Ultima III: Exodus, is the third game in the series and the last installment of the "Age of Darkness" trilogy. It was published and released in 1983 by Origin Systems for the Apple II, C64, Atari 8bit and IBM-PC. Later ports for the Macintosh, Atari ST and Amiga with enhanced graphics followed.
Compared to Ultima II, the complexity and seriousness of the game is clearly much more developed. The story of the game is much more straightforward, and to solve the game, the player has to use some intelligence too, since for the first time puzzles play a big role.
The world of Sosaria has become more complex, with the player now guiding a party of four. This is the first Ultima game to take "line of sight" into account; that is to say, you can only see on the screen what your party would be able to see. Map squares outside the party's line of sight, such as beyond mountains or through thick forests, are blacked out and revealed only as the party moves.
This is the first time the player can't simply kill the big villain. Exodus' nature makes this impossible. Without solving various puzzles, the player can't win the game. This is a turning point in the Ultima series – a big step from the hack-n-slash of the earlier games.
For details about character attributes in this game, see Character Attributes in Ultima III.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
After the end of Mondain and Minax, the people of Sosaria think that the worst is over... but the worst is yet to come. Exodus, their offspring and creation—neither completely demon nor machine—wants vengeance for the destruction of its creators. Beginning a campaign of terror, he raises an island from the sea and then threatens to rip Sosaria apart with his powers and armies of evil.
The player returns as the Stranger for a third time to save the world from this new evil. This time however, the hero has three companions to survive against the Exodus' hordes. Together, they travel through the land, recovering information, before finding the Four Cards on the lost island of Ambrosia. With the help of the Time Lord, the group is able to learn what to do in order to defeat Exodus. After recovering the Exotic Weapons and Exotic Armour, they are ready to confront him. On the Isle of Fire, they first bypass the Great Earth Serpent and then fight their way through the minions of Exodus, until finally arriving at the core -- the part of Exodus that is a computer. Inserting the cards, the machine explodes and Exodus is no more...
Spoilers end here.
The graphics, especially in the dungeons, are now more detailed than previous Ultima games. For the first time, there is now background music as well.
Differences between platforms
The various ports of Ultima III are quite different. While the ports for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit and C64 both look the same and have the full music, the PC-port only has CGA-graphics and no music at all. The later released ports for the Amiga and Atari ST have better graphics, full music and even a user-friendly mouse interface. A special Macintosh port was developed later, with much improved graphics. Also see Computer Ports of Ultima III.
The NES port is quite different in almost all respects. The graphics are more anime-like; party characters have portraits of their own depending on the class, for example. The music is completely different, and some of the game mechanics are different. For example, the party members are shown following the lead of the first character in the party. The game also uses a menu system. Apart from moon phases, there is no status display on map view, only pop-ups when they're needed. Read more here: NES-Port of Ultima III.
The terrain-type monsters (such as Floors and Grasses) can stack in the Apple version, not in the PC version. You can move onto all the floors at once in the Apple version, so after you defeat the first set, the rest show up on fields of grass. You can also mount wild horses in the Apple version.
The wizard's teleport spell lands only on grass in the Apple version, and fails if you are on a boat. In the PC port, it lands you on brush; if you are on a boat it sends you to a random water location. This can allow you to bypass the Silver Snake if you are lucky.
This was the first Ultima to include a musical score. The C-64 and Atari 8-bit versions included 10 distinct tracks. The Apple version also had music, but the IBM-PC had none, although, fan upgrades are now available.
Due to the limited availability of music technology, and game budgets of the time, the music for Ultima III may sound rather "phoned in" compared to later games. Indeed, the series followed a trend of having more deliberate and plentiful music with each game. Kenneth W. Arnold was the sole composer of the music, and was to remain at that post for the next three games.
Exodus was a hit game in 1983 and sold very well, thus giving Origin a very good start and the needed money to create the next installment of the series. Ultima III was even voted the 3rd most popular Apple II game of all time by Softline in 1984. Many game creators of that time took Ultima III as a reference when creating their own RPGs.
Included with the game
The release of Ultima III included these things with the game:
- The Book The Book of Play.
- The Book The Ancient Liturgy of Truth.
- The Book The Book of Amber Runes
- A cloth map of Sosaria in Ultima III.
A fan-made Ultima III Upgrade Patch exists which converts the CGA-graphics to 16-color EGA graphics, inserts the music from other ports, builds in a frame limiter, fixes a number of bugs and inserts new commands into the game.
While there was an official Macintosh port of Ultima III made by Origin in 1986, a 3rd-party firm named Lairware created a vastly modernized shareware port in the early '90s. They've continued updating it, recently adding OS X compatibility.
Gameboy Color Port
There is also a Gameboy Color port created by Sven Carlberg in 2001.
- For bugs in this game, see Ultima III Bugs.
- For easter eggs and real-life references in this game, see Ultima III Real-life references and easter eggs.
- For nitpicks for this game, see Ultima III Nitpicks.
- For a map viewer, see Ultimatrix.
- Walkthrough for the NES version (plaintext; printer-friendly)
- This game was the very first product of Origin.
- The cloth map of Sosaria was actually drawn by Richard Garriott's mother.
- Origin became a target for several groups suspecting satanic contents in computer games, because of the demon Exodus on the cover of the game box.
- For the first time, a party is used in an Ultima game.
- The Moongates make their first proper appearance in the Ultima series.
- The NES port of the game can be completed without gathering the cards and by a party of characters less than 8 levels. This is achieved by using the moongate that strands the party on the island of Exodus blocked by water on one end and mountains on the other. The player must then pass their turn over to get teleported again and again by the moongate until a pirate ship is spawned within the few water tiles on the interior area of the island. The ship can be taken over, and from then by using the ship the castle can be reached. When the final chamber is conquered, the end credits will be displayed.
- In Ultima V: Lazarus, a tombstone near the Bloody Plains has a humorous reference to Ultima III's plot:
- Softline, Volume 3.4. March - April 1984. Page 49.