The Ultima IV Manual
As I basically stated in my previous post, I think I’m done with Fallout, for now at least. I really wasn’t expecting the game to be so unforgiving. I mean, people told me it was brutally hard, but I suspected people might have been exaggerating or influenced by nostalgia. As it turns out, no, Fallout really is a brutal game. So brutal that it just comes off as obnoxious.
What surprised me was the number of people who actually supported this decision to quit. I was expecting everyone to say, “No, dude, you’ve got to stick with it just a little bit longer! It’ll get better, I swear!” But instead the resounding opinion was, “Yeah, if the game is this frustrating, it might be best to quit.”
Thanks, guys. I really appreciate your understanding.
Anyway, I want to find another CRPG in the meantime. I have a lot of options available, but I figured I’d try out Ultima IV since it’s free now and it’s considered so hugely groundbreaking and all that.
So I started up the game, I went through lots and lots of text, I went through a pseudo-personality-test, and then I experienced what might be the most horribly unintuitive control scheme and interface I’ve ever seen in a game.
There appears to be no help screen, though if there is it’s not like the game tells you how to find it. All I can do is press buttons and try to figure out what they do. Here’s what I’ve got so far: A = attack, S = search, Q = save and quit.
Christ. Okay, I think I might actually have to read the manual this time around.
Now, I remember reading an Escapist news article about a year ago that talked about how kids are so stupid because they didn’t think it was necessary to read the manual for an old game. Actually, the article wasn’t that insulting toward the youngins, but the comments in the following thread certainly were.
As I’ve said before, I utterly resent the notion that “anybody who doesn’t want to read the manual is an idiot.” That would be like saying people nowadays are lazy asses because they’d rather drive to work than walk there. Modern technology is better than the technology before it, and you can’t blame people for becoming accustomed to it. Personally, I’m really glad games are accessible enough nowadays that people other than neckbeards can play and enjoy them.
But I figured that if I want to enjoy Ultima IV, I’ll probably have to be a bit less stubborn. So I downloaded the manual off of GOG.com and skimmed through it.
As it turns out, the manual isn’t as long as I thought it would be. It’s only 21 pages long. Granted, each page is absolutely packed with text, but at least it isn’t as long as Fallout’s manual. (124 pages, FYI.) But here’s the punchline: The control scheme is not listed anywhere in the manual. In fact, the manual says nothing about how to play the game.
You see, the manual is titled The History Of Britannia, and it’s essentially a great big brick of flavor text about the history of the world. It’s not actually an instruction manual, despite its Adobe file clearly being named “Ultima_4_manual.pdf.” I suppose explaining the impenetrable control system to the player would have counted as breaking the fourth wall.
I am at a loss for words. This is truly baffling. I understand that technological limitations meant they couldn’t stick a tutorial or a help screen within the game itself. I get that. But what’s the manual’s excuse? Had instructions not been invented yet?
This game was released in 1985; in other words, before we had Gamefaqs. How did anybody learn to play it?