Huge, open-world games like The Witcher 3 and the Fallout series have taken over the RPG genre. Older, classic RPGs like Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2 are making a comeback, but none of these games capture the old-school RPG feel like playing Ultima. The Ultima RPG series did more to define modern RPG games than most gamers realize.
9th Dawn III is the Ultima homage game that recaptures the magic of playing the classic Ultima series. It’s an action RPG at its most basic core, but plenty of systems combine for that old school feeling of progression. The huge, open-world offers plenty of dungeons and quests to solve as you progress.
Name: 9th Dawn III
Genre: Action RPG
Availability: Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, Android
The game captures the feel of the Ultima series, with a huge world to explore and experience. There is an exp penalty for dying, so you really want to avoid it. Exp in the game is earned by doing tasks. You’ll need a combination of leveled skills to support your character, either through crafting weapons, armor, potions, and meals to keep yourself alive in dungeons.
After a basic tutorial that introduces the game, players are dropped into the world of Cedaltia. The story follows a loose plot, but the real meat of the game is the expansive world you can explore. There are 270 unique monsters littered throughout dozens of dungeons. Players can complete 100% of encountered dungeons to find ability tokens. Tokens are used to unlock new abilities that can be used in battle, or abilities to passively enhance your character.
9th Dawn III is about giving players the freedom to explore a massive open world with a blank slate character of your own creation. There are over 300 weapons and 550 pieces of armor and accessories to outfit your character. I started the game building out a beefy melee character to meet any challenge. Abilities are tied to the D-Dad and the face buttons. The L and R buttons act like hot bars for triggering learned abilities.
Combat is pretty simple at first, but as you complete dungeons and guests to earn ability tokens, it becomes much more complex. Melee brawlers get access to stuns, interrupts, and massive cleave AoE abilities. Magical abilities can be devastating from a distance, but you’ll need to keep distance between yourself and monsters.
Each town you come upon has a prosperity rating that you can impact. You can increase the quality of towns by helping out the locals with their side quests. Just be careful where you adventure, because some dungeons can quickly become too much for the unprepared adventurer. Dying becomes more expensive as you level up, so underprepared adventurers pay for their carelessness.
9th Dawn III – Fyued Gameplay
Much like The Witcher 3 features Gwent, players can challenge every NPC to an original card game called Fyued. Players are given their first starter deck and can earn more cards by winning games against NPCS. Just be careful who you challenge, since you’ll have to give up a card if you lose.
Fyued feels like playing a combination of Pokemon and the Chinese board game, Go. Cards are laid out in a row and then stacked on top of each other strategically to flip adjacent cards to the player’s color. The player who owns the most stacks when the last card has been played is the winner of the game. Some cards can have elements, giving them strengths and weaknesses against other element cards.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics are done in a gorgeous overhead pixel style that feels inspired by the early Ultima series I grew up playing. The sheer variety of monsters you fight in dungeons keeps the game feeling fresh. There is limited use of color palette swapping, which is pretty common in older Ultima- inspired games.
The soundtrack is a full orchestral score that is enjoyable, despite its generic fantasy influence. None of the tracks are annoying, which is an accomplishment worth noting. Still, you’re not playing the game for the score. It’s serviceable and entirely on par with what you expect from the phrase ‘epic fantasy music.’
9th Dawn III features split-screen co-op for enjoying the journey with friends. playing together is as simple as connecting another controller.
Switch Port Concerns
While playing through the game on Nintendo Switch, I did encounter some concerns. Inventory management feels rigid and harder than it should. Moving the cursor between buttons is sometimes finicky. There’s also no zoom function on the map, which is unfortunate considering how big the world can be. I experienced no crashes during my time with the game.
I had a lot of fun with 9th Dawn III and its journey back to classic gameplay loops provided by the Ultima series. It’s a great game to get lost in if you just want to go and complete dungeons to make a difference in a world. It captures that feeling really well, though the console version is more expensive than its mobile counterpart.
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