Wizardry III: Level 2

After many trips into the dungeon, and many deaths and TPKs, I finally managed to get one of my Bishops up to level 2. This is a big achievement! Having just one level-2 character provides enough leverage to get others over that hurdle, and before long I had a party of about level 4 on average. I’m still not taking great chances, though. It’s all too easy to get cocky. I haven’t even really begun exploring the dungeon yet; at low levels, you really want to bolt for the exit after every fight, to rest and replenish your spells. (You can’t rest in the dungeon itself, although, since you can’t cast spells in town, the dungeon is the best place to heal.)

Adventuring parties consist of up to six characters. You can send fewer if you like — if you intend to drag characters from previous expeditions back to town for resurrection, for example, each requires an empty slot in your party — but keeping a full roster of combatants is the best way to win fights. After I became more powerful, though, I started putting a thief in the party. Level-1 thieves don’t really count as combatants, because they’re so rubbish at combat. Their armor restrictions make them so vulnerable, you pretty much have to keep them in the back row with the mages. But at least the mages are useful back there. The thief can’t do anything from the back row but wait for everyone else to finish the fight. His sole role, at this stage of the game, is to help you get cash faster by removing traps from the chests that monsters seem to carry around a lot. But that’s a pretty important role, because it’s virtually impossible to get enough cash to resurrect anybody without those chests.

In fact, before I brought in the thief, most of my money came from new characters. Every character you import is completely stripped of experience and equipment, but gets to bring a small amount of cash to get started — just enough to buy some basic armor and a weapon. But you don’t really need to buy armor and weapons for every single soul who whirls through the game and into the graveyard. As long as someone in the party makes it back to town alive, you can strip the dead guys of their belongings and hand them over to the new guys. The more characters go through that revolving door, the more unused cash you can siphon off of them. Taking advantage of this mechanic is pretty much necessary. A patient player could even keep churning until they have the best purchaseable equipment in the game without entering the dungeon at all. But I am not that patient, and besides, I kind of look askance at such abuses. But not too far askance, because I think it likely that the designers had this gimmick in mind.

8 Comments so far

  1. paul on 7 Jan 2010

    Wow, this game sounds great. I love extended level-one shenanigans. I also love repeatedly rerolling starting characters. I think I was somehow twisted and corrupted by Bard’s Tale.

    I forgot to mention earlier, Ultima 1 was actually a ultima-style game (in the overworld), a wizardry-style game (in the dungeons) and a – what? Space Spartans style game? – in space?

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 7 Jan 2010

    Hm, they didn’t drop the first-person dungeons until Ultima 5, did they? Still, even back when Ultima was a hybrid, people knew what you meant when you said “Ultima-style”. Particularly if you used the term in contrast to “Wizardry-style”, which is really unambiguous. And anyway, the 2D tile-map mode was clearly the focus in Ultima, where the bulk of your time was spent and all of the major confrontations took place; the first-person dungeons always felt kind of slapdash in comparison.

  3. malkav11 on 7 Jan 2010

    This sort of thing is why I laugh at people who complain about the “grind” in modern games like, oh, World of Warcraft. If only they knew how good they have it.

  4. Jason Dyer on 7 Jan 2010

    Ultima 5 had first person dungeons, you mean Ultima 6.

  5. danowar on 8 Jan 2010

    You should really take advantage of your ability to backup your save disks. Then you would have only needed to roll one party, and just need to keep them alive.

  6. paul on 8 Jan 2010

    I have a distinct memory of fighting top-down battles in Ultima 4. Was the exploration in first person and the battles top-down? Even the last time I played U4 for nostalgia was so long ago that I barely remember it.

  7. Carl Muckenhoupt on 8 Jan 2010

    danowar: But that would be cheating! I’m after the full Wizardry experience here, and persistent death is one of the main things that distinguishes this game from other RPGs. On the other hand, you could argue that cheating is part of the full Wizardry experience too, because people certainly backed up their save floppies in the old days.

    paul: U4 had some sort of weird thing with special third-person combat rooms in an otherwise first-person dungeon. I don’t remember if it had first-person combat in addition to this.

  8. Trespassers William on 20 Jun 2013

    I believe in Ultima 2 you are never actually forced to enter a first-person dungeon. They are there, but the most efficient way to grind is on the overworld, and the final confrontation takes place on the overworld as well.

    In Ultima 1 I think you had to enter dungeons but you did not have to go crazy with them, and if I recall correctly you could bypass mapping by just using Ladder spells.

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