Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Game 3: Ultima: Exodus (NES) - Going for Broke

Raising stats has made battles less of a chore. Don't get me wrong; it's still a huge time sink, but I'm less worried about getting wiped now. More time was devoted to grinding gold, and another trip to Ambrosia confirmed my suspicion that the Dex shrine was across the waters.

With stats more appropriately leveled to match HP, I ventured once again to the previously mapped caves of Moon and Madness. While there was much gold found, the marks were all the same (Kings and Fire). Getting through these two caves alone took 2 hours, and I was about to wrap up for the night defeated once again. That is until I remembered I didn't have a map for the Cave of Fool.

What was to be a quick jaunt to map this last cave became a full expedition. The layout looked very basic, so I ended up exploring most of the cave. For those more familiar with the game, you'll know that I was rewarded for my efforts by finding the Mark of Force.
Finally! Progress! I was hoping the fourth was in the same cave, but I guess I can't get all the luck. So, the plan for tomorrow is to explore Sol. This is the last cave where the 8th floor is unexplored (I know, I'm still banking on the major marks being on the 8th floor); in fact I don't believe I've explored it much at all. If this proves fruitless, then I guess it's back to the Cave of Death, Fire, and Gold in that order as I know I rushed to the bottom of those.

I've given up on finding the pick for now (and thus the mystic equipment), and I'm placing all my bets on the fourth mark in order to finish the game. Once again, I haven't visited the fortune teller, so I'll be sure to do that first thing. I seem to have plenty of gold now, and maybe she'll give me some insight on the location of the fourth mark.

Having a higher Dex has helped Trick avoid more traps, but most are less of a threat being level 25; poison is more of an annoyance than a concern. This last trip through the Cave of Fool provided so much gold that Trick reached the maximum of 9999 gold. I'm actually not sure how, as I can't recall opening more than 100 chests (although I suppose it happened).
Moments before Trick attempts to stuff 3,000 more gold into his pockets...
As a point, I find maximums in games detract from immersion rather than increasing realism. In this case I'm faced with the role-play equivalent of Trick (my thief mind you) finding gold, then realizing he can't carry anymore, and leaving it behind. No warning to me; no chance to give it to his companions for safe keeping, only the silent truncation of a machine trying to add a number beyond a defined limit.

Weight limits, inventory limits, max stats, party size limits, and so on all scream, "this is a game!" to me. I can see reasons for having them of course (some good, some bad), but most seem to boil down to limited memory or arbitrary limits. What is the reason to only have four digits of gold? Why not five? Phantasy Star had an inventory limit, which really boggled my mind considering a soda and a suit of armor (not to mention a hovercraft) each took one slot. Immersion is broken once again by the limitations of computers.

Limits can add to the challenge of a game, or attempt to keep it in some kind of balance; however, the benefit here is only for the game instead of the experience the player wants to shape. I'm probably rambling by now, so I'll stop now. Next time with enough luck will be the final part.


  1. Limits seem to be mandatory in video games in general, while sometimes it can voluntarily add difficulty (the survival-horror choices between getting a weapon or a health item for example), it is a hassle most of the time (it's no wonder a lot of the most fondly remembered adventure games have unlimited inventory).

    Most RPGs have level or stats limits, but in my opinion, it has to be a really large one not be game-breaking, Final Fantasy games, for example, usually have a 99-level limit, which can only be attained with a LOT of grinding and at that point, the end game boss can be slain in a few hits. It can be great for post-game contents. However, nearly everybody complained (and rightly so) about the 20-level limit of Fallout 3, where you haven't finished the game and experience points don't mean anything anymore...

    In the case you're mentioning, though, I understand having your thief dropping money on the floor and everybody else in your party just looking at their feet instead of helping him can be quite silly...

  2. Limits are often meant to be a challenge, but you're right. In this case, it's the limitation of the computer's/console's abilities. Though, even when it is meant to be a challenge, I never feel challenged by it. It's more of an annoyance than anything. Don't we play games to have fun, and avoid the kind of annoyances that we tend to come across in real life? Having to find a mule to carry more items is pretty much the same thing as finding another shopping cart to carry more groceries.

  3. I wouldn't be against a game if they gave me the ability to purchase mules, increase limits, etc. At least it's an acknowledgement that there are ways around limits in a real world. But just as easily, the game could have no limits where such things are implied to exist.

    In later console RPGs, inventory limits lighten up quite a bit, which I always took to mean the party had an invisible cart or something, not that the characters carried them around in magic backpacks. I guess either could work in a fantasy setting.

    @Alfred, if the limits are never meant to be reached, then at least they're more hidden from the player, and those type of machine limits don't bug me. I remember hitting the level cap in many old games because I used to grind for fun (I know I'm weird). The level limit in the first Final Fantasy is something like 49 or 50, and I'm not sure why. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest had a limit of 41, Phantasy Star and Dragon Warrior are level 30.

  4. I concur that limits are often just limits of the computer (or worse, limits of the skills of the game programmers), but I might make an exception on weight limits, if they exist for the sake of realism (after all, lifting a large shield does tax your strength more than carrying a small dagger) and if they are well done (so that making something sensible, like exercising your strength, allows you to carry heavier burdens) and if the existence of weight limit is appropriate for the game (e.g. Nethack is a game where weight limits work fairly well IMO, because the game is all about fighting constant challenges, but in a more plot-oriented games like Quest for Glories, it just becomes irritating, if my nerdy wizard character cannot carry all the quest items he needs due to non-existent muscles).

    But even worse offenders than games with arbitrary limits are the very old games where an excessive growth of your HP, money or something else would loop the numbers back to zero (I think Ultima 2 had that problem).

    1. There are definitely some good uses for limits, and weight limits can make sense if you're going for realism. Rarely is this actually something that needs deep thought, or adds any fun/challenge. Most often it only wastes time as I need to make three trips--instead of one--to get all the loot back to the store. I've never tried Nethack, I hear it's addictive.

      Over/under-flow glitches are some of the funniest to me, although the ones you're describing are the least.

  5. Worst limit ever: In Balder's Gate the inventory screen unpauses you, to simulate the time it takes to put on or take off armour and dig through your pack. You have no idea how much weird stuff I came back to after playing with my inventory. One of my characters was struck my lightning for example!