Ultima III: Exodus
Release Date: February 1989
Developer: Newtopia Planning
The well known Ultima series comes to the home console with Exodus. I was excited to sit down and play through this one. I’ve tried a few times in the past, but didn’t get very far. This time? Not really any different. You start by creating your party. There are five races: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Bobit, and Fuzzy. Then eleven different professions… The fighting classes: Fighter, Barbarian, and Thief; The pure casters: Wizard and Cleric; The half-casters: Paladin, Ranger, Druid, Lark, Illusionist, and Alchemist.
Lord British then gives you a task to seal the evil devil, Exodus, from the land. You’re set forth with a tiny amount of money and it’s up to you to figure out what to do and where to go. You check out the town next to you and find your money is gone, so you head out into the field to fight. At levels 1 and 2, all you face are enemies that your casters can take out with either repel or undead. This makes you feel strong and after each battle, chests are left that you can either GET or use the OPEN spell on to make sure you don’t get hit with a trap. While you’re exploring, you will find other towns and may stumble upon caves, as well.
When you enter a cave, you go from a top down perspective to a first person perspective. You need to light up your path with either a torch or the LIGHT spell. You’ll walk around, starting a nice map when you enter battle with enemies that way outclass you. So you decide to level up a bit to become stronger and spend some money on new weapons. Now the enemies on the map are much, much tougher and defeating them feels impossible. You look and see that your strength, dexterity, wisdom, and intelligence haven’t budged. What gives? The only way you can gain stats is to steal a pirate ship, find a vortex, and wake up in Ambrosia. Then you have to find shrines for each attribute and pay 100 gold for one point. If you do the math, you need about 25000 gold per character to max their stats.
I may have played long enough to grind for that much money, but the battles are so terrible. After you level up past two, you get the harder enemies that take 4 or 5 hits from your best attacks to kill. You only land your physical attacks a quarter to a third of the time. If you eek out a victory, you’ve lost plenty of HP that you can’t go to an inn to replenish, you have to wait for your MP to replenish on the world map and cast healing spells. But healing spells cost 10 MP, so unless you’re loaded with Clerics, you’ll be waiting a lot just to get your HP up to a respectable spot. If you get impatient or ambushed, you’ll go into a battle not at top shape and have an even harder time.
So you’re punished for leveling up. You’re punished in battle for pressing the wrong button. If you pick the wrong spell class, and press the B Button to go back like it should, it just passes your turn. When you’re on the overworld map or in a town, you only see in your line of sight. Everything else is black. This would be fine, except if you enter trees, you can only see right around your character and have to fumble around. And if you’re not walking on a path or grass, each step takes longer to complete. I get that they were trying to make the terrain mean something, but it only meant frustration to me.
The icons are fine. The dungeons are drab. It’s not impressive by any means.
The music is very repetitive and shrill. There’s a bit of variety, which is nice, and the sound effects aren’t terrible.
This game tries to do too much and does it all poorly. The battles are imbalanced, the dungeons each have eight levels of pain. Increasing attributes is difficult and will lead you to your doom.
I’m sure I could have made it easier on myself if I loaded up on the sands of time items and started stealing from every place I could, but if that’s the way I’m forced to play to make progress, I’d rather play something else.
Fun Factor: 1.0
I kept trying to enjoy this and go a step further, but after five and a half hours and no progress, I had to throw in the towel.
Overall Grade: 1.3
Ultima III: Exodus earns a D+. Coming back to this as objectively as possible, I can see why I had so many false starts trying to play in the past. I can’t recommend trying this on NES. It’s likely better on PC, so play it there.