Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ultima III: The Lay of the Land

Apparently Ivan went invisible - is he camera shy?
Last night I started my adventure through Ultima III proper, and I must say I'm finding it rather more enjoyable than I thought I might. My previous experiences with the game just left me thinking the game tedious and tiring, and I think that was due to a combination of commands and just looking for monsters to whack - actually, now that I think about it, a good deal of that stemmed from what I'm used to in Ultima IV. It's going to be difficult to try and look at the game's progression from Ultima II, rather than rant over what Ultima IV did better, but if I'm going to try to examine the narrative of the series as a whole, won't do me much good to get too far ahead of myself, will it?

My first order of business, of course, was equipping everything I'd been given at the start of the game (daggers and cloth armor for everybody!) and figuring out what the heck all the commands did. Having a full and varied party now makes combat a lot more interesting, especially now that it takes place on a separate tactical screen, but it also means it takes a lot of keystrokes to separate everything out right. Each character has their own inventory, gold purse, food stock, and so forth, which means four times the work in keeping track of everything. Which isn't too tedious once you get the hang of the commands, but so far it's involved a lot of (Z)tat-ing to remember who's got what and who I passed everything over too. The (J)oin Gold command has been a godsend to help with the money situation, although I expect that'll get more complicated when I'm dealing with larger sums.

That isn't the case just yet, though, and I'm having myself a grand old time exploring the map. Rather than go seeking out a fight like I normally do when I fire up Ultima III, I decided to familiarize myself with the territory, figure out where I can go for weapons and armor and the all-important food. So I wandered into Lord British's castle to poke around there for a bit, meet the locals, and say hi to the monarch. He didn't have much to tell me besides the fact I needed more experience, but I did find a healer in the castle (which would prove handy later), and several blocked-off passages, either because of locked doors or force fields. Those I'll have to come back to later.

Dupre, in his predictable haunt.
Of course, where Lord British's castle is found, Britain probably isn't far behind, and it wasn't in this case either. I found Dupre in the tavern (where else would he be?) and I waved to him as I hurried on over to purchase some rations for everyone and price better weapons and armor. Turns out I had enough on me after my grocery shopping to get some a sling each for Ivan and Olivia and a mace for Aric. So after finagling with the commands for a while, I managed to get everybody equipped with their new weapons, Trevor hanging on to all the daggers, just in case I forgot he's not a weapon-y fighter and I accidentally threw one or two.

And then I ran loose.

I dashed around the continent trying to find a moongate, then mapping them all out as best I could. I marked towns and dungeons on my map, making the rounds through Devil Guard, Britain and Yew to gather what clues I could. I fended off orcs and cutpurses and even a horde of demons, making use of my new slings, a slew of Mittar spells, and the occasional Repond. I Appar Unem'd the resultant loot, was pleased to find that sometimes I'd get equipment from chests, and used the proceeds to continue to stock up on food and save up for some new armor for my front-line fighters. I even got lucky and found myself a ship, manned by a lone pirate who was swiftly dispatched. And on my way to park it into an eddy so it didn't get swallowed by the whirlpool, I found myself facing a storm of squids, which poisoned Olivia before I finally struck them down, making me scramble for my notes amid a bunch of Sanctus from Ivan and Aric so I could recall where the nearest healer was to get her cured.

When all was said and done, Ivan, Olivia and Trevor all had enough experience to gain a level, while Aric was lagging behind. I expect this will be the case until I can find someplace where undead are regular occurrences and give Aric a steady source of experience.

Stormy waters lie ahead...
That was where I called it a night - I felt I'd started to get a grasp on the mechanics and commands, obtained a good feel for the lay of the land, and gained a level or two to boot in the process. It's apparent right from the get-go that Ultima III takes itself more seriously, townsfolk less likely to spout song lyrics and more apt to help move the story along a little with cryptic clues. The world itself also feels a little more... efficient? That's not quite the word I'm looking for, but it feels like a much better use of the space - it's a smaller game world, but that just eliminates the vast expanses of pure nothing that Ultima II had in spades.

All in all, my first foray into the world under Exodus' rule was a lot more enjoyable than anticipated, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else Ultima III has in store for me. Next stop - more information-gathering!


  1. I played the Ultima's as they came out, in order, on the Apple II. I loved the original Ultima because I had imagined nothing like it. Ultima II seemed nonsensical and I knew it was a misfire, It was Ultima III that grabbed me for life. I had a Mockingboard in my Apple, and I was in awe of the music. That echo-y dungeon tune still haunts me! I loved the idea of controlling a party and even enjoyed all the inventory management. I actually preferred III over IV for the longest time.

    1. I hear that a lot! Now that I'm actually playing Ultima III to the fullest rather than just a cursory run-around-for-the-heck-of-it, I'm seeing a lot of similarities between it and Ultima IV. I think which of the two one plays first has a great deal to do with which one is the preferred. Me, Ultima IV was my first introduction to the series, and I think that's part of why I find myself liking it better. But Ultima III is growing on me!