July 31, 2011

Ultima III - Ranking

Story & World

While most of the game world was fairly bland with pretty standard dungeons, Sosaria did have a few elements that were pretty unique.  Having the stat building land of Ambrosia (complete with its own challenges) is one though the concept of paying golds for stats had probably been done before.  The use of moongates for transportation was present in the game but was a minor system which would be fleshed out much more in Ultima: Quest of the Avatar.  A lot of towns had pretty much identical services and layout though a few towns were unique (an all forest town for example with townsfolk hidden throughout).   

About 75% of the townsfolk said nothing of value and the remaining quarter gave either vague or obvious hints.  A few people are concerned that Exodus is rising again and the end of days is at hand, but most blokes are just fine talking 'bout whateva.  A small handful do give crucial clues but this number could probably be counted on one hand.   

The main quest was the focus of the entire game.  If townspeople talked about anyone, it was all Exodus this and Exodus that.  No side quests.  Everything is related to bustin' into Exodus's castle and sealing him up.  3/20

Character Development

A deceptive array of starting classes ends up boiling down to a few basic types with little variation between the classes.  It all depends on how much time and gold you want to spend on raising stats.  A fighter/magic user hybrid is only going to work if most of the stats are going to be maxed.  When gaining levels from Lord British only the character's maximum Hit Points went up which is a refreshing change from the norm.  It also meant that once the Wizards starting ROTing and MISSILEing everything, they just became tanks in terms of HP.  It didn't take too long to max out the prime stats of the classes I choose (only one stat for three of the characters, two for the paladin) but still got pretty grindy.   

Weapons come in two varieties, melee and ranged, with the latter being the most useful.  No data for any of the weapons or armour nor does it affect any viewable character stats.  Defaulted to more expensive is better than cheaper.  No special abilities for any of the armaments which was very disappointing.  There was talk of a Mystic Sword and Armour so maybe those had some special abilities but I didn't find either of them.  4/20

Combat & Monsters

The tactical layout of the combat was pretty unnecessary in my opinion.  It would have served just as well having a more standard interface (e.g. Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior) as it would have sped the encounters up and combat wouldn't be such a predictable drag.  Every set of monsters did the same thing.  Move down one square.  They just bee line it for the nearest party member and if another creature or obstacle gets in the way, they just stand there awaiting their pummeling.  The magic system was a little better but most spells were just of the damage dealing variety, even for the clerical spells.  The utility spells were quite useful for getting around dungeons but healing through spells (the only way other than drinking from dungeon fountains) was another chore as the spells healed very little for the MP they cost.  No spells altered the terrain or conditions in combat or gave status ailments to monsters.

Monsters are little more than slowly moving targets that sometimes use magic.  The only description to be found is the creature's name flashes on screen whenever it is hit.  It has the standard fare of creatures, from orcs and ghouls to demons and dragons, which isn't a problem so long as one is familiar with basic monster lore.  What is a problem is the lack of monster distinctiveness.  Most of them get lumped into either melee or ranged (with the vast majority being melee) with a smattering of magic using or poisoning creatures.  Once a few levels are gained, monster difficulty varies wildly from easy as pie to pissing hard.  This is not so bad on the overworld map as harder encounters can be avoided but in dungeons it is completely random and you can't see it coming.  3/20

Graphics & Sound

All combat sprites are nicely defined and looked pretty close to the creature it was suppose to represent.   Character sprites are varied enough that classes never got confused between each other.  The character portraits under the Status screen though are pretty sloppy.   Music was passable and the few sound effects there are are pretty bland.  6/20

Gameplay

Gold retains a high level of usefulness throughout the whole game.  With it needed for both stat increases and equipment, it is always in constant demand.  Some of the armour prices were ridiculously high (luckily most of my characters at midgame were spellcasters and could not use high end armours).  Gold was always got in the same manner; a single chest with a random amount between around 30 and 99 GPs.

The game was quite open in its execution.  With monster difficulty levels tied into the party's experience levels, the dungeons containing the marks needed could be done in any order and a single type of mark could be in multiple dungeons.  Some places did not have to be explored at all so that could add to the replayability.  There isn't enough difference between the classes to warrant replaying with a different party structure.  At the beginning, as I began to realize the cost in golds to do everything I needed, it seemed like it was going to drag on but by midgame things picked up a lot and I was quickly propelled to endgame.  The challenge was very strong in the beginning and eased up as the game progressed which is fine by me.  Controls in the overworld map and combat are a little stiff but manageable but once the party acquires a boat the controls turn absymal.  I don't know if it was intentional (to try to simulate a choppy sea voyage) or not, but it's a pain in the ass.  10/20

Final Ranking: 26/100