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Exile III: Ruined World
- Jeff Vogel (Spiderweb Software)
thumb1.jpg (17911 bytes)   Fun Factor 9
  Addiction Factor 10
  Interface/Gameplay 10
  Graphics 7
  Sound 7
  Multi-Player N/A
  Bonus/Penalty 10
  Overall Score 8.83
At a Glance:

In these days of big game titles sporting big budgets, big marketing, big graphics, and all-too often big shortcomings, it is something of a rarity to find a modest bit of software that can stand tall and even thrive on it’s depth, quality and gameplay merits alone. Exile III: Ruined World is one such title. With a top-down third-perspective look that is very reminiscent of a the older Ultima games (particularly Ultima III), Exile III by Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software is a fantastic find for the hard-core computer role-player.

Game Setting:

The third in a series of remarkably successful shareware games known as the Exile series, your adventure in E3 (Exile III) begins in a gigantic underground cavern known as Upper Exile, the gateway between the Empire above on the world’s surface and Exile below where your people have made their home and refuge. The history of the Exiles is a long and often violent one (covered by the first two games of the Exile saga), and now your party finds itself in the midst of a concerted effort by the Exiles to return to the surface. Though your journey begins in Upper Exile, you will soon be exploring the vast surface of Jeff Vogel’s world as you strive for the knowledge your people need to achieve their long-awaited homecoming.

Character Creation and Development:

Exile III comes with a pre-generated party of six, but you will undoubtedly want to craft your own adventurers to take on this grand journey. The character creation system offered by E3 is quite involved, though easy enough to get through thanks to the friendly interface and helpful mini-tutorials. You can choose from three races, human, Nephilim (a cat-like people) and Slithzerikai (serpent-folk). You then choose special character traits (both good and bad) which affect your character before going on to assign specific skill points from a pre-set pool.

The open-ended style of character generation is refreshing in itself, allowing you to create almost any sort of character you wish, at the cost of having to earn more and more experience points to gain subsequent levels in the game. For example, a Nephilim (who gains automatic bonuses to dexterity and other skills) character who is given the traits of "extra-strength" and "ambidextrous" would be a formidable character indeed, but would have to gain much more experience to go up a level than a normal human character would. In order to offset this, you might give the same character a bad back or the inability to use magic to lower the experience penalty.

There is a vast array of skills that your character can become proficient in, from lockpicking, to alchemy, to magic, to various weapon and combat disciplines. No character is prohibited from pursuing any field, though you will definitely find it useful to have characters specialize in related fields. It takes skill points gained through levels to increase your expertise, and it takes gold to get trained as well, making character development in E3 challenging and rewarding as well.

Game Engine:

Jeff Vogel has mentioned himself that Ultima III was something of an inspiration to him when creating the Exile series, and this is evident in the E3 game engine. During overland travel, your party is represented as a single character icon that moves across the game world, finding towns, dungeons and other special locations while fending off groups of wandering monsters. During combat, your party splits up and engages its foes in remarkably detailed combat, firing arrows, slinging spells, and hacking away in hand-to-hand combat.

There is a keystroke equivalent for almost every action imaginable, though a mouse can be used exclusively as well. E3 sports one of the best user interfaces I’ve seen in any game, being intuitive and very flexible which helps greatly - considering the many, many aspects of character and inventory management you’ll be dealing with during your adventures. Adventuring is also simplified by the use of an excellent auto-mapper, auto-notes feature, an auto-journal, on-line game "encyclopedia", and context-sensitive help through right-clicking.  You get all this packaged in an unbelievably small download barely over 3 megabytes in size, which will run on nearly any machine which can support SVGA graphics.

Game Environment:

To call the world of E3 large would be quite an understatement. Just the caverns of Lower Exile alone will be enough to keep you occupied for days of gameplay, and could even be considered a worthy little game by itself. Once you reach the surface, you will soon realize how huge the game world truly is, consisting of large grassy areas, tall mountain ranges, vast wilderness, and many, many ports and cities. Each area, city and dungeon in E3 is remarkably detailed, filled with tricks, traps, monsters, special encounters, friends, foes, and a multitude of other features which will make you wonder if all this could really have been made by a one-man design company. NPCs have their own personalities, offering help and advice, sometimes for free and sometimes for a price, all driven by a very well-made dialogue interface.

The Good – In summary:

Being a long-time fan of Exile III, I could go on and on about the merits of this title, but I’ll sum it up with this – E3 is simply the best value you can find in a RPG title today, offering amazing gameplay, plot and character development, ease-of-use, and sheer depth at a very reasonable price (I believe under $25 at the time of this writing). Other Exile titles are also available from Spiderweb Software, including earlier chapters in the saga as well as the later Blades of Exile which sports a scenario editor. (No I don’t work for Jeff Vogel, though I am a very discriminating fan.) J

The Bad – In Summary:

Being a shareware game, graphics and sound are naturally not what you’d expect of a high-budget production, though they are still quite good and don’t really detract from the game in any way. If you are turned off by very detailed gameplay and epic-scale game worlds, then Exile III may not be for you.

Tips for Beginners:

Spellcasters are crucial to this game, and should start out with at least third level magic skill if possible. However, don’t get so caught up in magic that you neglect other vital areas such as lockpicking and weapon skills. Specialize each character in one weapon type when you can. Clear out as much of Upper Exile as you can at first, and if anything proves too difficult, come back for it later when you’ve gained some experience. Speak to lots of people…. you never know what you may find….

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