Ultima 3 Cluebook

I’ve started putting a Windows 98 gaming PC together. I’ve already got the base PC up and running but there are a few drivers I need to locate and some hardware I’m waiting for in the post. The PC is an old Athlon which should run at 2 Ghz if I remember right but refuses to run stably unless I underclock it to 1.2 GHz. That’s still more than fast enough for Windows 98 gaming so I won’t worry too much about tracking the problem down. I’ve bought a 3dfx Voodoo 3 3000 off Ebay for around £4 which will give me native Glide support for both Dos and Windows games + an AWE 64 from the same person. Finally, I’ve bought a Thrustmaster Top Gun joystick for the grand price of £3.50 which I’m seriously pleased with. It’s an old style 15-pin joystick so it will work with DOS games as well when it’s plugged into the AWE64. It’s going to be a while before all this stuff arrives but it looks like I’ll have managed to get this PC up and running for £15 + a bit of time which makes me wonder why I didn’t do this ages ago. I’ve got quite a few games I’m looking forward to playing on it but it will be Longbow 2 first.

I’ve still not had any luck with my Kryoflux and have had to arrange for a replacement. It’s just my luck to get a faulty board and seemingly impossible given that the board had been tested twice before I got it. I hope the next one works for me. It leaves me time to do something else on here and I’ve decided to start working my way through all of Origin’s various books and cluebooks that I own and reviewing them. This is something that I talked about doing right back in the early posts of this blog but never got around to.

I’ve amassed a fairly large number of Origin’s books over the years. I wouldn’t say that they are something that I’ve ever actively collected, with the exception of the Ultima cluebooks. It’s more a case of picking them up whenever I happen to see one. I’ve just been on a shopping spree on Amazon and abebooks picking up near enough all the ones I don’t own though. None of them were more than a couple of pounds although I don’t expect them to be in mint condition or anything. There may be others but the only one I know I’m missing is the System Shock clue book. There is no way I’m paying over $100 although being realistic it’s never going to be cheap. The main purchase was all the Wing Commander novels which I’ll be interested to read. I’ve even heard that the novel of the Wing Commander movie was actually quite good but I’m not sure if I believe it.

Obviously the books vary from basic game guides, through to full blown novels so I will have a lot more to say about some than others. Quite a few of the clue books are interesting in their own right with back stories and developer interviews. Others are very simple and there won’t be much I can say about them but it gives me an excuse to read through them all. There are plenty to be going on with and I’m realising about now that I could keep this blog going for years……

I’m not going to continue in any order but I’ll start right back with the first of Origin’s clue books, Ultima 3.

The first thing that strikes me about this is the textured card cover. It’s similar to the covers for the magic books that came with Ultima 3 so it all fits in well as a package. The book starts with a brief introduction, stating that the book is the result of couriers being sent out to gather knowledge of the realm. It also mentions Shamino returning as a “pitiful figure” who’s “mind no longer controls his voice”. He obviously made a full recovery by Ultima 4 although I don’t think he even is in any of the games before this mention (other than owning a castle in Ultima 1 anyway). Ultima never was too strong on continuity, especially with the first trilogy.

The book is essentially a collection of maps. The maps are a truly basic affair and are printed in ASCII, presumably straight from the code of the game. Having said that, they are a perfect representation of what is in the game so they do their job. On the opposite page from each map is a brief text description of the town/dungeon written by some names that will be immediately familiar to players of later Ultima’s such as Iolo, Shamino, Dupre, Sentri, etc… The text for the most part amounts to little more than some fairly clear hints on what there is to do in each area. Iolo’s section is written in verse but other than that they all have a similar style to them.

The section on Ambrosia is interesting. It says that the continent was once inhabited by a strange and sensitive people who developed the power to alters one’s physical self before being enveloped by a whirlpool. It at least provides a little backstory which I don’t remember getting in the game itself. The book ends with a brief message from Lord British wishing you luck on your quest.

There isn’t a whole lot to write about with this. You can read through it in 5 minutes. It’s as noteworthy for what it doesn’t contain as anything else. There is no guidance on weapons, armour, enemy stats, character generation, or even what to do to beat the game. It really is just a guide to the realm and you have to work everything else out for yourself. I quite like this actually and it shows one of the differences between games now and then. There isn’t any advertising blurb on the back of the book saying what it contains either. It’s so much in character with the game that using it almost doesn’t feel like cheating but it certainly would (and did in my case) help you through the game if you don’t feel inclined to map every dungeon. It’s very short on extra story but still worth a quick flick through for any Ultima fan. It’s available on www.replacementdocs.com for anyone interested.

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