After bouncing around between some 8-bit RPGs, I've settled on Ultima: Exodus (III). This game has its hooks in me, and I find myself thinking about it when I'm not playing. At any given time, when I've been gaming, I have these sort of nebulous game ideas floating around the borders of my consciousness. These are usually influenced by what I've been playing lately, and there is definitely a distinctly Exodus flavor these days. I probably spend more time daydreaming about this game than I do playing it.
But I am determined to play it and to make substantial progress in this very difficult NES game. After playing through a bunch of Final Fantasy, Ultima:Exodus is refreshing in its non-linearity, party customization and challenge. And boy, is it challenging. It really takes time to get some momentum in this game, and it makes Final Fantasy games appear to be positively coddling to the player. For example: Inns. There is one Inn in Exodus, and it serves only to save the game. No free life points. For that you have to shell out 200 gold to a doctor who will, in exchange, heal *one* of your party members. This is a stiff contrast to Final Fantasy where Inns are in every town and cost pocket change to heal your entire party. Oh, and did I mention nearly every treasure chest is booby trapped? So even if the enemies are easy, you can be killed claiming your reward.
Much of the early part of Exodus I have spent slogging around the overworld map, grinding, exploring and trying not to die. I routinely check each town to see if there's something I missed, some useful piece of the puzzle. But as far as I can tell, my only mission at present is to rack up gold and xp and buy armor, so that I will be ready for the new slew of super-tough enemies when I level up.
|In this game the only way to level up is by cashing-in experience points with Lord British.|
At which point, I will need to find a new lead on gold, because killing enemies just doesn't do it. I think what I need to do is hit the dungeons which are scattered around the map, and see if there isn't some loot in there. Of course, when I've paid these dungeons a visit, I haven't made it out alive. I'm hoping that the boost to HP I will get when I raise my levels up will give me what I need to survive.
I realize that I am accustomed to a JRPG pace, which is extremely steady. Go out, grind a while, come back stay at the inn. Grind some more, buy weapons and armor, when your strong enough, move to the next area. Repeat. That is the basic JRPG progression, and as far as I can tell, it's been universal since the original Final Fantasy. (I would say Dragon Warrior, but there was actually a bit less linearity to that game). Ultima is much different. The game guides you very little, and much of it is discovered through exploration. And patience. oh, so much patience.
But I am resolute. The very challenge of the game is what keeps me slowly moving forward. I don't know how long I can last, but there are milestones that I'd like to achieve. I'd like to get in and out of a dungeon and live. I'm thrilled to say I just reached Ambrosia. Next I need to collect some flowers and raise some of my stats. Then start collecting marks, which means deeper dungeon success. After that, I'm not sure what I need, but I'll most likely be consulting strategy guides along the way. One step at a time, there's no getting ahead of yourself in this game. If you get ahead of yourself, you will die. Simple as that.
Maybe I will play it until the end. Maybe I won't. But for the time being, this is the game that has occupied my attention. I don't know what I'll be playing next, but I'm thinking about Planescape: Torment, another Western RPG that gets lots of love.
- Cyclo DS Evolution is a great NES Emulator system for the Nintendo DS. It's how I play all my old favorites.
- Use the 'Open' spell to avoid traps from treasure chests.
- Also, press 'select' when the menu is open to see a different set of options, including ones that let you share food and gold.
- And for God's sake, read the instructions!