Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ultima III: Clued In

About time I found some undead...
Now that I have a decent handle on the game's commands and mechanics, I figured my next step in Ultima III was plying the general populace for clues and information. Since I had a ship as well by this point, I figured that with the added mobility and the ability to reach the towns overseas, it would be a good position for me to start finding out what hints I could obtain.

I'd already run around Yew, Devil Guard, Britain and Lord British's Castle to see what the townsfolk there had to say, but with my new ship I thought I'd explore the islands, so Fawn was my next stop. There I was told a bit about an invocation I need to learn, and that I'd need to 'pray' in order to find it. From there I headed over to Death Gulch, and learned that guards could be bribed - a fact I'd later learn in Moon, but when a guard tells me he can be bribed, what else am I going to do? (Sheesh, no wonder I need to work at becoming the Avatar. Bribing guards, killing clerics for experience in Yew... got a lot of guilt to work off by this point.)

That can't be comfortable.
Anyway, the Montors revealed to me that seeking the Jester in castle fire might be a good idea - I took this to mean the Castle on the isle of Fire, as in Exodus' home, which meant that I probably wouldn't get to follow up on this for a while, but when I got my hands on some keys and started poking around Lord British's prison in his castle, what did I find but a jester in the middle of a field of fire! I can only imagine what jokes he told to deserve such a punishment. But he told me where Dawn was located, which was very useful information to know, so I thanked him and winced as I burned my party again on the way back from talking to him.

I was told in Grey that only exotics would protect me from great evil, and that I could find information about them in Dawn - so with the clues that I got about when and where I could find this legendary city, I made my way into the dark forest at the specified location, waited for the new moons, and entered.

Dawn allowed me a broader range of weaponry to choose from, and some solid clues to find exotic weapons and armor to boot. I didn't have anywhere enough money to buy fancy ranged weapons for Ivan and Olivia, so I satisfied myself with some dungeoneering equipment and headed off in search of exotics.

I was told that I needed to dig on islands to find them, and with so few of them around, it didn't take very long before my entire party was equipped with exotic armor, and Trevor and Aric readied their newfound exotic weapons as well - they couldn't use any ranged weaponry themselves, so might as well equip the big guns from the get-go. Ivan and Olivia have theirs in reserve, but their ranged weapons are more useful at the moment, so I'm keeping them equipped as is.

Sure, I'll touch the red hot AUUUGAGHGH
With my party well armored, I decided to act on what I learned about marks in Devil Guard. My front-line fighters had gained a few levels, and even my cleric had managed a level by this point (man did that take work, I mostly got that by getting lucky with a Pontori spell), so I felt I could afford to peek into a dungeon. The Perinian Depths was close by, so I explored in there for a while, and when I came back out, I had both the Mark of Kings and the Mark of Fire, the latter of which would have come in handy when I was wandering through fire to talk to a convicted jester. Ah well!

I enjoyed this part of the game a lot, running from town to town trying to find all the little nooks and crannies to make sure I wrested every possible clue out of the townsfolk. I remember bribing the guards in Grey so I could cut through all the thieves in the tavern because I expected there to be something behind them all and that it'd be easier to just fight them rather than try to manuever around them - only to find it was just the guild behind them. But this feels a lot more interesting than the same thing did in Ultima II, partly because there's more "dialogue" that's actually relevent to the game rather than just throwaway gags, and partly because the clues are less... oblique. Some of them are obscure enough to leave me guessing somewhat (like the jester in fire), but not so much that I just roll my eyes in frustration. It's a good balance, and I think at this point I can definitively say this is the game where the series hit its stride. Now that I've actually taken the time to start exploring the game in depth, I can easily see why it's a favorite that holds fond memories for many. It's putting me in mind of my first run of Ultima IV all those years ago, and in a good way.

Time for a bar fight...
I think my next step is amassing cash for a trip to Ambrosia to bump my stats. That might involve a few dungeon runs, so we'll see what happens next. But I'm definitely hooked now, moreso than I thought I'd be with Ultima III, and the game is surprising me in very pleasing ways.
Now pardon me while I let Trevor practice his Lorum spells.

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