Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 52 / SEPTEMBER 1984 / PAGE 106


Exodus: Ultima III For Commodore 64

David K. Peacock

Exodus: Ultima III ushers in an exciting new era of fantasy role playing. The combination of superb graphics, music, and excellent playability makes Exodus a modern-day masterpiece. The game presents challenges requiring clear, creative thinking plus the patience and determination to thwart hundreds of monsters during a quest to defeat the ultimate foe: Exodus.

An Adventure In The Box

Just opening the box is an adventure. Inside, you discover such magical items as a book of wizard spells, another full of incantations, a comprehensive playbook along with a quick reference guide, and a colorful cloth map of the realm to be explored. Also included is a key in the form of a black disk which, once booted, opens the way to the universe of Sosaria, where your dreams and fears materialize and your wits are your only hope.

After making a copy of the master side of the disk, you are ready to begin your journey. First you must create several characters to do your bidding. Up to 20 characters may reside per disk, and up to 4 may travel together at one time. Each character has a name, sex, race, profession, and the four attributes of strength, dexterity, intelligence, and wisdom. Take your time and choose wisely among the five possible races and eleven professions. Also, consider which attributes are important for different characters while using up as few points as possible. Because there are so many options and tradeoffs involved, don't be surprised if some of your characters just don't cut it and you have to create new ones. The opportunity for multiple characters, with varying personalities and abilities, enhances the playing environment over the single character allowed in Ultima II.

Sosaria Awaits You

Once your party is formed, the quest begins. The disk spins for a moment, and you find yourself in the magical realm of Sosaria where the waves lap the shores and banners atop towns flap in the breeze. Walking along, you notice open grassy plains, tall mountains, and dark forests. Your ears are treated to enchanting medieval tunes throughout. Suddenly, a band of nasty ores appear heading straight for you. You duck behind a range of hills where the monsters can't find you.

Now is the time to seek a town and outfit your party with much-needed supplies such as weapons and armor. Even though all your characters begin with cloth armor and a dagger apiece, better equipment could be a lifesaver. Remember, at the beginning, your characters are weak in every respect and must be nurtured until they have grown strong in body and mind and have gained knowledge along with experience. Until then, on to the safety of a town.

Weapon Trading

When you enter a town you'll find many citizens roaming the streets. These people are worth getting to know, for only by speaking to everyone will you learn secrets to help guide you along. Also, clues can be found only with extensive exploration.

One major improvement of Ultima III upon its precursor concerns the weapons and armor shops. In Ultima II, you were limited to buying; now, in this game, you can buy and sell. The variety of weapons and armor is better than ever. In fact, there's a rumor that some weapons are effective over a great distance—that might be worth even a steep price.

As in Ultima II, there are places to buy food and several pubs whose bartenders hear tales and could give you a tip or two. There are also stables with sturdy horses. Occasionally your party will come across an oracle, a man of wisdom and divine insight who might impart some of his knowledge for part of your gold. Two new and useful places to visit are the thieves' guild shops and the houses of healing. You'll find this and more in towns, not to mention a couple of castles and enough dungeons to make your head spin.

Dungeons. The word conjures up images of dark, twisting passages, sounds of funeral organ music, and thoughts of impending doom. This is the mood of the endless dungeons of Ultima III. These 3-D dungeons represent a significant improvement over the simple underground mazes in Ultima II. Exploring your first dungeon is thrilling as you attempt to overcome pesky gremlins, howling winds, foul traps, dozens of monster groups, and enough twists and turns to make getting lost no problem at all.

Reaching the lower depths—where the goodies are—requires careful planning and a working knowledge of the layout of each level. Once the treasures are located, it will take cunning to get your party back out alive. If all the treasures had been packed into one or two dungeons, the game would have been almost perfect. Instead, vital things were spread out among many dungeons, decreasing the enjoyment of each one. After you've conquered one dungeon, the rest can become tedious. Of course, a true dungeon lover might see things differently.

A Four-Player Battlefield

A new combat routine has been implemented to accommodate up to four players. When a monster group is encountered, the scene shifts to a battlefield where all the monsters and all the players can be seen. Each player gets a turn in which he may reposition himself, attack an oncoming monster, or cast a spell. Then each of the monsters performs a similar act. The battle rages on, turn by turn, round by round—gone are the days of instant destruction.

Though the combat sequence is well conceived, it is simply too slow considering the number of monster groups which must be dealt with. Granted, the pace does quicken once the characters' attributes have been raised, but most of the game is spent slugging it out. Then, for the effort, your party garners a single chest containing barely enough gold to sustain everyone. On rare occasions, a small weapon or cheap armor may be locked inside. If more items were found more of the time, agonizing money problems would diminish and the party could proceed with more interesting tasks.

Wizards And Clerics

One of the best aspects of Ultima III involves the extensive use of magic. Now wizards and clerics can demonstrate their true value as they cleverly choose just the right spell to save the party from a slew of poisonous balrons. At first, your spell casters will be limited and somewhat ineffective, but as time passes and they grow smarter and wiser, they will become indispensable. The wizards' spells mainly center on harming evil creatures, while the clerical spells are good for healing and resurrection. Both sets include very handy spells for maneuvering in dungeons. The two books of magic provide wonderful insights into the workings of each spell, making the game even more bewitching. Overall, the use of magic in Ultima III is well integrated with the obstacles to be overcome.

Moon Gates

Time affects many aspects of the game. If, for example, a member of the party is poisoned, the passage of time slowly brings about his death. Otherwise, wounds heal with time and spell points increase to their maximum. Also, if your party has fought pirates and gained control of their ship, only time will allow the winds to shift in your favor so that you may explore new lands. Perhaps the most important effect of time concerns the ever-present moons, Trammel and Felucca. As they pass through their cycles, strange events take place. Warps in space, called moon gates, appear only at certain times. Somehow, the moons and gates are thought to be connected, hence the name. There is a rumor of a city hidden in a vast forest. Not only hidden, but also not always there. Time, moons, cities, gates—all interwoven to challenge the best adventurers. Such is the spell Exodus weaves about its players.

Game designer Lord British has outdone himself with his latest work of art. Ultima II was a fantastic game, but Exodus: Ultima III makes it seem like child's play in comparison. Exodus has achieved an unparalleled blend of setting, multicharacter development, magic, plus a strongly integrated plot. The animated graphics sparkle with speed and color, and the sound effects achieve nothing less than a complete, evocative sound track. Except for a few places that tend to drag, Exodus is a delight to play, and I eagerly await the perils and pleasures of the fourth installment in the ultimate series.

Exodus: Ultima III
Origin Systems
1545 Osgood St.
North Andover, MA 01845
(617) 681-0609

Apple II family, Atari 400, 800, Commodore 64, IBM PC & PCjr versions