Saturday, February 25, 2012

Game 3: Ultima: Exodus (NES) - Progress, at a Snails Pace

So, I'd like to take this time to welcome back CRPG Addict. I'm sure everyone here is already aware, but it doesn't feel right to not say something when writing a blog and playing a game with a character that are mostly based on him. When I decided to start this, before his hiatus, I had hoped to compare some of the games on my list with the ones on his. While many of the early ones are covered, there are still some later ones like Drakkhen, Hillsfar, and Eye of the Beholder that would lack comparable reviews.

I enjoy reading other views on the same game. In fact while I'm playing Exodus, I took a peak at his posts, and noted that it only took him 10 hours to get through Exodus (I didn't read past his spoilers warning, so maybe he explained this quick expedition). Maybe this is due to his previous experience with the game or a difference in the port, but I'm expecting at least double that.
I prefer the screen with character stats on the side
I'm 6 hours in, and have very little to show for it. I was able to check out the main island, found some towns, a lot of dungeons, and moon gates. The one dungeon I ventured in I hardly explored because I got scared off by the harder enemies. Grinding for gold, I managed to upgrade Chet's armor who passed on the leather to AmyK.
Who would have predicted CRPG Addict would be back so soon?
I think I've already mentioned it, but I'm wary about raising my level due to expecting the enemy level to increase as well. Without increasing my other stats, I feel that fighting stronger enemies would act as a hindrance to progress (not that I'm making much of that as is). Maybe I should just bite the bullet, and have a little more faith in the game; however, in this era of gaming, I'm slow to trust the game to stay within hand. So, I've explored all the towns I could find. Only finding the odd rumor and unhelpful dialogue, maybe this wasn't the right approach. All of the armor and weapons are the same, but I did find some guild shops to purchase keys. Even with the keys though, the doors in the castle don't lead to much.
Sounds good, thanks for the tip...
Now, wait a minute...
There's a prison, that didn't prove very helpful, although there are still two doors to open and some NPCs standing in deadly areas I've yet to talk to. A fortune teller that charges obscene amounts of gold was a little useless at this point. The cheapest hint definitely didn't endear her to me. I may try again once I have some cash to burn. Lastly, the boat I'd been so eager to get to was stuck in the moat, and I couldn't find a way to sail it out to shore. (I only found one NPC, who said he was guarding the castle. More like slacking off.)
This doesn't look safe
The most drawn out part of all this is the fighting. Battles can take a long time to resolve, but I need to get through them for the money (plus I've yet to find a way to retreat). Then there's the choice of opening just one treasure, with the risk of getting poisoned. Actually, I had not recalled that the open spell automatically avoids traps, and continued to forget this. With this firmly in mind now, Trick is mostly useless for that task, although he's still good for stealing from shops if I choose to go with that approach. Also, I had been neglecting the Repel spell, which is actually very handy for taking out the early living enemies I've found.
Wow, look at all that treasure! Wait, where'd Trick go?
I'm definitely enjoying the game; it all has a certain charm: the random exploring, trying new things, and making incremental progress. Now that I've explored a bit I'm fairly sure that I need to delve into the dungeons. Maybe I'm being a bit too cautious, but the early party wipe caused me some concern. With the only save point at Lord British's castle, I still haven't wanted to stray too far. Next steps are to collect some gold, get a blowgun for Chet (I was really hoping for some kind of bow), stock up on food, and fully explore one of the dungeons. There are Shrines, which I've been unable to find, and flowers somewhere that a girl named Sherry is asking for. Also, a ship would be great. Maybe horses for 800 Gold isn't too bad of a deal, at least it'd help me travel faster.

I'm noticing a lot of dialogue directed at the player. The fourth wall is more like a parapet with quotes like "are you a descendent of Link?" and "I'll tell you a secret. I really enjoy Ultima V." Immersion is often broken because of these quips, and it's hard to take the game seriously. I'm not too concerned with this though, as I haven't found myself thoroughly drawn in even without running into these NPCs. It's hard to think of this as another world when many conversations are repeated, and other NPCs will spout off random nonsense. What am I supposed to think when an NPC responds, "I'm Jane. I'm on a diet." without any context?
I know he meant this to be funny, but playing it decades later, it takes on a rather sad context
And many believed Richard Garriott's avatar was Lord British...


  1. Nice posting Zenic: Do you want me to read over the spoilers and give you some ROT13ed hints?

    Off topic: I loaded up a bunch of your blog pages in tabs, to read each comment in turn. This rapidly ate up about 2 GB of ram. Do you have any idea why I can see a memory hit every time I open a page of your blog? Do you have any fancy scripts running or something? This could be just Blogger being stupid, but your blog seems to take more memory then say, or which seems odd. I could be wrong here, as I'm just opening pages and trying to view the little green lines in Resource Monitor, but wow, it doesn't feel like blog pages should eat up 2 GB of ram when they are just text and images.

    1. It probably has a lot to do with the browser you use, although that doesn't explain the discrepancy between other websites and this. Beyond that, it's hard to say.

    2. No fancy scripts, just straight Blogger. I thought it could be the images since I upload them as rather large .bmp files, but it looks like Blogger pares them down to pretty low size .jpg files. Maybe it's something in the side bar? Do you see the same spike from other Blogger sites?

      As for hints, I'll just wonder around for now. I'm not too into a rush. I don't know if you can tell from this post, but I noticed I jumped around from topic to topic. I have a lot of points I want to hit, and I'm trying not to make very long posts. So, more posts to make my points is helpful. I need to work my flow a bit. Also, I haven't run out of places to explore yet.

    3. I think I noticed it on other sites as well, possible The CRPG Addict, but as I said, it is hard to say-- I opened up about a zillion tabs this morning and noticed that after closing you and Chet's blogs physical memory went from 4 GB used to 2 GB used, whereas closing all the fancy BBC pages, Metafilter, etc did roughly zip. I think the problem was just that I opened every comment left on each of your blogs since yesterday, and each page is taking just slightly more memory then it should.

      Also: Firefox.

    4. I checked again with Chrome and its system stats thing: Not sure why your blog took up so much memory, it doesn't seem to use an excessive amount. I'll see if it happens again. That or some javascript in one of your widgets doesn't like Firefoxes JS engine, but is fine on Chrome. Who knows.

  2. "Funny" 4th wall-breaking dialogue was pretty much endemic to computer RPGs of the early-to-mid-80s, and Ultima was no exception. I think console RPGs are generally better about this, possibly due to data restrictions.

    1. That probably comes from western tabletop RPGs, which I suspect most CRPG writers of that period graduated from. Early D&D was filled with jokes and in-refrences, and it wasn't until later that realistic or heavily plot based games came along; they were certainly around by the 80s, but if most of the writers were from the Gygaxian school...

      Examples: The lightning bolt spell in D&D required an ebony rod, a glass rod and a bit of rabbit fur. Fireball required sulphur, bat guano and charcoal. Robilar's orc henchman was named after a word he'd used to cheat at scrabble. When Robilar was about to go adventure on the Moon his mechanic built a giant catapult to launch him (Which, to Gygax's great annoyance, he refused to use, though it would have worked). Another character (who became a minor god), run by Gygax's best friend, had 2 wands shaped like pistols and a holy symbol of a gold star (I'm not sure if the character became a god before or after the player passed on at a young age in real life, but the player was a huge western fan, so Gygax bent the rules a bit to allow him to play a cowboy in a fantasy game; as a result you can worship a cowboy imported from another game in Greyhawk to this day).

      The most famous examples were Journey to the Barrier Peaks, which had a crashed spaceship in it, and an adventure that moved D&D characters to contemporary London (Which is now quite out of date, and would be almost as confusing to me as the D&D characters!).

    2. It happens less and less as we move forward, but there are a few notable games that do break the fourth wall. Thousand Arms is one that comes to mind.