Memory 2 MB
Disk Space Minimum 4 MB
Max/Rec Computer. 486
Control: Keyboard, mouse (recommended)
Sound: Adlib, SB, SB Pro, MT-32, LAPC-1
Notes: uses proprietary Voodoo memory manager; different devices for music and sound effects supported; 4 MB HDD space required for installation process, but only 2 MB HDD space taken after installation; Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle required
Reviewed on: 486DX-33, 8 MB RAM, SVGA monitor, SB16 ASP, MS Mouse 2.0, MS-DOS 6.0
The Silver Seed is the add-in disk to Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle. Like Forge of Virtue (the add-in disk to Ultima VII: The Black Gate), it adds a new scenario with several quests to the main game. The Avatar and his/her companions now have the means to travel back to the Serpent Isle's past, circa the last days of the War of Imbalance, to look for the Silver Seed which can aid in healing the shattered land. While Forge of Virtue was a test of the Way of the Avatar for players, The Silver Seed is more like a treasure hunt. There are altogether four quests to be completed before one can obtain the Silver Seed.
The documentation comes with the solutions for all the quests. However, there is at least one inaccuracy here. In the abandoned outpost, the body with the rope is incorrectly listed as being in location 10, whereas it is actually in location 11. Obviously, quality control was a little lacking here, and hopefully it isn't a result of a desire to get the game out quickly.
The Silver Seed makes some needed improvements to the gameplay and interface of the current Ultima engine. Most of the save games in Serpent Isle can be preserved and will be compatible with The Silver Seed, depending on the party's location and whether any transformation is needed in that area. The installation process will tell you which saves are not compatible. Some bugs in Serpent Isle also appeared to have been dealt with. Upon returning to Serpent Isle after completing Silver Seed, the serpent gate bug (failure to get to the Dark Path upon double- clicking a serpent gate), which had plagued me several times before, did not occur at all..
Among the new magical items that one can find is a key-ring which automatically keeps every key you place in your inventory. This is a welcome relief as there will be no more rummaging through every pack looking for the right key. If one has the appropriate key, the key-ring will open the door/chest. There are now hot keys that will enable you to check the time, use the key-ring, pick locks, and feed the party with just one key-stroke. All these help to cut down on the "busy-work" that can detract the player from enjoying the plot and storyline.
However, I still cannot imagine why there is a need for the player to feed people at all. While I agree that the need for food makes things realistic, the implementation of this is nonsensical. In Ultima V, food was automatically eaten and deducted from the total following a reasonable period of time. This is the most sensible implementation. In Ultima VI, the automaticity was inexplicably removed, but then the characters did not seem to need food as I could go several days without it with no ill effects. Then in Ultima VII, we see the other extreme, whereby everyone seems unable to feed themselves and complain all the time. Whatever happened after Ultima V?
This preoccupation with making the player do repetitive things seems to have found its way into the gameplay as well. The opening chapter of the third Ultima trilogy seems to be filled with lever puzzles, teleports, buttons, mazes etc... and Silver Seed is no exception. Why? Is this an attempt to make things hard for the player? If so, why? The strength of the Ultima series has been its plot and storyline, not devious puzzles. In Silver Seed, they have begun to *hide* things! In one of the quests, a key was hidden under a piece of wood. Now, I don't see how having to move every single object in view (and it isn't obvious which is moveable and which is not) adds to the plot. This seeming obsession with difficult puzzles is getting a little irritating and mars an otherwise excellent theme and plot to the third trilogy.
Another point of interest is that given the way Serpent Isle ended, the storyline of Silver Seed requires one to play it *before* one completes Serpent Isle, for the sake of consistency and continuity. This was not a problem for me as I had about a quarter left of Serpent Isle to play when I installed Silver Seed. However, since there are many gamers out there who would have finished Serpent Isle long before, Origin should have given more thought to their plotlines.
Overall, the addition of the hot-keys makes The Silver Seed a worthwhile acquisition, especially for those still in the midst of Serpent Isle. The improved interface will make life a lot easier. In spite of the proliferation of puzzles, the quests are not too difficult and the scenario can be completed in a couple of days.
This review is Copyright (C) 1993 by Sir Launcelot du Lake for Game Bytes magazine. All rights reserved.