The Triad of Evil is no more…

And thus, following the advice of the allmighty and mysterious Time Lord, I ventured toward the Isle of Fire and, after liberating the Great Earth Serpent with the invocation Evocare, I entered Castle Death to face Exodus itself…

It was actually quite of a challenge : while Castle Death doesn’t have that many monsters around, it has fireballs everywhere which can hurt your party a whole lot. The most difficult actually remains the castle floors which attacks you before the final “boss” which caused quite a stir amongst my party… since I ended with three death and a last party member close to.

But using her last strength, my worthy wizard managed to insert the mysterious Cards to deactivate the evil machine…

You know I really got to wonder how people reacted back in 1983 upon reaching Exodus and facing… what is basically a computer and no “boss fight” at all. This probably must have felt anti-climatic to some, but it must also have been mindblowing and very much daring. Even today it is very rare to find a RPG which doesn’t end with a boss fight, so imagine 27 years ago!

I do believe the idea of not having to face directly the ennemy to destroy it to be brillant, and I am glad this is something that mostly remained in the series till the end, even when facing the Guardian in Ultima IX.

Also it does feel somewhat dissapointing in retrospect that the machine aspect feel so much retconned out the Britannian history after this game… I mean the body of Exodus you find in Ultima VII is basically a pillar. Meh.

In any case, playing Ultima III was one fun ride, and the Mac remake is very much the definitive version of the game so I recommend anyone who can to play it. (On a side note this version actually allows to continue playing after the endgame, though I am not sure about the point of it).

But now I really look forward to play Ultima IV… because indeed this is where things truly begins…

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The beauties of Ambrosia

No, not the drink you fools, the lost continent!

My journey there was fruitful to say the least since I now hold the Four Cards needed to “kill” Exodus and have maxed out my character’s main stats (I would have done more, but I already went there with the maximum of 9999 Gold per character so…).

Actually I probably made a big mistake by not going to Ambrosia sooner – I had this memory of a dangerous isle full of monsters… but not so much actually and it feels like a breeze compared to the dungeons I’ve done (which would have been easier with maxed out Wizards will all the spells…). D’oh!

I am getting very close to the end now: I have all four Cards, the four Marks, my characters are very strong and equipped with the Exotics, so technically all that is left for me to do is enter Castle Death and face the vile daemon.

However… I first want to meet the Time Lord to learn “how” to destroy Exodus – it would be easy to forget this step considering all relevant informations are easy to find now, but for the sake of it I say: why not ?

So I should probably be done by the game by tomorrow, it actually went faster than I thought it would, but I guess it just shows how fun it was to play as opposed to Ultima II which just dragged on and on.

Evil awaits!

This is so Exotics!

Okay… I guess this is one hell of a lame pun but I was somehow at a loss about a title for this Ultima 3 blog post and since I just got my Exotics Weapons and Armor, that felt like a good idea!

So I have started my quest to find and vanquish that Exodus bastard who tends to release way too many monsters over the land. But then perhaps I should thank him? I mean that certainly means lots of experience!

But of course even before starting my quest, I began by reading the Manuals (since there are three of them) and it shows much improvement over Ultima II, getting closer to the traditionnal Ultima manuals we’ll get from Ultima IV onward. The “Book of Play” is still more of a game manual than an actual in-universe book, but it’s actually written in an interesting way because while it breaks the fourth wall, it does pretend as if everything is in-universe, with your computer being some sort of arkane ritual device leading you to Sosaria. “The Ancient Liturgy of Truth” and “The Book of Amber Runes” are also good read too, which inventive description of the spells of the game notably in the way you need to use reagents (altough you thankfully don’t have to go through these crazy rituals to cast spells in the game: I mean I don’t want to sacrifice an owl, really!)

I basically set up a very simple party: a Ranger, a Fighter, a Cleric and a Mage – all humans. I didn’t put a Thief because I’m not fond of thieves in general, and I put only humans even if they are not the most efficient in these classes because I’m also not fond of the concept of having all those un-Britannian races which seem so out of place even by the game’s standard (I mean all you encounter in the end are human NPCs – so it feels even more silly!).

I have to say this game is much more fun than Ultima II. It has this classic Ultima vibe, but it’s more than that: the design is more focused and there are much less annoyance than its predecessor. It’s actually fun to and explore the world and its cities and get clues from the various NPCs. Combats are also much more enjoyable with the party approach, since you have more things to do and more possibilities. Of course the game is still very combat heavy which can get annoying, but still fun in the end.

At this point in my game my characters are somewhere between Levels 4 and 7, I still don’t have any Marks or Cards, and I have a boat which allows be to go and pilfer the Devil Gultch treasury. I also got the Exotics Armour and Weapons altough I guess I kind of cheated since I got them by remembering were they were. Whoops. So basically now I need to get more money in order to level my characters’ stats in Ambrosia and get to the Dungeons to find the Marks and the Time Lord. Basically: still quite a way to go !

As closing words, some comment about the Mac remake. It’s actually very good: notably the music are just beautiful and the best they’ve ever sounded. It even has an actually playable mouse interface, which says a lot about the efforts put into this remake. The biggest improvement is about managing your inventory since this is all mouse based, and make it less of a chore.

The new graphics are very good, altough you can also use different tilesets if you feel like: anything from the PC CGA graphics, to the VGA Ultima IV tileset and even some weirdess tiles such as the NES version. There are even existing mods using more toolset like the Ultima V one!

This Mac version also have some new features: bound to be controversial but interesting such as removing wind effects, having your spellcasters cast healing spell automatically when they can to heal your party, or more interesting: a form of combat where you let the computer handle your characters in battle. It does remove some of the fun, but I actually can be usefull to do some levelling easily, especially when the whole map is cluttered with too many monsters, which seems to happens more often here than in other versions.

In any case that was it about my first day in Ultima III – I’ll be trying to finish it by tomorrow night (since I go to vacation on Tuesday and my laptop can’t handle Mac Emulation) altough I’m not overly sure about the feasability of this.

Exodus: Ultima III

“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!

Ultima III Cover