Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ultima III, Day 1

Well, I played Ultima 3 for perhaps 4 hours, including the time to analyze the manuals, today. The game is frankly not very fun--There's piles upon piles of endless monsters, and every few seconds I seem to be stuck in combat. The biggest difference between Ultima III and the last two is that fighting monsters brings you to a strategic combat screen, in which you must slice and dice your enemies one by one This makes combat a bit more exciting--not just press A and hope for the best--but it makes it take much longer, probably a minute to several minutes per battle.

The first thing I did before ever plugging in the game was translate the spellbooks from the cute latin-like words and detailed but irrelevent diescriptions in the manual to something more useful. After that, I had to choose what characters to create. You get a party of four characters, unlike Ultima I and II, and you choose among eleven professions, each with disadvantages and in a few cases, advantages. I chose a paladin and a ranger for my main fighting characters, because they can use magic and can cast "open," eliminating the need for a thief to disarm traps in treasure chests. I chose a classic wizard, to get access to the high-damage attack spells, and a druid who can cast the important cleric spells--up, down, exit dungeon, and heal--rapidly because her magic points return quickly. I named them after future companions, namely Shamino, Jaana, and Mariah.


All the time I spent playing was basically taken up by raising my stats to 5th level for all the characters. Because the game is pretty damned hard, I used a conservative playing style, fighting enemies, going to town, casting endless heal spells, and going back out to fight. I also did a bit of clue-gathering from other towns, but I had no reason to save the game while doing so. Two additional factors make the game much, much harder. First, your magic points are based entirely on your intelligence or wisdom, and do not go up with your level. That means my wizard is stuck with his magic missile, and my druid can cast exactly one heal spell! Only your hit points go up with level, so I am harder to kill but as weak as ever. it will be ages before I can finally cast cure spells on my own, meaning that poison-spitting monsters are certain death. Even more annoying, your hit points cap at 500 until you delve into a dungeon and get a "mark of the kings," but your level keeps going up and mosnters keep getting harder!

I tried wandering into the dungeon, armed with my light spell...but it is so stupid it's unbelievable. It lasts about 5 steps, making it basically worthless. There also appears to be a mysterious bug in the game that causes me to "starve" and get weird goop on the screen when I hit certain traps in the dungeons. I suspect a broken disk of some sort. As long as the marks work, though, all will be well. I will be heading into a dungeon near the castle to map and search out marks next. I bought some torches to allow me to, well, survive the trip.

10 comments:

Jody said...

My favorite of the Ultima games! Although this is probably because it was the first Ultima I played. I also played the NES version, which I guess many people don't like (it doesnt follow the original game, from what I hear) so I guess this isn't my favorite Ultima, unless you count the NES games

stu said...

I'm coming to this late and reading chronologically :)

magic is more or less useless in u3, and its best to play with 4 paladins...

u3 is my fav ultima, but can be too easily short circuited once you know where the exotics are...

Andrew said...

This was possibly the first PC game I ever played. My father and I spent... hours on it. Several times. He hasn't played a PC game since; he literally doesn't see how any game could be more interesting...

Ultimate Carl said...

Eech, I'm glad I avoided this one if it's as annoying to play as you say, especially for Mage characters, since I love them.

I think I played the NES version, too... I remember liking the graphics, but not getting very far.

Ruminating said...

This game and Ultima V were my two favorite Ultimas. Ultima III could be very difficult in the early stages, but later on, it got easy for me. I played U3 several times over on the C64 (on the actual system, not emulated), and to this day, I regard it as a personal high point in gaming.

Mages are actually quite viable as characters in this game, and magic is very far from useless- I found that three fuzzy wizards and a bobbit cleric did the job quite well- especially in the late game. Early on, you had access to fifteen Mittars (assuming you gave each of your wizards 25 INT to start), which was usually enough to get rid of the early-level stuff, but once you got 50 INT- and access to Noxum- life suddenly gets a lot easier.

Having said that, my first priority was always to raise the cleric's wisdom to 35 for Alcort, but preferably 40 (in the same trip to Ambrosia) for Sequitu, which made getting out of dungeons much easier.

Also, don't forget that orcs can be "dispelled" by the free multi-pronged wizard spell "Repond," and skeletons can be laid waste in exactly the same way by the free cleric spell "Pontori" (both "A" in their respective chars' spell lists). They're all-or-nothing spells, but it gives you a shot to get rid of the simplest monsters with zero loss of MP.

Best of all, I never need to upgrade weapons or armor to get access to this stuff. Gold is a big enough pain to come by in U3 as it is. With this party, there's never a worry about having to spend extra on weapons or armor, and nothing gets rid of whole groups of foes like the upper-level magic spells (clerics, too, BTW- ZXKUQYB is just as good as the stronger wizard spells Dag Mentar and "P").

The advanced spells also have the pleasant side effect of reducing battle length from several minutes to several moments. Those extra-long battles don't get any more fun over time. ;)

Regarding dungeons, you definitely want to go the route of torches. They do last longer, and you need to save your MP, as you only regenerate 1 MP per four turns in the dungeons. Don't forget gems and powders at the same shop.

Fenyx Dragon said...

I remember when I was first playing this with my father. We never learned about the Mark of Kings. One of our characters did touch it and he was able to raise his hitpoints past 500 but we never linked to that thing in the dungeon. And that thing in the dungeon hurt us so we never touched it again!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Ultima:Exodus on the NES shelf at the video store way back in 1987. My experience in CRPGS was limited to Zelda and Adventure (atari). I did play a lot of D&D as a youngster, so I gave this game a try.

I loved it, and to this day I enjoy RPGs. At the time the gaming world seemed huge, and the fact that you carried on conversations with NPCs was great. I then played Phantasy Star, Dragon Warrior, Crystalis and any other console RPG I could find.


My hunger for more RPGs led me to buying a Commodore 128 and playing through the Ultimas and Gold box D&D games, as well as other classics like The Magic Candle and Legend of Blacksilver.

I still play RPGs when time permits, and while the graphics and gameplay are unreal, they still will never capture the fun and excitement of those early games, when everything was still pretty new. I look back on those days very fondly.

I have all of these games (through collections and emulators) and play around with them once in a while. I try to explain their greatness to my kids, but all they see are the graphics. Anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane.
-Mike

Mike Monaco said...

Wow, UIII was my first and in some ways favorite Ultima game. My brother & I spent hours on it on the C64. I remeber we were in a bit of a race with another kid you had it on his Apple ][, and we'd taunt each other ("Seen the time lord yet?") about our progress. After completing the game, we also tried various parties (all fuzzies, etc.) to see how they'd do.
But the big challenge was we didn't have any of the documentation, and had to figure out what the spells did by trial and error. It also made all the monsters and so a a surprise, which was cool.
Many fond memories of raiding Death Gulch and all that. Once we could defeat guards, we also made a point of massacring entire towns...nothing to be proud of.

Jason said...

I couldn't get enough of the Ultima's in the 80's. My interest began to wane at VI though, when the whole look and feel changed dramatically. I had all the RPGs I coudl get my hands on for the C-64, Return of Heracles was another favorite. My friend and I would bring all of the characters into the game and divide them all between us, and play through. Fun times.

Olivier said...

+1 with Mike Monaco, without documentation and discovering spells...

Fuzzy start too and then more organized play, with a notebook tracking who said what and where. I would have light bulb moments then :) "Ah, XYZ mentioned something that didn't sound important, but now i get it".

About spells, in the end, against Exodus, without them, i'm not sure you would have finished (the mitars and the noxums, ah memories!)