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How to play Ultra Mode

To get a strong start in Ultra mode, you need a Shielding Gem +1. You have two options:

Hitting an enemy without having a shield yourself will deal 20% max HP in damage. If you have strong equipment (3x Honor +5), Vampire Necklace +3 and maxed artifacts, you should be okay. Equip Healing Potion, Sword of Justice and one other artifact. You should be able to hit the enemy 3 times, use potion, then hit 3-4 more times to remove the first shield.

From there work your way down out of the bottom right of base, then head directly Northeast to the boss. Grind as needed for levels to kill the boss. The drop rate on the Shielding Gem +1 seems to be around 5-10%, so if you can swing 300k+ LUC and a Pandora's Box, that will help.

Once you have a Shielding Gem +1 you can explore much more freely and it should feel relatively easy to progress. Make mental notes of where there are chests because any time you're feeling stuck, a good trick is to farm 50 blue gems and socket a Shielding Gem in your armor.

In my experience, early-mid game Ultra Mode equipment doesn't scale as quickly as you'd expect. Don't be afraid to commit to a reasonably strong armor like Persistent Breastplate or weapon like Cleaver. Having a well-empowered weapon will last a very long time.

Keep grinding it out. Having high luck makes a big difference. The biggest power breakthroughs tend to be from new Shielding Gems and Regen Gems rather than equipment.

For a detailed walkthrough, I recommend reading the Zawia RPG Wiki (external link)