the side. One key grants unlimited access to every blue locked door in the world. Gold pieces are needed for these two transactions, but Ultima 5 starts you out with so many that no management is ever necessary.

STEP 2: TRINSIC

Next, I Escape to the courtyard in Trinsic, the town devoted to the Virtue of Honor. The Avatar must speak to Sindar here to learn the Word of Power needed to enter the Dungeon Shame. 'Infama.' Next, we travel on foot north out of town.

STEP 3: PAWS

This small village has no bearing on the virtues of the land, but is as necessary to game completion as it was in Ultima 4. Here, the Avatar has a chat with Kenneth the Bard, who provides us with a very important piece of Sheet Music for harpsichord play. Delightful chamber music is a must for any fantasy game universe! Next is a visit to the Cat's Lair, a general store where we purchase some Lockpicks. One pick grants unlimited access to every yellow locked door in the world. Next, I equip and use the Skiff, and the party sails eastward into the blue.

STEP 4: BUCCANEERS' DEN

The pirate haven is the other small village to return from Ultima 4, unlike Vespar and Cove, but it serves only one small purpose here. Bidney the Pirate is found here, and he tells us where to go to obtain a mountaineer's Grapple. Without this conversation, we cannot ask Lord Michael for it. Let's talk to him next.

STEP 5: EMPATH ABBEY

Escape to Yew, the town devoted to the Virtue of Justice. It connects with the front gate of the castle of Empath Abbey, the land's center for all things related to the Principle of Love. The TAS's only need here is to speak with Lord Michael and ask him for his Grapple, which he provides. Due to some strange glitch probably relating to the Escape spell, he doesn't appear unless we walk nearby and then far enough away from him? Anyway, with this Grapple, we can travel over mountain tiles, one at a time, and only on the overworld. This is used for exactly one (1) tile and never again. But first, a small Escape side track.

STEP 6: CASTLE BRITANNIA

At the heart of the advebtyre, we obtain two incredibly important items. Behind the empty throne, there is a pair of locked doors leading to Lord British's personal chambers. Equipping the Lockpicks and the Sheet Music, we step inside and next to the harpsichord. Using the Sheet Music on the instrument will open a gate guarding much treasure, but we only want one thing within: The Sandalwood Box, the key item to finish the quest. Nearby the harpsichord, we also pick up the rug laying on the ground. This is actually the fabled Magic Carpet, and when used, the party can fly over terrain and enemies with relative ease. There is one spot where it is necessary to have, but it's also usually faster to fly from here on out.

STEP 7: STONEGATE

Equipping the Grapple and the Spellbook, I Escape to Minoc, the town devoted to the Virtue of Sacrifice. The fortress of Stonegate is protected within the mountains immediately south of town, and the only way in is with use of the grappling hook. A quick jaunt south around the mountain brings us to the quickest path in, where only a single use of the Grapple is needed. Then, both the Lockpicks and the Skull Key are equipped to get passed two sets of locked doors. The demon you see inside the gates never attacks--he's instead someone you can converse with, for no real benefit. Behind him, in the center of the building, is the magical Scepter, another item necessary for entering the final Dungeon Doom. At this point, in my first draft of the TAS's pathing, I had hoped that we now had everything truly necessary to enter the final dungeon, but unfortunately, there is no getting into Doom without the magical Amulet. That item can only be found at the very bottom of the Dungeon Destard, adding an entire middle chapter to this TAS, and requiring one more step in Part One.

STEP 8: JHELOM

Jhelom, the town devoted to the Virtue of Valor, is our next destination, and can be relatively easily traveled to by Moongate. These warp points return from previous Ultima games, however with a twist: Ultima 5 added a day/night system, and these moongates only seem to open at nighttime. But this TAS conquers the overworld so quickly that dusk doesn't arrive until the Avatar is already exploring Dungeon Destard! So, the fastest way to Jhelom is by Escaping to Trinsic and flying over the ocean. The Magic Carpet is not perfect, however, and the whole party takes damage if you attempt to fly over the dark blue deep ocean tiles. Thankfully, the path only needs to cross over a single tile, so the time and HP lost is very minor. Here in Jhelom, we seek out Goeth, who was cursed to speak backwards. This quirky conversation teaches us the Word of Power to unlock the Dungeon Destard. 'Inopia.'

PART TWO: DUNGEON DESTARD

Escaping back to Trinsic, we fly southwest to the nearby entrance of the Dungeon Destard. The only way in is to speak to the guardian and speak the Word of Power. Now we begin flying through the dungeon. In Ultima 5, each dungeon is only 4 levels deep, though there is plenty of going up and down ladders to confuse any dungeon delver. Flying is the easiest way down, as you can avoid stalagmites, poisonous swamp tiles, and scoot right over the heads of any monsters. One hit from an enemy, though, is enough to knock the entire party off of the carpet, so luck is manipulated to prevent any interruption. Besides that, all that's left is to take the shortest route down all four levels, and then downward one more floor into the Underworld. The Underworld, new to Ultima 5, looks just like the Overworld, but is separated into eight distinct regions that cannot reach each other in any way. The only way in, excluding the Shrine of Spirituality reached via Moongate, is through the seven Dungeons of Britannia. Two regions are unnecessary, providing info and gear only. Three regions give you Shards, used for killing the Shadowlords, which is also unnecessary as I will explain later. One region contains the entrance to Dungeon Doom. The region that Destard links us to is a long winding path through river, lake, swamp, and mountain, to a lonely graveyard. Ignoring the mediocre gear laying about, there is also to be found the magical Amulet. With this in hand, we are finally able to conquer Doom and end the game.

PART THREE: SHAME, DOOM, AND VICTORY

I Escape to Yew again, and fly south around the mountain range to the entrance of the Dungeon Shame. Speaking the Word of Power to the guardian, the party descends. This dungeon is a mite shorter than Destard was, but is otherwise very similar to traverse. Upon entry to the Underworld, we use the Skiff to reach an island in the middle of a lake. There is an enchantment preventing access to the entrance of Doom, but the spell can be flown over with the Magic Carpet once equipped with the magical Amulet. Within the first room of Doom, however, the party is beseiged by the trio of Shadowlords. Normally, you have to go to the three castles, summon the Shadowlords with the three Horns of Summoning, and slay them by destroying the three Shards, found at the bottoms of three Dungeons, unlocked using three Words of Power. That's a lot of adventuring! These are the strongest enemies in the entire game and can easily one shot your party. ...Thankfully, a little luck lets you just fly by without incident. Just passed the Shadowlords are magic Barriers blocking entry, which the magical Sceptre can dispel. Then, it's just walking through the dungeon to its completion. It's tedious to manipulate the monsters into letting the party walk by peacefully without blocking their path, but it can be done without losing any frames. Thus it's faster to just not bother equipping the Carpet and then the Sandalwood Box again later. At the very bottom of Doom is an empty building. Using the Sandalwood Box on the magic mirror found within completes the game, freeing Lord British from his imprisonment. The Epilogue plays, Blackthorne opting to leave Britannia for unknown lands far away rather than bend the knee and atone for his evil deeds. The final key press occurs after the short credits complete and Congratulations are given, with a final total of 64 loops. Oh, by that I mean 64 loops of the music. There are exactly two sounds in the NES Ultima 5: The Intro/Outro music, and the in-game music. There is no other sound effect that ever plays, and no other music. The in-game music, while energetic and upbeat, is only a two-channel tune on a brief 18 second loop. Even excluding dungeon travel, there are sections of this TAS where the entire musical soundtrack plays in the time it takes for the Avatar to travel from one location to the next. The boat ride from Paws to Buccaneers' Den is almost exactly one song loop long, for example. Did you notice it when viewing? Did it get annoying? A normal playthrough would be hours long, of that one song, on unstoppable repeat. Good stuff!

POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS

It's possible to kick Iolo and Shamino out of the party. This *might* save time on lag, since this game is unbelieveably slow already that anything done to speed it up can save a lot of time in the long run. To many characters on the same horizontal line noticeably slows the game down--this TAS takes a diagonal step in the Cat's Tail to avoid slowdowns when trying to converse with the shopkeeper there, which wouldn't be as important to manage without the bard and ranger around. Kicking them out, though, requires unequipping them of shield, sword, and bow first, and then initiating conversation with each, one at a time. It's a slow process, so the lag gains would have to be more than a couple seconds total to make the tradeoff worthwhile. There might be a path around Minoc that could be slightly faster than going through the inn, since the Grapple is already equipped. This idea only just now popped into my head as I was typing up this submission, and like hell am I testing this out now just to possibly save like a dozen frames and redo the last 14 minutes of the run. pfft.

So that's it then! Thanks for checking this out. I started work on this TAS with the express purpose of never making a submission out of it, since I figured it would be way too boring to actually watch. At 20 minutes, the TAS was actually much shorter than I was expecting, and explaining the details of the run to myself seemed actually interesting enough that typing up the submission sounded kinda fun, so like frikkin whatever here we go, I'll post this junk, what's the worst that can happen? It's been 9 years since the last time I actually submitted a run, and 14 years since the FIRST time I submitted a run. This site has been a lot of fun to lurk this whole time, watching almost everything that gets submitted, there's a ton of creativity and artistry in this technological silliness that you lot keep coming up with. Y'all are beautiful. I'd submit more movies but solving the puzzle of how to make the best run for a game is a ton more fun (and can hold my attention a heck of a lot better) than actually doing the hard work making the stupid thing, haha...


Truncated: Judging.


Truncated: First of all, sorry for being so slow on judging this, and good to see you again, fellow old-timer.

I think the movie, though not too long, doesn't really contain anything interesting or impressive to watch. The submission text is more interesting. The movement and graphics are jumpy and flickery, the music and sound is grating and non-existent (as you mentioned). But it seems to be well played, so I will accept it for the Vault.

Dacicus: Processing...


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