Ultima: Exodus

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North American NES box.

Ultima: Exodus, known in Japan as ウルティマ 恐怖のエクソダス Urutima Kyofu no Ekusodasu, "Ultima: Fear of Exodus", is a role-playing game and a port of Ultima III: Exodus, but I have a history with it different enough to warrant its own page. This version was created by Newtopia Planning and first released in Japan by Pony Canyon on the NES in 1987, then for the MSX in 1988. It was published in North America by FCI on the NES in 1989. The MSX version is very similar to the NES version, just with a slightly different color palette and sound due to different hardware. This game was heavily advertised in Japan, the soundtrack was composed by a pop musician, a single was released featuring the vocals of a pop singer, several extensive hint books were made, and even comics and game books were written to popularize Ultima to Japanese audiences.

I first played this game after renting it from a video store and loved it. I remember reading the poorly printed replacement manual that came with the game that there was "dragon" armor, which I thought was so cool. Later, my step-brother brought his copy when he visited, and I play it. I accidentally erased his save game file, and my brother and I tried to rush through the game to get back all the stuff he had, but were unable to, he was very mad. But we kept playing, and I amassed a lot of gold and raised each of the characters to level 5. This unleashed the pirates, and we made it to Ambrosia. I found a shrine, and, teasingly, my step-brother told me to try and donate all my gold to see what happened. I obeyed, and didn't see any benefit, and I felt betrayed by him. Only later did I realize I was on the right path.

I later asked for the game for Christmas, and got it. It was a used copy and didn't have the manual, but it did come with a nice transparent purple plastic case, which was so fitting for the game. I played it a lot, but didn't get very far without the manual. Later, my brother and I found a copy of the hint book at a Toys 'R Us, and he bought it for me. With it, I was able to get a lot farther. The hint book contains everything I needed to beat the game, and I got about two thirds of the way through it, but I didn't beat it then. Years later, having gotten tired of it being a game that I really loved, but couldn't beat, I sat down and spent countless hours grinding out gold and buying my stats (I ran the game at 2x speed), and then finally beat it on 2017-07-08.

Status

I own a complete in box copy of the game, and have beaten it.

Review

  • Overall: 4/10
  • Best Version: NES

Good

  • For the time, the graphics are pretty good, certainly better than any of the PC-based Ultima ports.
  • The game has really good music.
  • Hiding portions of the map that your character's can't see, while not very attractive to look at, is certainly more realistic than seeing through walls and roofs, which was common in most RPGs of the day.
  • There is a large variety to the towns; each focuses on a particular terrain, and it's impressive to see varying ages in the NPCs.
  • The spell list is fairly varied. There are attack spells for singular and multiple targets, spells for getting around in the dungeons, disarming traps, healing, resurrection, and so forth.
  • Having wind that affects how fast the ship can move in various directions was a cool idea.
  • The amount of effort Pony Canyon put into selling the game was amazing. Multiple professionally made hint books, a manga, a vinyl soundtrack, etc.

Bad

  • The game engine moves too slowly. I found the game to be much more playable when run at double speed in an emulator.
  • The towns are very redundant. Most of them have the same shops as each other, so they could be removed altogether.
  • Most of the game's dialogue is useless. Much of it is banter: "it's a good day for washing," "it's too late to play Ultima," etc,; though some of it is clues, but the majority of the clues are either unhelpful: "find the shrines," or incorrect: "dig here!"
  • Experience is poorly correlated to the difficulty of the monster. A full mob of skeletons can be defeated in a single round with a free Undead spell, yielding 32 XP, while a full mob of demons, who will leave your whole party injured and poisoned, only gives 64 XP. Also, the amount of XP needed to level isn't exponential; it always take 100 XP to get to the next level.
  • Gold is entirely random, and far too little is rewarded for difficult battles. A single goblin can have more money than a pair of dragons!
  • Combat, though tactically superior to most RPGs of the time, is dreadfully slow.
  • Weapons are poorly factored. Weapons of a higher power level only do marginally better damage. Ranged weapons usually do the same amount of damage as melee weapons, but you have many chances to hit before the monsters can hit back, so the only reason to use a melee weapon is if the class can't use one.
  • Enemies can attack diagonally, but you cannot, even if your character is wielding a pole-arm.
  • If you pick the wrong menu item in combat, you have to forfeit your turn, you can't undo the menu option.
  • Most of the monsters in a group have different sprites, but are clones of the others, like titans, giants, and golems.
  • I don't care for the 3D dungeons because you can't tell where the enemies are, there are WAY too many traps, and their layout is ridiculous. Like the towns, they're mostly redundant and half of them could be eliminated.
  • There are a couple game breaking bugs, but they're rarely encountered.

Ugly

  • The game requires an obscene amount of grinding. You have to grind monsters to get XP to raise levels, but levels only increase your HP, not your stats. To raise stats, you must grind gold and donate 100 GP for a single stat increase at a shrine. Getting a single character to their optimal stats costs about 20,000 GP. But before you can tackle that, you have to equip your party with about 10,000 GP in weapons and armor, and buy food and healing along the way. All that grinding takes literal days to do. However, if combat were eliminated, you could probably beat the game in about an hour.
  • Since inns don't heal your characters, recovering HP after major combat takes forever. Characters max out at 2550 HP. There is only one level of healing spell which gives a paltry 25-50 HP. A tent heals 100 HP per character, but at a 100 GP price tag. Some hospitals will heal a character to full for 200 GP, but there are only a couple in the game.

Box Art

Documentation

Maps

Maps with details can be found here: mikesrpgcenter.com/ultima3.

Graphics

Links