Reconciling the Past: Revenge of the Enchantress
Like the other Age of Darkness trilogy titles, Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress is another quest to beat the big boss. This time around, the big bad is Minax, the beautiful apprentice of Mondain the Wizard, whom you killed in the prior quest. She, like her mentor, is protected from all weapons. Again, you need to discover a way to kill her anyway.
When the archevil Mondain was finally overcome by a gallant knight, the ravaged world rejoiced. The warlock who had called himself immortal was indeed dead, and a long-sought peace slowly healed the wounds of the people.
Certainly, the good folk of Earth had no ear for the quiet, insistent rumors of wars still to come. Kings and commoners alike eased the last dark vestiges of Mondain’s evil out of their minds and away from their lives. Their souls began to know happiness once more… but only for a short, blissful time.
The most virulent of the rumors that surrounded Mondain’s demise spoke vaguely a warning that Mondain had been training an apprentice, a young and impressionable protege with an indescribably powerful gift of magic. This rumor was all but squelched when companions of the warlock’s slayer entered the shattered chambers of Mondain’s fortress and found nothing but smoking rubble and dust-clotted bloodstains on the floor. (Not so much as a single shard of Mondain’s dread Gem of Immortality lay among the wrechage… but many, many years would pass before the awful import of that detail would come to light.)
Instead, little by little and too often blindly evaded, the evils of the coming age began to shower Earth. By the time the people finally acknowledge it, the evil was too powerful, too widespread to be overcome directly. Already its perpetrator was stronger and more wretched than any prince of darkness before and had grown too vain to keep silent.
Thus was the name of Minax, enchantress of evil, made known. A master of telekinesis from infancy and proudly apprenticed to Mondain the Wizard at age eleven, she had grown to wield a power many times greater than that which had failed to save her master. And with that growth arose an intense hatred for the people of Earth who had wrought her master’s end. Never content to merely afflict the good with evil, causing misery and pain, Minax sought to sow the seeds of evil in the good, leaving none untouched. Storms of destruction collapsed the framework of society, and horrors once known only to those with conscience – guilt, loathing, and self-hatred – prevailed against the entire Earth.
– from Ultima II manual
Like Ultima I, this title contains seemingly insurmountable incongruences with the later games. However, let’s take a look at each of them so we can tie these up in the Age article.
Incomplete Dialogue and Interactivity
Just like in Ultima IV and V, but even more restrictive in the Age of Darkness, the conversation, object interaction, and scripting abilities of the game engines left much to be desired. Therefore, it is impossible to know exactly what a character said, or what words were present in a book. While this allows players to use their imagination and immerse into their character, it does make it difficult to establish an exact recreation of the events.
In Ultima II, players go from swords and chainmail to phazors and power armor, and sail a frigate before blasting off in a Soviet rocket. At least this time around, time-travel is available to explain away some of these things, but their appearance is odd to say the least.
Minax has opened Time Doors throughout four Ages on Earth: Pangea (9,000,000 B.C.), 1423 B.C., 1990 A.D., and the Aftermath (2112 A.D.). Although these are, simply put, the first appearance of moongates with a nod to the movie Time Bandits, they function to allow the player to access different maps at any time throughout the game.
Ultima II takes place on Earth, but all of Sosaria knows of her. In fact, her reign was supposedly worse than Mondain’s. Its possible that she ruled over Sosaria as well as Earth, but there is no proof of that in the game. Likely, the reason for the translocation to Earth is that creating four time periods of a fictional world would be difficult for players to take in.
Dungeons and Towers
Dungeons were needed for players to advance by forcing them to locate gold and eventually a Blue Tassle, which was required to sail a frigate. Towers, on the other hand, were inverse dungeon crawls (start at the bottom and move up), and existed only to force players to gather trilithium, which was required for space travel. This wasn’t needed in the previous space jaunt, and really serves only as a timesink. It was a cool idea, which was not repeated in future Ultimas (with exceptions for Stonegate).
The locations and characters in the game are largely in-jokes. Combined with the limited interactivity of the game, this makes it very difficult to weed out the plot from the nonsensical.
Is Ultima II fit any better than its predecessor into the series? No, it actually is probably worse, since it doesn’t even share a setting with the other games. How will it work out? Next up, Escape from Mt. Drash!