by Tim Reekie
1545 Osgood St., #7
North Andover, Mass. 01845
1545 Osgood St., #7
North Andover, Mass. 01845
It's just too big! What can I say about a program that converts a bunch of wires and ciruits into a country far away and long ago, about a program that turns normal Atarian people into Sosarian adventurers searching for a well-hidden secret; about a country so vast and detailed that, in the process of playing, you may forget that Sosaria is only imaginary.
This is a job for the Adventure Duo! I'm not about to attempt to describe Ultima III in-depth. I may as well describe Dungeons and Dragons in-depth. Besides, this is definitely a 'learn-as-you-play' game. Gee, I didn't know thieves could steal as they fight (there goes my bow). Gee, I didn't know there were Gremlins to steal my food (gosh, I'm starving). You learn these things quickly, especially, since with characters at lower levels, death comes rather quickly to those unprepared.
You have come to Sosaria to do battle with their latest menace: EXODUS. In finding this evil-doer, you must overcome such beasts as Orcs, Skeletons, Giants, Dragons, Sea Serpents, Pirates and the higher order of bad guys like Daemons, Arch Daemons and Devils, to name but a few. To overcome these ne'erdo-wells, your party must not only have weapons and armor but must also be balanced. Probably the best combination is Fighter, Ranger, Cleric, Wizard, but you would be advised to develop a strategy and choose a party accordingly (ie: thieves are good for stealing etc.)
There are three places that should be found first (is that possible!?). The first, and most important, is the 'guild shop'. There are a few of these scattered throughout the land. The most important item in this shop is probably the torches, although the other items on the menu each have their uses. However, extended travel in dungeons is impossible without torches.
The next shop on your tour should be the stables (If you can find one!) Here your party may purchase horses which may assist you in outrunning unwelcomed guests. There are two stables, both of which are exceedingly difficut to find.
The `Oracle' is the most helpful in understanding what is going on, and therefore, the most expensive. You must already have been to the guild shop before you can get to the oracle.
Each character has four main attributes: strength, dexterity, wisdom and intelligence in creating a character. These four must total 50 points, with no attribute being less than five, or greater than twenty five. During the course of play, these attributes rise towards a pre-determined maximum (depending upon the character's race). This rise comes about through some undetermined means (That is, we haven't figured it out, yet!)
Each character starts at first level and rises one level for every 100 experience points. Experience points are gained by killing your foes, with each foe worth a specified number of points. The character which makes the last blow receives the full amount of points. Each character starts with 150 hit points and this total may rise with subsequent increases in levels; but you'll have to talk to Lord British about this.
Now you know as much about this game as we do, and if you've played the two origianal Ultimas then you'll probably know more. This brings us neatly to the problems with Ultima III. As its name implies, there were two previous Ultimas, although I haven't actually seen them. Exodus seems to presume a familiarity with Sosaria and the game in general. I've talked to everyone until I am blue in the face (The Guards are polite but boring, while the Jesters are hilarious) and have yet to discover how to raise the attributes of the characters. However, most of what is left out can be figured out, so it isn't too bad.
At the beginning of this review, I said that the program is just too big: I wasn't kidding! Whether it's because of the amount of data being handled, or whether it's some other reason, the game tends to jam every now and then. If your computer has been running for a long period it's more `now' and less `then'. The game is saved before entering or exiting cities, castles and dungeons and more directly when "quit" is typed in. The death of a character will also be recorded immediately while updating the other characters (ie poisoning, food eaten etc).
The jamming up is very frustrating as th game takes at least five minutes to reload.
UPDATE-From the interview with Lord British (Richard Garriot) we learned that Origin has fixed the gliches. So if you have one of the rotten disks, send it back, and Origin will replace it with the new updated version.
Psst Buddy. . . .Wanna Buy a Secret
This small section is designed to give players a few hints what we, through painstaking experimentation, have discovered in our travels. Those of you not desireing any help in your adventures would be well advised to skip the following section.
(1)Do not attack anyone in a town unless you have: a) Horses, b) Powder and c)Quick fingers.
(2)If a battle is going badly and a beloved character is in danger of dying, or if everyone is poisoned and the funds for buying a cure are conspicuous by their absence, turn the computer off. True, the game will have to be re-loaded, but the game will commence from whence it was last saved. Any treasure gained however, will be lost.
(3)Mapping dungeon levels by guesswork is generally useless. Have a healthy supply of gems to peer into on each level,, and in each city, and draw your maps from these.
(4)`V' gets rid of the spell casting theatrics.
(5)The music may be turned down/off by turning the knob on the t.v. set marked "volume". Quite tricky, I know!!
(6)(WARNING) This one is really dirty, and should be attempted only by:a)Ambitious beginners, b)seasoned veterans who have lost their high level character(s), and don't want to rebuild slowly.
(i) Create four characters
(ii) Form party
(iii) <H>and all food,money, and armor(daggers aren't worth worrying about) to Player 1
(iv) <Q>uit game
(v) Turn off computer
(vi) Reload game;dispersed party,terminate players 2,3,and 4;re-create players 2,3, and 4;goto (ii)
After doing this three times, Player 1 will have 1500 food, and enough gold to equip an army, or resurrect the dead five times over.
Of course, you understand that this is basically cheating, and should only be done in the direst of circumstances. It also takes a bit of time: About five minutes per loop, for experienced keyboarders. (Like Pete)
Okay, all you true-blue adventurers out there my look now.
I intend to have an update of Ultima III in the next issue, so in the meantime, any of you fellow Sosarians out there who'd like to see your name in lights, send in your character name, # of moves, level, and of course, your real name(Exceptionally powerful characters might be tempted to include a photograph as proof!!). Also, if any of you should meet Exodus, send in a photo and it will be printed along with your name in the next issue.
Until then, here are our characters (with a photo) and the ratings for the latest Ultima.
P.S. The reason the overall rating is so high is that the challenge and playability are so prevalent that all other factors are completely outweighed.
The rain was spattering against my window it was six o'clock and I had just finished the weekend crossword. I put the pen down and walked into the parlour. No, I didn't fancy billiards tonight, nor did darts seem an exciting alternative. There was always the Atari. I leaped through my collection of software. Nothing seemed to stimulate my enthusiasm.
"Let's face it", I said (Despondently!) "I'm bored!" With incredible timing, the telephone rang. I picked up the receiver.
"Hello", I ventured, "T.R.R. here".
"Rave?", the voice questioned, "This is Pete I've just acquired a new game and if you're not too busy, I'd like to know if you can make it down to test play it? It's a multiple-player game ...uh JSD's already here. "
Now right away, I knew something was up. Pete is never that eloquent. But JSD was there! Since that fateful game of "Jumpman" not 6 months ago, that night when the RAVING REVIEWER became the raving reviewer, I had dreamt of revenge.
"Yes, I cried, I'll be there in ten minutes". I was in fact, there in five. Pete was waiting for me in his driveway, the rain had abated to a drizzle. We walked in silence into the house and found JSD in the computer room finishing off the potato chips.
"How does the game look", I inquired, trying my best not to notice the holes in his socks.
"Burp 'scuse me", was the brilliantly inspired reply (Well brought up).
"Dunno", he continued, "Pete hasn't unwrapped 'er, yet." "Ah", I said, turning to Pete, "Well?" "One Zeppelin coming right up", said Pete, with a strange smile on his face.
"Come again?" asked JSD
"The name of the game", answered Pete, unwrapping the package, "is zeppelin". "Oh!... got any more chips?"
While the game was loading in, I began to wonder just what this game entailed.
"Well Tim (I knew I was in for bad news; he never calls me "Tim" except when the news is bad) I may have given you the wrong impression. You see, Zeppelin is a cooperative game".
I was more than slightly taken back.
"You mean, JSD and I are (gulp), are on the ... I couldn't say it. I looked at JSD. He was busily munching on his new bag of chips, his face impassive.
"Same team, yes", finished Pete. "Of course, I'll be playing too. You see, Zeppelin is a game for from one to four players. We're in a Zeppelin, it seems, uh that's an airship."
"I know what a Zeppelin is, Pete!" I walked to the console and pressed a button. A panel in the wall slid aside effortlessly, revealing Pete's sixty inch televideo screen. I pressed another button. Instantly Zeppelin was displayed in full color on the screen, with the impressive theme music blasting in quadraphonic sound from somewhere in the walls. An impressive system, to be sure. I picked up my remote control joystick and settled into a comfortable lazy-boy (armchair).
"Yes, well now aboard this Zeppelin we must CO-OPERATE (I could've sworn he said co-operate in capital letters) and get from the seventh level underground to the face of the earth. We get to avoid earthquakes while shooting down enemy airships, balloons, walls and anything else that gets in our way. (JSD's eyes lit up) Oh yeah, there's something here about a Hamburger monster, but I'm not too sure what thats about. "Well are we ready to begin?"
Pete was the pilot: I declined the honor, and JSD would have run into the walls.
The night passed quickly manuevering through the maze that was Zarkafir was not as easy as it sounded. The earthquakes occurred more frequently and with greater deadliness as we achieved the lower levels. As we appoached and passed the wee hours, we had built up a fleet of ten Zeppelins. Wondering how we had built up such an impressive arsenal, I turned to the instructions, while JSD and Pete held down the fort. I discovered that besides there being life pills, which are capable of endowing free lives, and an extra life is also granted for every 10,000 points. Other than that the instructions were pretty basic: switches could turn on or off enemy defenses: keys go into keyholes; hamburger monsters eat the hamburgers. You give them (after which they leave their posts so you can pass). I was brought back to the task at hand quite abruptly.
"You idiot! you're supposed to shoot those earthquake chunks! I'm steering the bleeding thing."
"I thought raving was shooting up"
"No I'm shooting forward", I hollered.
"We've still got nine lives left, no prob." As it happened. It was a prob, as I mentioned, this game gets tougher. The wee hours stretched into the early hours and as with most mere mortals, our co-ordination dissipated until our forays were restricted to the first four levels. Apparently once one has mastered the novice level, one may advance to the advanced and finally expert levels. Our chances of advancing in our present condition was dubious at best. It isn't surprising therefore, that we adjurned for the weekend. wearily, I sat up and reached for my jacket. JSD propped himself up and a waterfall of chip crumbs cascaded to the floor. Although it was not what I expected, it was a good night of vidioing, and I thought that it was a night well spent as we walked toward the door.
The sun was just dawning throught the mist as we emerged from the house. Pete waved his goodbyes and closed the doors. However as we walked to our cars I couldn't help feeling cheated. Don't get me wrong, Zeppellin was an excellent game. The blisters on my thumb and fore finger were evidence of that. All good fast-action games gave blisters on my thumb. No, it wasn't that! I looked across at JSD. He had chip crunbs on his face, his hair was a mess, his shirt wrinkled, and his face impassive, as usual. How could he know how important beating him was to me. That getting the capitals back in my name was priority one. He burped audibly.
"Night J", I sighed as I opened my Maseratti door. As I prepared to slide in, I felt a hand on my shoulder and I turned. He looked quite tired although the chips were wiped from his face.
"Till next time my friend", he smiled, "till next time!"
He turned and I watched him trudge off toward his car until he was lost in the mist.