Game #66: Ultima: Warriors of Destiny (NES) – Promised Destiny

From The RPG Consoler

Game 66

Title: Ultima: Warriors of Destiny
Released: January 1993
Platform: NES
Developer: Origin
Publisher: FCI/Pony Canyon
Genre: RPG
CombatActive battles (enemies take turns over time)

It’s difficult to know where to start with a new post. I struggle how to approach condensing my time with a game into a limited amount of words. Knowing which details to put in, and which to leave out comes down to my personal experience and how much of an impact a part of the game had on me. I try to point out fun Easter eggs as well. In the end, I hope I do the games some justice with my summary. Even the bad ones.

Like Quest of the Avatar, this game begins with a series of moral questions to determine character stats

Once again the Avatar is transported to the world of Britania, but all is not well as he had left it. Lord British is missing, and someone named Lord Blackthorn has assumed leadership. Three shadowlords roam the world imposing their evil visage.

Shamino is attacked while bringing the avatar back

The shadowlords, sensing I was the avatar, fled before facing my wrath. The avatar dragged Shamino to Iolo’s hut where we tended his wounds while Iolo filled me in on the story. Lord British disappeared while exploring the Underworld. Blackthorn was a kind ruler in his stead until the shadowlords appeared and corrupted him. Iolo pleads that I find Lord British and restore him to power.


Tackling an open world like Ultima is daunting at first. Lucky for me the map came with the game, and it’s similar to Quest of the Avatar. The only notable changes are Yew moved to the south of Empath Abbey, and Blackthorn’s Castle arose from the volcanoes where Mondain’s skull was found. I set out to first visit every town and collect all the clues I could on a first pass. First though, I had to wrap my head around the new interface, and the day/night cycle for NPCs.

David the pirate shows up at night in Iolo’s hut… got something to tell us, Iolo?

Before I even left Iolo’s hut I gained the sextant from David, and learned of a couple people in Buccaneer’s Den. The sextant gives the coordinates away from British’s Castle at 0,0. So, I made my way south, passing a solitary house in Yew where a faithful inquisitor of Blackthorn lives. He wanted me to confess something, but I thought better of it.

Dialogue and shopping happen on a separate screen

I started in Empath Abbey and Yew, then down to Britain and Paws. I picked up lock picks in Paws. On the way back to Yew to open up a locked door I accidentally walked into a poison field, which is a slightly blue tile on the ground. Poison at the beginning of the game killed Iolo. I resurrected him at the chapel, but it raised him at 1 HP and still poisoned. The next game tick turned him back into a ghost. The game has an active system where the game ticks by for AI in combat and movement. This gives the game a bit of stuttering feel, especially when moving. Healing and resurrecting Iolo again took quite a chunk of my starting money.

Found a magic carpet in British’s castle early on, which helped me reach all the towns

The controls are just as clunky as the movement since they’re only detected at certain intervals. The developers seemed to have realized this as holding down a button for an action will queue it, effectively pausing the game, until the button is released. They got rid of the menu system completely. The A button access and uses items in hand, usually weapons. The B button is used to interact with the world, searching the ground for items or talking to NPCs. The start button accesses the party’s inventory where potions and scrolls are used immediately, while other tools are equipped to a hand and used during the game.

Only four characters can join the party at one time, and I opted to have Jaana tag along as she seemed to know more about the resistance movement

Like the previous game, the Avatar’s quest takes him to every town to learn mantras of the eight virtues. Each mantra is chanted at shrines hidden throughout the land. The dungeons that run counter to the virtues are now sealed though, and statues guard against any attempt to enter without finding the proper word of power. What makes this difficult is the small view window coupled with the day/night schedules of the NPCs. I’ve found NPCs in houses previously empty because I had searched at a time they weren’t there.

Lord British revives the Avatar when he dies; I later found out that the cost for death is half the Avatar’s experience, which can actually lower his level

Another issue I’ve had with the game is a lack of income. Enemies don’t drop chests or gold. In fact, they don’t drop anything. There’s food that slowly depletes, and the lack of income makes me hope I don’t run out of both. I’ve been staying afloat by picking up everything no matter where it lay. This includes a magic shield, sword, and axe in Boardermarch that made combat actually manageable. Strangely though, the Avatar is the only one that gains experience, and thus levels. Levels seem to improve the Avatar’s HP, and determine which magic he’s able to cast.

There are a couple places that have NPCs outside the towns, Sin’Vraal’s hut is one where I learned a bit about the nature of the shadowlords

Every town corresponds to a virtue, and inside or near each one I’ve found the mantra and power word related to it or at least some clue for it, except for a couple power words. I’ve managed to chant all the mantras at the appropriate shrines, the easier of the tasks. I was then told to find the Codex of the Avatar, which I did, but it was mostly a bunch of gibberish about the virtues (noted for later in case it becomes important). The power words are guarded by a group called the great council. I found the first near Britain, but following the clues to Minoc I hit a roadblock. I can’t find the man that guards the power word to Covetous.

I found her, but she says nothing of her father or the power word

I suspect there’s some place to locate him that I just haven’t tried at the correct time. Likewise, I’ve been told to seek out the owner of the Arms or Justice, but I’ve been unable to find such a place. I’m guessing he’s the one that will reveal the power word for dungeon Wrong. I’m fairly close to the end now, at least the end of my clues. I’ve fully explored the dungeons of Despise and Deceit. Each dungeon leads to the Underworld, which appears similar to Britania. Under Despise was a man, Captain Johnne, that told me he had found the jewel of Mondain, but it shattered into three shards. The shadowlords were born from these shards. I would have taken him into my party, but I didn’t find out until later that to make a party member leave they need to have nothing in their hands.

I bought a boat too

To banish the shadowlords, we needed to find the shards located somewhere in the Underworld, at the bottom of three different dungeons. Deceit led to the shard of Falsehood, and I banished the shadowlord Faulinei by learning his name, blowing the horn of honesty in front of the flame or truth, and chucking the shard into the flame as soon as he appeared. There wasn’t any fanfare, so I hope I did it correctly. The next two are located at the bottom of Hythloth, which I just found the power word for inside Blackthorn’s castle, and Wrong, which may be the roadblock that extends this game for far longer than needed. Aside for Covetous, I’m also missing the power word for Doom, which seems to be the final dungeon.

Inventory management became a concern at one point

A couple things of note, I did find a grappling hook that once belonged to a pirate, and lets me scale mountains very slowly. I had a clue that Lord British was in the Underworld trapped in a mirror, and I needed a box from his private room to release him. While fumbling about, I realized that one of the objects in his room was a harpsichord, and I just happened to have some sheet music to the magical piece called Stones. Using this on the instrument opened the portcullis, and allowed me entry.

Instead of including horses, this guy talks about meeting a special horse that asked him to pass along a message, and the word Infinity is just given to the Avatar

The moon gates are still present, but much less effective. They only appear at night now, although sometimes they’re randomly open during the day. The phases of the moon are much slower, so the number of locations I could travel to is much more limited. I tend to travel over land for more convenience, or use the ankh talisman to transport to a random town until I arrive at a closer one to my destination. Due to the money situation reagents are in limited supply, so I don’t rely on spells that often. I mainly use them for healing and curing poison. Before I found the skull key, I also used a spell to unlock magical doors. There are a lot of combat spells, but the magic sword kills all enemies so far in a single hit, and switching to the spell book seems like a waste of time. The only other spell I’ve used is disperse field that allows me to pass energy fields.

Finding some treasure in a dungeon; equipment can only be sold to shops that sell it–this is how I’ve been subsisting (and yes, that is the ghost of Iolo following the party)

I’m not sure what’s at the bottom of Shame or Destard, but I have the power words for both. I suppose if I run out of leads, or get stuck, then I can explore them for fun. I’ve almost found a way into Blackthorn’s inner circle, but I need to find a way to expose Fiona of Minoc as a member of the great council. There’s a man in Serpent’s Hold that wants to trade the resistance password for his fabled jeweled sword, which I can’t imagine is much better than the magic sword. Rumors of glass weapons don’t really interest me. I’m sure I couldn’t afford them anyway. The Avatar arms are supposed to be at the bottom of Covetous. I wonder if the Underworld is actually connected, and if I could scale the mountains without going through all the dungeons.

In case that wasn’t enough quest items, there’s British’s sceptre, crown, and amulet to find, although their use is shrouded in mystery

I can see why this game wasn’t well received. I’m definitely liking the story and feel, but I think I’d like it better on the PC. This revision of combat and interface is clunky, and reduces the amount of strategy involved. Most of the puzzles have become simpler with a lock and key method of adventuring extending to dialogue. Not that it would help with my current situation, but key words like Infinity and the dungeon power words might have had more of a riddle to them. Overall, I’m enjoy it, but hope to finish soon.

It feels strange that the world doesn’t wrap

Elapsed Time: 10h35m (Total Time: 10h35m)

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