It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at the heart and soul of Shroud of the Avatar, but this release seems like a good place for it. Release 23 should take a lot of Ultima fans back to the days of Ultima IV when instead of pressing the Space Bar repeatedly until you got stats you could be happy with, you were presented with a series of questions that determined your fate – and character class if I recall correctly.

For the start of Release 23, we are presented with the Cairn stones and a Mysterious Mage who is not only ready to welcome us to this new realm, but set us off on our chosen path. She is a messenger of Lord British and when you’re ready she presents a few questions to decide what type of hero you might be. This will also determine skill attributes and combat glyphs when the time comes.

I was put on the path of Blades and soon found myself within the Highvale battle scene with carnage all around. It’s worth the time to look around, read some of the scraps of paper you’ll find within the abandoned homes and maybe it might be against the ways of the Oracle, but I may have, sort of, perhaps, rifled through the pockets of a couple of the fallen to see if there might be a spare coin or two. I’m going to use the money for good which makes robbing from the dead less severe.

This scene is also a practice area so you can get your bearings and learn how to swing a sword without taking off your own toes or thumbs.

I also found a couple of interesting items such as the Obsidian Chip and a pumpkin patch. It wasn’t the most sincere one I’ve come across, but it wasn’t a bad start.

Exiting Highvale put me back in Soltown where I met up with other players. It is interesting to note that meeting the Mage and my time in Highvale were spent alone. This appears to be a single player instance, so you are alone to contemplate your answers and the repercussions.

To be honest, I was quite thrilled with this new intro, which as I mentioned, took me back to Ultima IV. I think this is a great way to start things where you can get your bearings, try out of a few things and pick a path that won’t be the same as everyone else. I assume as we get further along, there will be more questions corresponding to all the Virtues which will in turn make things a little more unique. It would also be interesting if there were multiple scenes to be sent to, with slightly different bits of information about the ongoing conflicts and different people to talk to. I know we go to different scenes, I’m referring to subtle little changes that change the story to give create a bit of uniqueness to your adventures.

We have come a long, long way and the amount of content making appearing  in the game is impressive. Most of the story is being held back so that when it releases, people who’ve been playing it for the past year, don’t run through everything and finish off the story within a couple of hours and not only ruin the game for everyone else, but spend the next year whining about how there is nothing to do.

That was the extent of my adventures. I talked with a couple of the refugees from Solace Bridge to offer a bit of help and spoke to a couple of the townspeople to see how I could be of use there.

I’ve barely started with this release, so stay tuned for more adventures. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict one or more or all of the following will occur:

I’ll die trying to get the Plague Mask from the Tour Guide
At some point I’ll be incinerated
I will meet my death at the hands of a cliff
I will get a beat down from at least one bandit mob
I will do some fishing
I’ll be incinerated again
I’ll wear a pumpkin on my head
Alley will have to save my life
Alley will have to save Blake’s life
I’ll get stuck in tree
I’ll end up on the roof of a home that isn’t mine
And at some point, I will make disparaging comments about Halmar and end up in the pub

Oh, and if you find yourself up the road from Braemar and down the road from Kingsport, stop on in to the Hollow, we’ll be decorating for Halloween – in all it’s immersion breaking glory!!!

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More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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