Ultima 1 Palm OS – Part 3

I was sceptical about how much further I’d get with this game at the end of the last post. I needn’t have worried. After only a couple of minutes exploring last night, I found a very welcome sight in the form of a shrine on a little island.

I was expecting the equivalent of the Ultima 3 shrines and this this would raise one particular stat but it allows me to pick any I like and raise them by something like 3 points for every 100 gold. Finally some progress. I upped the dexterity on my thief to start with. This made a massive difference with grinding in the nearby dungeon.

A lot of chest thievery later, I’d maxed out what I took to be the important stats and done a little more exploring in the dungeon, finding a third gem on floor 4 in the process. Time to see Lord British’s and level up.

After levelling up, he drops me a hint about the time machine. I kind of guessed as much but took the opportunity to rescue the princess while here.

This part is a little strange. I walk into the jester to get his key, and all the guards attack as expected. When I open the door to rescue the princess, I don’t need to get her outside the castle (or fly around in space). She just gives me a time machine on the spot.

I’m wondering how this is going to show up in my inventory but after fighting my way out, there it is sat around outside the castle.

Compared to the Ultima I know, I’m still a gem down but the time machine does actually work and transport me to the end encounter with Mondain, much to my surprise. I’m not so sure I’m ready for this. My cleric is still level 1, I think my fighter is all of level 4 so I’m not exactly over powered. Since I’m here I take the gem, wiping out half the party in the process…

…then get mocked by Mondain (with typo) when I walk into him. Eventually I figure out that I have to choose to attack in the menu. This had been automatic prior to this point.

And then the final battle reverts to the usual combat screen and he takes one shot and goes down. Mondain is literally the weakest enemy in the game. A single box of reward text is my prize before being returned to the menu in one of the most anti-climatic RPG endings I’ve ever come across.

And that’s Ultima 1 for Palm OS down. Going into this I was expecting an enhanced version with some new elements on what is clearly vastly more powerful hardware than an Apple II. In the end, it is actually a simpler game than that Apple II original. No 3D dungeons, no space section, no quests, no progression of technology, no chasing Mondain around as a bat. The only addition was the 4 person party. I’m not too impressed. Yes, it’s playable but comes across as a beta version which hasn’t had all those elements added yet and still needs the combat balancing. As such, I can’t honestly recommend it. It’s arguably the worst version of Ultima 1 I’ve played, with the only competition being the Apple II original (purely due to the excruciating slow speed). It’s great to have these games finally show up after all these years but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to play #2 for all that. Assuming that Ultima 3 turns out to be a faithful port, I expect that 1 & 2 were afterthoughts knocked out quickly using the same engine.

3 thoughts on “Ultima 1 Palm OS – Part 3

  1. Thanks for running through the game. I do remember seeing these when they came out on some of the palm sites like palm gear, but decided against buying them back then due to the fact that I had already played and beat them back when the originals came out on my c64, I had some c64 game images to play if I wanted to try again, and even with the enhancements, didn’t think they were worth getting just for another version of something I already had and won.

    Good and bad to see that if I had bought them I probably would have been disappointed.

  2. Hi Pix. Thanks for playing these Ultima originals. We would greatly appreciate your help in one matter though.

    It has been brought to my attention that it is possible to use the PC-98 tileset with Ultima IV XU4. As you know from playing the PC-98 version, the tileset is in svga and looks very good.

    The tileset has been discussed in multiple locations: For example:https://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/on-the-future-of-xu4/

    “As of right now, xu4 is the *only* way for English-users to swap in the far superior Japanese PC-98 tileset. There is no way to do this on DosBox as far as I know… I know it’s a matter of taste, but I personally prefer the PC-98 tileset to the fanmade VGA graphics patch that can be used on DosBox (plus, the PC-98 tiles were actually released on an official port of Ultima 4, and not fanmade)”

    However, I have not seen a release of this tileset. Could you please look into how it is possible to extract and use the PC-98. This would be hugely appreciated and mark an important development in ultima games’ history.

  3. With the PC-98 running at a higher resolution, it isn’t just a case of swapping over the tiles. Creating a new tileset in VGA resolution would be easy enough if the tiles were downscaled but that would kind of defeat the purpose I presume. Getting the DOS version running in SVGA is not a job I’d want to take on. I don’t have the skills for it and expect it wouldn’t be all that easy if I did. Someone who knows more about this sort of low level hacking might be able to get it working. The original author of the VGA patch would be the person to ask if they are still around or maybe Voyager Dragon from the Ultima 2/3 upgrade patch. Not saying they would want the job, but they would know more than me about how feasible it would be.

    From my point of view it would be easier to port XU4 to DOS but that uses Allegro 5 libraries and Allegro dropped DOS support around version 4.2 meaning that would probably be no small task either, not that I’ve actually looked at the code. It would be a more approachable project at least for anyone who knows some programming since you would have a working C codebase to start from. It’s not something I’d want to take on at the moment that said. The truth is I don’t much enjoy coding in my spare time these days given I spend all day doing it and I’ve already got another project on the side as it is. Maybe if I ever get to retire but that is a long way off.

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