Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Game 3: Ultima: Exodus (NES) - Blundering Through

"We received word that Lord British requires help in the land of Sosaria. When we arrive, we're greeted by Lord British himself. Making note that we are the only ones to head his call, he tells us that a great devil, Exodus, will soon awaken. Should that occur, darkness would fall across all the land, destroying the world. Our task, to seal away this dreadful creature before it brings about this ruin. With no other clues to go on, we resolve to exploring the land with rumors of a fiery island being home to Exodus."

I'm excited about this game. The Ultima series is one that I never really got into until Ultima VII (in fact it was only that and the Underworld games I played). I remember the Guardian scaring me at the beginning, and hoping I'd never have to run into him. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of history by ignoring these games for so long; I'm glad to finally get around to them. Maybe I'm missing out on some things by not playing them on PC, but this is better than nothing right?

So, I created my characters rather than using any of the pre-made ones. Chosen by poll, I have a Human Ranger (Chet), an Elf Thief (Trick), a Bobit Cleric (AmyK), and a Fuzzy Wizard (CanaG). I tried to maximize my stats somewhat, and ignored the non-class specific ones like Int and Wis for Trick, Wis for CanaG, and Int for AmyK. 
We begin outside, a castle and a town not far off. This is Lord British's Castle, and the city is dubbed The Royal City. Visiting the castle seems like a good place to start. It houses an inn that acts as a save point, a doctor to cure what ails me (and to take my blood), and Lord British who is only interested in leveling me up. Searching the outskirts, I saw a boat floating in the water on the opposite shore. Possibly one of the locked doors would allow me access. (Thinking on it now, I only assumed they were locked, I wonder if I could just open them.)

After exploring the castle, I took stock of my equipment and found it substandard, so on to the town I went. My reasoning led me to purchase a sling for my wizard, and maces for the rest. I found that the sling I bought can't be used by my wizard or cleric. (I'll give the game credit though; it did try to warn me, but I pressed the button too quickly to heed it.) I passed the extra daggers to CanaG for extra ranged weapons. I found the armory, the weaponry, and grocery stores, but NPCs tell me there are four stores. Ignoring that for now, I stocked up on food as best I could, and prepared to fight enemies in the wild.
Looks like you're the only ones, guess you get the job
Battles are a lot of fun, and I think I misspoke in a comment regarding the first strategy RPG being Shining Force. Each enemy killed gives experience to the character that killed it, and after battle a treasure chest is left. However, most of these are trapped. It's possible to get straight damage to one or all members, have someone catch a cold (not really sure what this does), or set off a poison trap that effects everyone.

Traps are best avoided by opening chests with a dexterous character, like a Thief. Lucky for me I have one, but I still set off the occasional trap. Poison slowly drains HP, but that's not the worst part; paying to cure everyone that's the real biter. Cure poison costs 100 gold per character, chests range from 60 - 80 gold, and I need to pay for food too. Saving up is going to take a while. An interesting option does exist for the doctor; each character can give blood and get 30 gold. Giving blood means losing 100 HP, but with MP regenerating quickly it's a good deal. It certainly keeps my cleric busy constantly healing. When I do need to grind, I find it best to fight a bunch of enemies, before opening any chests. That way poison traps only affect my party once; I'm also guaranteed to have the gold to afford curing.
Cleaning up my treasure droppings. Why yes, I did get poisoned again...
After a number of fights, my stocks of food dwindled, and I noticed an issue: only Trick had gold. Being the only one opening chests, he'd need to buy food for everyone, but there's no obvious option for that. Each character buys food only for themselves. Consulting the manual reveals options to evenly disperse food and transfer gold between characters. So, I pull up the menu, and nothing. I push left and right in the menu, and nothing. Start button, nothing; select button, ah finally. (One good thing about the NES, it only has so many buttons to try.) During battles the menu is even more obtuse. There's no undo button, and no way to move the character after it's initiated. One wrong button press means skipping a character's turn.
One Undead spell, at level 1 can take out 8 skeletons... over powered much?
Learning curve aside, I've tried to explore. Yet I can't seem to stray too far from the first town and Lord British. The first time I did, Trick and AmyK died because I blindly walked into damage inducing terrain. In my defense I was walking through the forest, and could only see one tile ahead. No problem I thought, "I'll go resurrect AmyK, and grind up some money to get Trick back... what's that? Oh, AmyK just turned to ashes. Let me go explore that blue barrier looking thing next to the doctor and... okay now the whole party is dead." Strangely, CanaG gets magically revived at Lord British. This isn't very helpful though, as I'm still in a position that requires me to restart. While the thought did cross my mind of trying to continue on, I brushed it aside as an undue burden. I hadn't saved too long ago, so it wasn't a big loss.
The change in sound from *crunch*crunch* to *thud*thud* should have been a dead give away
Overall, nothing's been too detrimental (except for the whole party death thing); I've gained some confidence now, and some levels. Leveling gives a character more hit points. Chet has been raking up the experience with his Undead spell, wiping out most groups of ghouls and skeletons single-handedly. The sling was handed to Trick rather early, as I found ranged weapons are best. This was quickly upgraded to a blowgun, and some leather armor for him and Chet as well. Chet also saved up enough for a sword. As soon as Chet reached level 3, I noticed stronger enemies started appearing. I remember there being a way to increase stats later, and with stronger enemies lurking around I'm definitely looking forward to that. Next trip out I'll better prepare by reviewing the manual a second time. My plan is to explore all I can of the over-world. I hope to find some more towns, and maybe my first dungeon. I actually have some clues, but no way of knowing how to follow up on them.
Are you my ship?


  1. Trick is killed!? You've gone and got me killed already haven't you! ;)

    1. No, no! That was all a dream... yeah, a bad dream. ;)

      I think he just happened to have the lowest HP at the time. Darn burning sand. (I really have no idea what it is.)

  2. So as we all know, Chet has taken back up the mantel of the CRPG Addict. As such, I feel Zenic should inform him that he is a ranger now. I also give Zenic credit for bringing him back, seeing as he made his decision while *hiking* in the middle of winter: If that isn't a ranger activity, I don't know what is.

    1. I take no credit in his return. I'm fairly sure he doesn't read this blog.

      While I'll happily read his posts, and I'm glad to have him in this role as blogger, I can't help but feel a little sad that he didn't meet his goal of becoming a more "productive" individual. He seems to want to change, but can't. I guess sometimes we can't even change when we want to.

      In any case, I think I've spammed his comments in previous posts enough regarding my blog. Personally, I dislike self promotion (at least when I do it, I don't mind others promoting themselves), and I feel really weird about doing it. While I'd appreciate his experienced point of view, I feel like my blog really fails to compare to his excellent writing. Maybe once I've been at this a while a longer I can feel more confident.

      If you want to let him know that he's a ranger now, by all means. :)

    2. Hah; I was joking. I don't think he read it, I meant that you magically summoned him back by invoking him as a ranger while he was out hiking.

    3. :)

      I wasn't taking it seriously. It is funny thinking invoking his name in a CRPG has pulled his heart strings back to playing.

  3. "Battles are a lot of fun, and I think I misspoke in a comment regarding the first strategy RPG being Shining Force."

    Even with a significantly more narrow definition of strategy RPG, Shining Force wouldn't be the first one. Shining Force came out in 1992. Langrisser came out in 1991. Elthlead, the prequel series to Langrisser, actually started in the late 1980's. Fire Emblem came out in 1990. The creators of Shining Force specifically mention Silver Ghost as an inspiration, not Fire Emblem, but SF is certainly more like FE than SG.

    1. I just re-read this and it comes off a little combative. Sorry about that. It's hard to convey tone on the internet. I just happen to know a lot more about console RPG's than PC RPGs or adventure games, and I'm just gushing with stuff I want to say, haha.

    2. No worries. Gush away.

      This is what I get for referencing out of context though. My previous comment was on how the first strategy RPG I'd be playing was Shining Force. Here I admitted that part, so sorry for the confusion. I think it's still true when speaking about scenario, stage, or level based ones, but I was trying to express how tactical the battle system is here.

      Strategy/Tactical/Simulation RPGs are an interesting sub-genre. I haven't done much research myself, but these games seem to take a lot from Bokosuka Wars, Nobunaga's Ambition, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It often makes me think I was born into the wrong country for console RPGs. I actually didn't get too into playing these types of games as a kid. Ogre Battle was fun, but quickly became overwhelming to handle. About the only other game I played was Vandal Hearts, which I adored.

      I'm looking forward to getting into these types of games more than reliving past games I've played like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy.

    3. admitted = omitted... silly types

    4. Haha, sorry for the mis-read. Yeah, I considered bringing up BW/NA/RotK, but I was trying to be ultra specific. I feel like, other than SF's exploration elements, there's a lot of common ground between FE/SF/TO/FFT/Lang/etc.

    5. No, no; I understand where the confusion came from. While I qualified it in my comment, here in this post it was more open ended. I agree there's a lot more in common with later games because we start to get into specific characters for each unit.

      Another game in this same vein that I'll be playing is Dragon Force for the Saturn. It which actually has more in common with RotTK, but also takes from these strategy RPGs as well. It's more of a real-time strategy, so I didn't mention it before. It's another favorite that I played at friends house a lot, and all the different characters and abilities were a lot of fun to explore.

    6. Yeah, I still haven't played Dragon Force. I actually got a Saturn with the intention of trying to buy Dragon Force, but the Saturn was broken, I got my money back, and I decided to skip the whole endeavor.

      If strategy RPGs are on this list.. you should try to make room for a translated Langrisser game. In fact, I think you should open up nomination followed by voting for a -select- set of translated games. I know you already crossed them off, but there are a lot of real gems that you would be missing. Live-A-Live, Tales of Phantasia, Final Fantasy V (although there is the PSX release), Star Ocean, Seiken Densetsu 3, Mother 3, the SaGa games, many of the Dragon Quest games, etc. etc. etc. are all available in English, but only through fan translations.

      I understand -entirely- about why you would eliminate these possibilities, and it's totally cool if you aren't open to this at all. However, I think it would be a fun little thing, and you could limit the number of -actual- placements to 5 or something small and manageable. Any interest?

    7. That's unfortunate about your Saturn. I actually had a friend try Dragon Force, and later he said, "how do you play that game?" and he honestly wanted to know because he just didn't understand it. I'm fairly sure he didn't have a manual though.

      Star Ocean, I'm planning on playing the port to the PSP. Final Fantasy V is going to be on the PSX release.

      I'm just not sure where to draw the line between what import games I'd play and which ones get left out. In a perfect world, I'd put them all in. There are a lot, even just counting the popular ones that get translation patches.

      I love making lists, so it should be no surprise I've already made a list of import RPGs. These are only ones I've found on Mobygames, so I'm sure there are many more out there, but in this list I have 275 games. 275 more games... these don't overlap the current list and are unique games.

      This is already cutting out duplicates across multiple platforms. It's really not my style to only pick the most popular games, the ones that have translation patches, so I'd have to learn to read Japanese fluently first (4 semesters in college only gave me a passing knowledge because I didn't study hard enough).

      Now, I hope I'll have time to play them, and I'll blog about it here when I do. I definitely have interest in them, especially when they're sequels to other games I'm playing like Seiken Densetsu, Mother, Tales of..., Mystic Ark, and the SNES Romancing Saga games. But also, games like Sweet Home, Radia Senki: Reimeihen, Just Breed, El Dorado Gate Volumes 1 - 7, Cosmic Fantasy, Rhapsody of Zephyr, and Anearth Fantasy Stories interest me greatly.

      So, I've cut these for now not from a lack of interest, but in trying to keep the blog focused on the current approach, however narrow that may be. I won't rule it out completely, just for now. I think I already have enough on my plate for the time being.

    8. Understandable. Like I said, I figured you could add a small, manageable set, but I get that it's either all or nothing.

  4. One fun thing with the chests -- at least on the Apple ][ version that I played a very long time ago -- is that the monsters could not cross them. I had fun with that, setting up lines of defense that I could cross over if I needed to recover before combat. I then went further, trying to cover the entire land with chests. At one point I got into an area I had not previously been able to and discovered that it was completely full of monsters -- they couldn't get out, and once it filled up they couldn't move, either.

  5. haha, sounds like a fun meta-game. The NES port allows monsters to walk over chests. If you defeat a monster over a chest, they won't drop a second chest, so it's best to avoid doing that.

    Since we're comparing ports, I'm pretty sure moving is slower in towns and the world map. With nested menus it takes some time to do any actions. Battles don't skip your turn if you wait too long as well. I'm not getting and NPC names, so while CRPG Addict mentioned seeing some old friends, I don't recognize anyone specific (other than Lord British).

  6. Wow, I turned into ashes? Does that mean I couldn't be resurrected through normal means?

    I would say "owie," but ashes don't have nerve endings. ;)

    1. Yes, I've not had any luck with resurrection. There's a spell clerics get to raise from ashes, but AmyK is the only cleric.

      Sometimes I want to yell, "I said 'resurrected'! Not 'cremated'! Can I get my 500 gold back now?" ;)

    2. Yeah... it's kind of hard to resurrect oneself without the liberal use of time travel.