“Exodus: Ultima III” was released in 1983 and marks the end of the “Age of Darkness”. In this episode Exodus, Mondain and Minax’s vile offspring, appears to take his revenge upon Sosaria and of course it’s up to you to get rid of him!
While Ultima III keep the major evolutions of Ultima II (altough with bigger towns and more NPCs), it does remove its most frustrating aspects and take an approach that is closer to Ultima I – notably dropping the whole Time Travel aspects for a return to a fully medieval Sosaria. It also marks the first appearence of the traditionnal Ultima Moongates to travel throughout the land but its main evolution is that you no longer play with a single character, but with an actual party of four character that you need to create a the begining of the game. The difference being that encountering a monster on the overland or inside a dungeon will now lead you to a separate combat screen where you move all your characters one at a time in a full turn-based combat system.
This also really shows how much Ultima III represents a landmark in RPG history, not just for CRPG but also for console JRPG as well. Indeed, while Ultima is widely recognized as one of the pioneer of Computer Role Playing Games – it also is the grand-daddy of console RPGs as well. Indeed, except for the combats which are more inspired by Wizardy – Dragon Quest (the very first JRPG) is very much a “cut and paste” of the Ultima III formula and even today many JRPG still follow the same formula to the letter.
Personally I have a grand fondness of Ultima III. While it is by no means one of my favourite episodes (due notably to the fact that its gameplay mechanics have aged quite a bit), it has a special place in my heart because it represents my very first memory of the Ultima series as I watched my elder brother play if on the Atari ST so many years ago. I didn’t understood a whole lot, but it really picked my interest: Ultima had something magical that too few games managed to capture even then.
While I didn’t play it then… by the time I started to play Ultima V by myself on the Atari ST I also spent more and more time on Ultima III, which was an amazing game. Especially since the Atari ST port was a marvel in itself: 16 Bits graphics, music everywhere… needless to say that when I eventually got the horrid CGA PC version many years later I was sorely dissapointed in comparison. I never did finish Ultima III back in these days, and the first time I did finish it was… you can guess it, in 1999 in antipication for Ultima IX. But even then I played it on an Atari ST Emulator since the PC version is a big no for me, even today with the latest fan-made updates.
However, for this playthrough… I will actually be playing the Macintosh Remake which was released by Lairware in 1994. This is a shareware game sanctionned by Origin and still available for sale even today (I’ve actually bought it just for the purpose of playing it). This remake feature much improved graphics for both the tiles and the dungeons, an improved interface and even some new (optional) options such as moving diagonally. For the nostalgic, there are even ways to use different kind of tilesets like the original 16 Bits tileset or even the NES graphics!
I don’t own a Macintosh, but thanksfully the game can be played with little issues on various Emulators available around the net, so I thought I might as well play this one since I’ve wanted to for many years.
So in any case, stay tuned for Exodus: Ultima III!