Friday, November 7, 2014

Ultima III: Sweet Ambrosia

Well, this session covers a good deal of time, although not all that much of particular interest actually happened throughout, so we'll see what I've got in store as far as content. But I'm thoroughly hooked on the game now - I think I've broken past that initial "compare everything to how Ultima IV did it" barrier and I'm now able to look at the game for its own merit. I actually think blogging about the whole experience has been helping with that, it's giving me reason to see it through and to try and put the game into perspective. My brain's wrapped itself a bit better over the separate inventories, so I've got a better sense of who's holding what and the commands to pass things between party members feels a lot more natural by this point. That combined with the EGA patch has helped me get past most of my interface/control issues, and so I can focus more properly on the game itself.

So with a renewed eagerness to see what all Ultima III had to offer me, and with my inventory full of exotic weapons and armor and clues to act upon, I scoured the land for ways to gather gold before I sought out the whirlpool that would take me into the fabled Ambrosia. Unfortunately, monster-slaying as I wandered the continent was not exactly a profitable venture. They were just too few and far between, and food constantly depleted as I sought them out. I had to find a more expedient way of gaining funds, and with nobody in my party above level five yet (boy would that change by the end of my session), I wasn't sure if testing my luck too far would be a wise plan. I thankfully had the Mark of Kings on all four of my party, so I didn't have to worry about finding that to keep my hit point totals rising with levels (incidentally, even if it only dictates max HP, it's nice to see levels actually meaning something, as compared to Ultimas I and II). But I was in no position to face the tougher monsters (let alone guards) just yet.

So... I went the unvirtuous route. I went on a rampage in Yew, rotating my party around to help balance out levels (I noticed my front-line fighters were getting a lot of action and Aric was lagging behind a lot) as I cut down cleric after cleric after cleric, all in the name of money and experience, cringing a little every time I left the town and re-entered to start the process all over again. I bought Ivan and Olivia +2 Bows with the first wave of funds (they were still using slings and desparately needed an upgrade), loaded up on food, and then amassed cash for a trip to Ambrosia.

I think I had about 8500 or so gold and my party averaging level eight when I finally couldn't take the suspense anymore, hopping onto my pirate ship and seeking out the whirlpool. The wind was fairly uncooperative, but it wasn't long before the whirlpool drifting into sight and I boldly steered my ship into it, soon washing up on the shores of Ambrosia. Wandering around for a while led me to the Shrine of Dexterity, and I spent my cash boosting everybody's dexterity by about 20 points each - I figured I needed that most about now, making sure I could hit more and get hit less. I of course searched the shrine for a card as well, having been told that I should do so, then continued to explore.

I fought the law, and the law... lost?
I found the Shrine of Strength as well, spending what remaining gold I had on boosting Ivan's strength, but not before I nearly got trampled by two herds of wild horses! I think I spent a full minute boggling at my screen when I saw myself getting attacked by a full group of eight horses trying to mow me down - here I thought the manual was joking when it made mention of wild horses! Having just come off a fight with a lot of demons, my party was struggling a bit, but I made it through the fights all right. I thought it was high time I got out of dodge, though, so I fumbled my way to a pirate ship that I commandeered and sailed back into the exit whirlpool.

I went on my murderous rampage of Yew a couple times to garner the cash to restock supplies, and since I didn't have any keys left and very few torches, I wandered over to Dawn to stock up in the guild. A series of bungled commands left me in a fight with a thief, and soon after a whole slew of guards. This was particularly tense for me, I wasn't sure my party was in any shape to handle fights like these just yet! But when I managed to come out on top in one fight, then a second, I thought maybe I could pull it off. And sure enough, some clever maneuvering and taking advantage of how my enemies seemed to choose their targets meant I could spread the damage around decently enough, and my party limped their way out of Dawn battered and beaten but alive after striking down six groups of guards - forty-eight guards in total. Man did that boost levels quick!

Tired of grinding in Yew, I made my way to Perinian, now that I had a good-sized bundle of torches to poke around a dungeon with. I think Ultima III is kind of in the same position as Ultima I as far as grindyness goes - sure it's necessary at times, but you've got so many ways of going about it that it never really feels dull. You can look for monsters on the landscape, you can explore dungeons, you can run about the towns and whack everything you see... it's all grinding at its heart, but you can approach it from several different angles, unlike Ultima II, which just felt like the same things over and over.

I question the wisdom of slaughtering masses for stats.
Anyway, once I'd gathered another good-sized chunk of change I went back into Ambrosia, this time with keys, to find the last two shrines. I had enough to max out Aric's wisdom and almost max Trevor's intelligence, so my main spellcasters would have a full pool of spells and deep MP reserves to work with. I snagged the last two cards as well, letting Aric hang on to them for the time being - sure he's the hardest to bring up to speed with the rest of the party, but it's because of him everybody's kept in good health, and besides, he's set to become the Avatar proper, so he might as well keep the heroic duties.

So that's where I called it a day, after some more fighting and messing around with my new high-level spells. I still need more cash for more stats, but I think my next method of doing so will be in looking for the last two Marks, Force and Snake, and then perhaps trying my luck at raiding Devil Guard for every cent it's worth. Seeing as how Ivan and Olivia are at level nineteen now, with Trevor at sixteen and Aric at fifteen, I think I can afford a few guard fights if it comes to that! And I still need to pay the Time Lord a visit too... still a lot to be done in Sosaria while I gather the moolah to develop my party further, and apparently a lot to say about it, too. And I'm raring to get to it!

Two marks, four cards... getting there!

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