Monday, February 10, 2020

Ultima I if by land, Ultima II if by sea

In Ultima II, you need gold. Lots of it. The best armor for sale costs 3948, and the best weapon costs 576. Charisma may lower these prices somewhat, but on top of that, you’ll also need 4500 gold to hear all of the oracle’s clues, and raising your stats is a crapshoot, averaging out to a cost of 50 gold per point increase with random distribution (though with savescumming you can reduce it to 25 per point raise distributed as you please).

Spells – of which the clerical varieties are mostly of use only in dungeons – don’t come cheap either. They’re sold in packs of five – light costs 20, ladder down costs 32, ladder up costs 52, passwall costs 84, surface costs 136, and the mysterious prayer costs 220.

And then there’s HP and food – HP is bought at a rate of 6 HP per gold, and food bought at a rate of about ten steps worth of food per gold. That’s not a horrible rate, but it adds up when you’re trying to save up for big stuff.

Sailing around and blasting enemies is a reliable but slow way of getting gold. It’s slow, because you can only kill enemies as quickly as they spawn, which always feels much too fast when you’re just trying to get around, and much too slow when you’re actively farming. Kills are worth 1-20 gold each, plus random items. But it’s reliable, and doesn’t consume much of your food, HP, or use up other supplies, apart from what thieves manage to steal from you.

Sometimes they bunch up in a corner you’ve neglected for a while.

Then there’s dungeon delving, where you can reliably repopulate its monsters and treasure chests, but they still only yield 1-20 gold regardless of level, and sometimes the chests have armor instead of gold, which was never any better than chain on the lower levels. And this takes its toll on your HP and supplies.

I already knew that at my current state, exploring dungeons too deeply would not pay off. But what if I ventured no farther than level 1, where a reliable cache of 9 treasure chests could be taken, reseeded, and taken again? Would that be worth the cost of a light spell or two, and whatever food and HP it cost to take this expedition, compared to sailing the high seas?

Not really. In five attempts, my best yield gained me 254 gold, but cost me 200 HP, about 33 gold worth. My worst yield only yielded 65 gold, and multiple useless chain mails. All attempts cost me 10-15 food and one or two light spells, equivalent to an expense of about 23-36 gold, plus a minimum of 20 gold worth of HP.

So, I farmed the seas for a while. It took me 18 minutes to gain 1000 gold, a process that involved sailing around the world several times, as enemies spawn in completely random places. With this, and the approximately 500 gold I farmed from the Egyptian tower, I bought a phaser (the best weapon available), some plate mail (a step up from the chain I bought way back at the start), a pack of surface and prayer spells, and spent the rest on HP.

I made another expedition into the tower, this time with the goal of retrieving caches of treasure on levels 1, 2, 4, and 6, and then leaving with a cast of Surface. It took me five minutes, and yielded about 450 gold. Not bad, but it cost me 308 HP, 49 food, 7 casts of light, 1 cast of surface, and two tools. That’s an expense of about 132 gold, giving me a net profit of 318 gold per five minute expedition for as long as my tools would hold out, which is a fair bit better than sailing, but not dramatically. On repeat runs, smart use of passwall and ladder up would improve my efficiency, getting me up to 400 net profit per run, but eventually the tools ran out and I had to Surface out.

My character sheet at this point


  1. I think I heard that magic is only useful in Towers in this game, but I did not play it deeply enough myself to verify.

  2. Also, I really appreciate your approach to this game... Really mapping out the data points to find what works best.
    It is content like this that keeps me checking for updates every day!

    1. Thanks! Gold's just so important in this game, and doesn't accrue nearly fast enough from casual exploration, such that finding ways to farm efficiently really does seem like the key to making progress. That, and also understanding how the time gates work.


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