Ultima III: Exodus is the third and final game of what would be known as the "First Trilogy" of the Ultima Series, the "Three Ages of Darkness" in which the goal of the game was to defeat an evil overlord. In this game the "evil wizard" is Exodus, part monster, part machine. It is unclear what exactly Exodus is supposed to look like. In the game itself he/it looks like four sparkly squares, although in later games (particularly Ultima VI and VII) he is depicted as a demon similar to the one on the box cover. Ultima III was also the first Ultima game published by the newly founded Origin Systems Inc rather than Sierra On-Line. It features a much more consistent setting and tone than the previous two games, which combined sci-fi and fantasy elements.
Ultima III is the first Ultima game to include a party system, a hallmark of the series until abandoned in Ultima VIII. Whereas in later games the player creates and takes control of one character (the Avatar) and then has others join his (or her) party, in Ultima III the play can create any number of characters and give them a wide assortment of races and classes. At the beginning of any given gaming session, the player could then select up to four of the characters and enter the world with them. Characters would keep the equipment and experience they had gained even when they were removed from the party, and so in theory the player could level-up more than four characters and pick the best four for a given situation. This feature allowed for a peculiar exploit in which the player could create any number of "dummy" characters and transfer their starting money and equipment to the players he or she really wanted to use and so begin in a better financial position than the designers intended. In addition, if a character was killed in the game, his or her dead state was immediately saved, regardless of whether the player "quits and saves."
Ultima III maintains the 2-D world map, the 2-D towns, and the 3-D dungeons of the previous games, and the entire party is represented by a single icon (at least in the non-console versions) on the world and town maps. Unlike in the previous games, however, combat in Ultima III (including combat in dungeons) takes place on a separate 2-D screen on which each member of the party is represented as a separate character. The enemies also travel in groups, although in Ultima III each group only consists of one kind of monster. Interestingly enough, Ultima III included as many as three different variations for each type of monster.
Like the later games, Ultima III takes places primarily on one super-continent, although it is still Sosaria and not Britannia. It also features moongates, which allow instananeous travel to fixed places on the map, and includes Dawn, a city which is only visible (and accessible) during certain phases of the moon.
In order to destroy Exodus, the party of adventurers must collect different marks that allow them to pass through the barriers protecting the demon. They must also collect four cards, Sol, Moon, Love, and Death. The cards are found in shrines in the lost land of Ambrosia, which is accessed by taking a ship into a whirlpool. Incidentally, the shrines also increase the players strength, wisdom, dexterity, and intelligence. Once they have collected the marks, the Exotic weapons and the cards, the adventures can sail up the Giant Earth serpent, yell the magic word, and sail up to Exodus' castle. Inside the castle the floor itself will attack them before they can find the machine and insert the cards that will destroy it.
The party system and the more serious fantasy setting of Ultima III definitely set the stage for the later Ultima games and many other computer role playing games. It is the last Ultima game in which the primary quest is to destroy an evil wizard-type. Later games would move in more complicated directions.
This game can be played on modern Windows operating systes with an emulator like DOSBox.
The game is available on gog.com as part of the package Ultima 1+2+3.