Having ruled out real hardware to play this game, I looked around for emulator options. There aren’t a whole lot to choose from – I went for Mu which emulator PalmOS 4 devices so far (a generation before my Tungsten). It appears stable but isn’t the most user friendly of interfaces for this purpose which huge onscreen buttons, none of which appear to have any keyboard shortcuts. That said, it runs Ultima 1 perfectly and has savestates so it’s perfect for my purposes other than the controls.
I set up to grinding for cash again and managed to get my party better equipped and more experienced in the process managing to level up some of my characters. The levelling up only increases HP with the added side effect of making the monsters more difficult to fight. I personally hate this mechanic in RPG’s and am not convinced that levelling up was the way to go. All the equipment I’m buying is having to go on my fighter since none of the rest of the party can equip it. I can’t honestly say I’m noticing all that much effect for all the effort.
What I really need to be able to do is increase my character stats. In the original U1, this was done simply by visiting locations on the map. In Ultima 3, there was a whirlpool you had to sail into, go to the sub-continent Ambrosia and pray (with gold) at four temples to raise the four main stats. Here, I’ve seen no sign of whirlpools or stat raising signposts and have no idea how this actually works. I decided to do some dungeon delving to see if I could find anything down there and didn’t find anything to raise stats but did find gems on levels 6 and 8 of two of the dungeons. These appear to be the time machine gems and have their own slots in the inventory.
I’m yet to reach the bottom of any dungeon but can say that they go down beyond level 8. Once my party got enough experience, boats started appearing which can be commandeered to reach the rest of the map. I was hoping at this point to find places to raise my stats but no such luck. The only previously unreachable location I was able to find was this dungeon which I got down to about level 11 before running out of torches. There may be others I still need to find. The monster spawn rate is annoying high and sea battles a little slow.
This port of Ultima 1 is not winning me over. The gameplay is quite unbalanced in many ways. My cleric with no range weapons and no damage inflicting spells against anything except undead is proving almost impossible to level up. Above all, I really need to figure out how exactly I’m supposed to raise my stats in this game if I’m going to get anywhere. If I don’t discover this, there may not be a part 3 but I’m not giving up quite yet.