Unlike most RPGs, the main draw for Ultima really isn't the combat. Sure it's there, but the focus is more on the story and plot. Even so, the system implemented improvements over Exodus. Battles are overall very well balanced even though the challenge is often missing (unless you count trying my patience). By mid-game combat became a chore with very little benefit. I ended up using the Blink spell more often than bothering to fight it out.
Spells are plentiful and offer a variety of options. I especially liked the Blind and Quick spells, but I found uses for Tremor and Energy as well as Protect and Jinx. I didn't venture too far into the spell library though as battles often ended quickly due to ranged attacks. Ranged weapons and spells are also now able to target any enemy; no longer are we restricted to straight lines.
Enemies are consistent with a normal fantasy game world (i.e. you start to wonder why they're attacking and where they all come from). The main complaint I had with Exodus is back to haunt the series though. Enemies level at the same pace as your party, and combats take longer with the same amount of gold rewarded. I really hope they address this by the next game.
|The only danger was getting stun-locked via Sleep|
There's a nice cast of characters here with enough to differentiate between them to make it interesting. The ability to influence your progression is limited. Magic is the only area you have any control over, but there's no give and take, so why not learn everything. Appearance is static for each character, and advancement to Avatar is the only path. Only HP advances with levels. Stats are raised by visiting orbs in dungeons, but in the end I didn't see much difference in having a higher dexterity or intelligence.
|Shouldn't I be glowing or something?|
Puzzling out the hints and clues for the main quest is enough for me to give this game the highest puzzle rating yet. There are a couple side quests, and although not tough, provide an interesting task to follow up on while waiting for the shrines to allow meditation once more. Everything fits well in the story, and there are multiple ways of advancing in the virtues. On the flip side of that, figuring out how to avoid reducing virtues (while mostly commonsense) provides another challenge. The purpose of this section is really to highlight how well a game provides challenge outside of combat, and Ultima truly provides the best of that to date.
|One of the more subtle puzzles, I'm told Marina knows the final ingredient to the Life spell|
I went over my criteria, and while this seems low, hear me out. The main story does well to offer a number activities to involve the player in, and NPCs do offer assistance in guiding us along. However, the game lacks a bit of engagement. There's no way to truly affect the world or characters in it. They repeat the same dialogue with no options to guide the conversation. One character mentioned Ramsel left long ago, whereabouts unknown. I'd like to tell them I found someone of the same name in Buccaneer's Den, but that level of interaction isn't available. I also could use the skull of Mondain in town, but the townspeople regenerate as soon as I reenter. It's an interesting game and the main plot is compelling, but at least in this port, the supporting world lacks immersion and responsiveness.
|If this were the PC version I could probably ask you more about this Flamis fellow (later edit: turns out no)|
If you like to leave no stone unturned, no chest unopened, and take everything not bolted down, then this isn't the game for you. Grinding for the amount of gold necessary to purchase every item would take longer than the potential gain is worth. The number of useful items is limited to herbs, and combat equipment. Said equipment isn't easily identifiable as stronger than other. (Is a sword or axe better?) There are a few class specific items, but beyond the Avatar ones, the classes that use them are very restrictive (I count one for fighter, and one for shepherd). The economy never tanked, although I may have over invested in herbs. About the only collectable items are the stones and runes, which are necessary for the plot. How long do I have to wait for small unique trophies or a book to track my Pokémon?
|No! That's probably the only one in existence...|
The very first 7 in any category! This game was a true joy to explore. I really loved how each town had its own feel and focus, and you reach them all from the beginning. Each area of the game had some new discovery to reveal. The music left something to be desired by the end. My favorite melody is only available by talking to a bard in the inn of Britain, and it quickly reverted to the original when I left town. The biggest feat is the completely open world. The limiting factors are quickly overcome when the ship and balloon become available (very nearly in the beginning of the game if you know how to get them). Lastly, rather than hopping from one hub town to the next, we get an entirely open world to explore and play.
|Randomly floated around and spotted a new town. So fun!|
This is is a great game, easily the best of the year.
|Mantra? What's a mantra?|
|The SMS intro is very nice|
I'm already well into Double Dungeons, and could potentially finish it in a night or two since I played it so recently. I decided again to skip mapping on my own for this one game. I have the maps nearly memorized (at least for these first few dungeons), and I don't see the added benefit of making my own maps while viewers sit and wait. Instead I'm using the maps found on GameFAQs again, but exploring each square to ensure correctness. I've already discovered a couple missing enemies from one, but I'll post more on that soon enough. First, we have a game to cut.