Exodus has fallen. I won Ultima III in about 10 hours of total gameplay.
I should have been saying this all along in previous entries, but ***spoilers follow!*** If you're planning on playing Ultima III you might read my first entry on the game but leave this one until you finish.
Ultima III is not a terribly difficult game if you don't push your luck with the dungeons until you're ready. As I think I said in my first post, I don't believe and saving and reloading games just because you don't like a certain outcome, like a character dying during a battle. Instead, I force myself to haul my character to the healer and get him or her raised or resurrected. It makes the game more challenging. The only time I reload is when my entire party is wiped out. Even with this restriction, though, my characters only died a few times.
A commenter pointed out to me that another blogger has already done a fantastic job with the Ultima series: Zac Bond's "Blogging Ultima." Over a one-year period from 2007-2008, he played every Ultima game, including the little-known Escape from Mt. Drash and the Nintendo Gameboy Runes of Virtue. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but I read his commentaries for I, II, and III. We had a lot of the same impressions--I even took the same "Copy Protect!" screen shot as him, and he also commented on the rampant evil of your character in Ultima II. Anyway, if you like my blog, his is definitely worth reading through (he still posts now and then with new material).
As far as I know, no one has blogged Wizardry, so I still have a corner on part of this market.
Although the gameplay was occasionally a little repetitious, I found Ultima III to be authentically fun. There are hints of the greatness that would soon follow in Ultima IV. The storyline is much more sensible than in previous Ultimas, the magic system much more developed, and the combat more tactical. If you're really interested in getting in to the Ultima series but don't want to slog through some of the nonsense in Ultima I and Ultima II, I recommend starting here.
The towns of Fawn and Monitor/Montor, first introduced in Ultima I, are here--I think for the last time until Ultima VII. You also run in to both Dupre and Shamino, soon to be your close companions in Ultima IV, in a couple of bars. As I said last time, Iolo and Gwenno are both in Lord British's castle. You practically have the whole gang here.
Finishing the game involves visiting every town and talking to each person to obtain a series of clues. By piecing these clues together, you discover that the main steps are:
- Visit the dungeons and find each of four "marks"--hot iron brands on the walls that I guess permanently imprint on your characters. The Mark of Kings allows you to advance to higher levels; the Mark of Fire allows you to cross lava without damage; the Mark of Force allows you to walk through force fields; and the Mark of Snakes allows you to bypass the silver snake guarding Exodus's castle.
- Take a ship through the whirlpool and into the land called Ambrosius. Within this land there are four shrines, and at each shrine you find a "card." The are called love, sol, moons, and death. You need these to defeat Exodus.
- Find exotic arms and armor, which are the only weapons and armor that work in Exodus's castle.
- Build up your characters until they're strong enough to make it through Exodus's castle.
Of these steps, the last is the most time-consuming. I discovered fairly early in the game that your spell points do not increase as you level up. They are dependent upon your ability scores and stay fixed based on those scores, so I realized if I was ever going to get my cleric to cast "greater heal" or "raise dead," I'd have to increase her wisdom. Fortunately, the shrines in Ambrosia that hold the cards also allow you to raise your stats--for a price of 100 gold per single stat increase.
For hours, therefore, I spelunked the dungeons, collecting both gold and experience, and made repeat trips to Ambrosia to increase my numbers, focusing on wisdom for my cleric and intelligence for my wizard. Some of the dungeons have fountains that heal you to your max hit points, and I found that a good strategy was to stand near one and wait until attacked, then heal after battle. I also found a town that contained a large cache of treasure chests I could plunder. They refreshed each time I left and re-entered, so it was an easy if time-consuming way to build up my gold.
The dungeons, I should mention, are a lot more interesting than in Ultima I or Ultima II. First, you have to use them--they're the only way to get marks. Second, they have a lot more perils, including traps, gremlins that steal your food (God, I hate those little buggers), strange winds that blow out your torches, fountains both foul and refreshing, and occasionally treasure rooms. You really do have to map them so you can avoid running in to the same traps over and over. Fortunately, you can buy gems that, when peered at, give you a map. I took screen shots of these maps and then annotated them in Word. Also, unlike previous Ultimas, in the Ultima III dungeons you can't see the monsters coming. One second you're walking down the hall and the next you're in battle.
Now, I did break my rule about saving and reloading once. Look, I'm not an evil man, but at least once every Ultima game, you simply have to try to kill Lord British. Well, it was surprisingly easy in this one. Lord British's castle holds a frigate which you can steal and use to blast guards, jesters, and other castle denizens--including our revered sovereign:
If you leave the castle and return, he's back on his throne, acting like nothing has happened. Still, I figured I'd better not press my luck and I reloaded.
When my characters all had 2150 hit points and reasonably high attributes, I decided to try my luck with Exodus. It was a little easier than I expected and I won on the first try. The monsters were fairly difficult, and just before the end you face a battle with--this is definitely an Ultima III original--the floor itself. Wave after wave of floor tiles, which you cannot see, attack you.
After that, it's a simple matter of inserting the four cards in to Exodus, who seems to be a computer.
I recorded the ending as usual, including some audio this time. I'm going to see if I can find someone to whom to "report my feat." After that, it's on to Wizardry III if I can get it to work or Alternate Reality: the City if I can't.