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.