I made loads of progress last night. I carried on raiding the 1st floor of the same dungeon until all my characters had 9999 gold – this really didn’t take too long. By then they were all around level 4 except my cleric who was still level 1. I then tried delving a bit lower into the dungeons to gain some experience and found a fantastic spot at the bottom of the perinean depths. Its an easy dungeon to get to level 8 on anyway as there is a ladder that goes all the way down from level 3, but when you get there, there’s a square corridor with brands in two corners, and poison curing and health fountains in the other. This means you can walk round in circles, keep all your guys on max health all the time and fight all the level 8 dungeon creatures for loads of easy experience.
Rather than dishing out the same experience randomly for every creature, Ultima 3 has a set amount for each type – an orc gets you 3xp, a balron 20xp for each killed. This makes far more sense and is actually rewarding me for surviving tougher fights.
I got my party up to level 6 or so – my cleric was still lagging behind at level 2. He only has the one combat spell I can use, which kills large amounts of undead, but you don’t seem to run into undead that often. The levels only affect your hit points – an extra 100 per level. I decided they were tough enough to survive so I then set out to explore a bit and look for a ship.
There aren’t a huge number of towns in Ultima 3 that I’ve found so far, maybe around 8 or so. They don’t feel any bigger than in Ultima 2 but they are definitely more Ultima-esque. Some of the names are even the same – theres a town called yew in a forest thats full of druids. The silly comments are gone from Ultima 2 when you talk to the people in these towns. They all just give a one line response which can be just “Good day” or clues to help you to complete the game i.e. “Dig for exotics”. Its not exactly a conversation system, but its fun exploring the towns, trying to gather these clues and a big improvement on the series so far.
The moongates make a return in this game and this time they work just like later Ultimas by the phases of the moon. The moon phases are just shown by numbers at the top of the screen rather than graphics. The moongates aren’t entirely neccessary except for the fact that one of them gets you to the dungeon of the snake which is otherwise inaccessable. I explored my way through all these towns gathering clues and looking for an ever elusive ship – eventually a ship finally showed up (they seem to be extremely rare in this game) after I’d popped through the moongate that leads to exodus castle and behind the snake blocking the way out. The odds of a ship turning up here must be astronomical – theres only about 4 squares of ocean. I fought the pirates and commandeered it but without the mark of the snake there was no way to get it past the great earth serpent. Something that just occurs to me is, if a ship pops up here you could beat the game without ever getting the mark of the snake, or finding out the password to get past the great earth serpent. I didn’t much fancy waiting for another ship to show up though so I decided to attempt to get the mark of the snake on level 8 of the snake dungeon so I could get past the snake and use this one.
The fact is my party really wasn’t up to this dungeon yet – I tried several times and the only way I could get close was to use my cleric and wizard spells to go down and up levels wait for their magic to charge and repeat. I got the mark and got out again eventually with all but one of my party dead, limped to the first town and paid up to get everyone healed. I now sailed off to find the exotics, I could remember they were both on different 2×1 islands. The game world isn’t too large so this didn’t take long. It was now time to find Ambrosia.
For anyone who’s not played the game, there is a little whirlpool that randomly moves through the sea. If you sail your ship into this you are washed up into an entirely new world map. This is just like the idea of the underworld you got in later Ultimas. This map doesn’t have any random monsters, although there are a few preset ones, and its basically a big maze with four shrines in it. Each of these shrines raises one of your stats by 1 for each 100 gold you offer when you pray in it. Finding these shrines really isn’t that easy – I was using a map from the cluebook and still struggled a bit. This is still a good way of raising stats though. It makes some sort of sense (more than a hotel clerk) and you don’t need to do it too often if you bring plenty of gold with you. I maxed out my clerics wisdom, my wizards intelligence and everyones strength, and had a bit left over to raise my thiefs dexterity. While I was there I searched all the shrines to get the four cards, and then sailed back into the whirlpool to get to the surface world.
My last job of the day was to find the timelord in the dungeon of time – with my cleric and wizard now having maximum magic points this was dead easy. The timelord himself just tells me the order of the cards and is made up of world tiles with a moongate in his chest. I guess you have to use your imagination.
My party is now up to level 11 apart from my level 4 cleric and I have 3 of the 4 marks. I think their stats are probably high enough without another trip to Ambrosia so I just need to get the last mark, level up my team and then I’m ready to take on Exodus.