About Origin's Ultima Series

last updated: 9-25-1999

Impossible Dragon
-==UDIC==-

I'm a member of UDIC (Ultima Dragons Internet Chapter) a group of people who are supposed to be crazy about the Ultimas. They are the Ultima Dragons, a group of people who used to share high opinions about the great quality of the Ultima series in general. However as time progresses, chaos ensues, and sometimes it is difficult to find the best of them. The newsgroup is overrun with unethical and immoral chatter even though the Ultimas since Ultima III have presented you as a virtue seeking hero.

What Ultimas I have played (still want to experience more!):

  • Ultima I (finished)
  • Ultima II (unfinished)
  • Ultima III (unfinished)
  • Ultima IV (unfinished)
  • Ultima VI (unfinished)
  • Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire (finished)
  • Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams (finished)
  • Ultima Underworld I (unfinished)
  • Ultima VII - Black Gate (finished everything but the Forge of Virtue)
  • Ultima Underworld II (unfinished)
  • Ultima VII - Serpent Isles (finished everything but the Silver Seed)
  • Ultima VIII - Pagan (finished)

  • How I learned about Ultima

    My family's first computer was an Apple II+ and then we upgraded to the Apple IIgs (which no longer run well, if at all). Probably the first program that I bought with my brother that real impacted what I thought Ultima's were like was Wasteland by Interplay. One of the features it was supposed to have was a top-down view, just like in Ultima (of course I hadn't seen Ultima before, so I didn't really care at the time).
    When my family finally moved to a 486 20mhz computer, I downloaded some games with my brother which were supposedly Ultima clones. Many of the clones I didn't like because of their simplicity and linear storylines (do this, and this, next this, you win!). One did give me a better feeling of what I was looking for because it had the system where you typed in a word (eg., "job" or "name") to get a response. I had felt that Ultimas should be similar to Wasteland (I guess I overlooked the fact that only the top-down view was being compared) where the meaning of life wasn't to kill monsters and get powerful weapons, but to interact more with the world.
    The first Ultima I saw in the stores was the Black Gate, but my brother and I, after looking closely at the back of the box and reading the description on the back carefully, decided not to get it. We had already purchased a Sierra game that had added complete point and click technology and we didn't reallize that Origin did so much more with the mouse than Sierra had done, so since we were ignorant we thought it would be another click here and watch everything happen for you. :-(
    The first Ultima that I "really" wanted badly was Ultima Underworld I. My brother and I saw a video of how the game play was with the real movement and wonderful sounds, and we wanted it because it looked like a super-enhanced Dungeon Master (which we had bought for the Apple IIgs) by FTL . We only had two problems, it was expensive for us at the time, ~$60, and we didn't have a sound card, so the sounds effects were next to useless.
    A couple of years later, after we had finally bought a sound card, we stumbled upon a demo of Ultima Underworld I and wanted it even more! You could talk to creatures in it (not like Dungeon Master where everything is out to get you) and interact with the 3D world around you. Luckily, about a year later we found it at an Electronic Boutique for ~$10 (this was a some years ago and they must have found it collecting dust in their storage) and snapped up the chance to get such a bargain on what we had always wanted (must have been ~1993-1994)!
    The week before finals for our Freshman year (1995), my brother sighted the Ultima Underworld I&II cdrom, which he decided to buy because Ultima Underword I was excellent, so Ultima Underworld II should be really great too! Just after finals, during our Christmas shopping in, my brother sighted a Complete Ultima VII cdrom. My brother showed me the box and convinced me that it might be point and click, but at least it had to be better than a shareware game for the same price. :-)
    We exhausted ourselves during our Winter vacation playing Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld II, almost unable to tear ourselves away from the computer! It was hard going back to reality after playing such fabulous games. This scenario shows that sometimes the back of the box can actually deceive you into not buying a game if you don't know enough, which is why an actual magazine review is probably a better judge of a game's character. Just to think that I was still somewhat reluctant to buy the Complete Ultima VII cdrom because of the back of the box I had seen so many years ago, even though I would have bought a trilogy box with Ultima's IV-VI in it (very little point and click).

    Ultima I-III:

    These first three Ultimas don't really have the elements that I think make a great game, but as far as Ultima's history, they show how the Ultima series grew into what it is now.
    The first Ultima is really quite simple and I finished it without thinking twice about having to map out any of the dungeons. I did have to write down some notes though.
    In the second Ultima, I seemed to have trouble with starving to death, but after someone told me about the art of stealing food, I haven't had much trouble. I realized in playing this Ultima that the mazes were not going to be as friendly as in Ultima I, so I began mapping them.
    In the third Ultima, there is much more interaction with the people than the previous ones, and there is still the food problem, except that you can make money by creating and deleting characters. This makes it advantageous if you can install it on your hard drive and use Windows to kill the process instead of rebooting. :-) I haven't thoroughly adventured in Ultima III, so any comments I make are limited.

    Ultima IV-VI:

    I've played Ultima IV, and I must have be about 1/3rd of the way through. I'm finding that a notebook is extremely handy in this Ultima since you must record information about the moongates, shrines, dungeons, runes, and stones (other information is also useful to record). I'm really enjoying it so far, and the quest for virtue seems to really add to the plot. I found out you didn't have to pay for your magical reagents, but that certainly made me look unvirtuous. :-) Now I always will pay extra to help boost their perception of me!
    I have also had the change to play Ultima VI, but I lost my note papers that were scattered around the room, so it looks like I'll have to start over again since I've forgotten some of the important information I had recorded on them. This is where I've now starting to get separate logbooks (notebooks) for these games so that the papers can't be as easily lost and discarded!

    Ultima VII:

    The Black Gate was my first introduction to playing a mainstream Ultima that had the number appended to Ultima. Although the first time I saw it being played was by my brother, just watching how the storyline began with the mystery and the ability for objects to be moved and hide other objects was exciting! By looking at the back of the box, I couldn't tell how really great the game was, but seeing it being played, I could tell it was a winner! The Black Gate had all of the elements that makes a great game for me, interaction without constant killing and slaughter, a great story line, and puzzles.
    The Serpent Isle has been taking me somewhat longer to finish than The Black Gate. It's really good, except I think that most of the story line seems to be forced upon you in order for you to complete the game. I hate it when I know what I want, but have to go through a ritual of talking to people to get them to respond correctly. I finally solved this game through much running around (which became a headache when attacked by monsters). The puzzles and story were great, but the lack of side quests really hurt. :-)

    Ultima VIII:

    I finally started playing Ultima VIII. It's not as bad as people make it out to be, yet it isn't as good as Ultima VII: The Black Gate. I think it has a place around the rank I give Ultima VII: Serpent Isle because it has some definite linearity problems, and some tid bits of the story seem to be left out since I tell someone I'll speak to someone else for them, yet it doesn't appear as an option to tell the other person.
    Positives that I have seen so far are graphics, mood music, and digitized sound. It also has the key ring that Serpent Isle had with the Silver Seed add-on, which really makes unlocking doors easy. The "patched" version has a fairly good story line (but more could have been added to make it better) and the world is full of surprises and it is large. I like the "patched" jumping and climbing abilities, they add character to the game.
    Negatives that I have seen are that people seem too story line based and everything they say only pertrains for the furtherance of the story. I want some side quests of helping others and finding things like in Ultima VII: The Black Gate. I wish you could look underthings without moving them because I make messes of houses when I try to find a key. My backpack is disorganized and full of things that I have to always move around to find what I'm looking for. I also have a nasty habit losing things behind walls.

    Ultima Underworld I

    Sometimes battling the bugs in the program seem to be about as precarious as battling the tougher monsters, except that I can save before a battle, but who knows when I have saved and saved a bug that will end my game in the future. :-( An excellent game, nonetheless, and well worth the time spent on it. At least I have gotten enough clues from others on how to dodge bugs. I've gotten as far as burying the wizards bones, but got stuck after that. No hints please, it helps for me to solve these riddles by myself. Unless, of course, I get desperate. The best part of the game is the realistic reactions that the objects have. You can bounce them against the walls... you can drop them in the water... and even float them in the water. My favorite pass time when I get stumped is floating the special items in the water.

    Ultima Underworld II

    The Guardian really seems to make himself a pain in this one, killing people left and right. Actually it's worse in Serpent Isle from the Banes of Chaos. Anyway, this is much like Ultima Underworld I, except that you travel to different dimensions picking up clues and other objects to help you defeat the Guardian. I'm stuck near the end in this one too, but like usual, it's probably just a mind block. I think this is about as great as the previous version, except sometimes I get tired roving around the tremendous size of the mazes when I forget an object. :-) Same thing happens in Serpent Isle, but I think if I took more notes, then my pains would be decreased immensely.

    Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire

    The Savage Empire is a great game, using an improved Ultima VI engine. This game is extremely non-linear, allowing you to finish objectives in a variety of orders. The story line is terrific, something I expected from the Worlds of Ultima series after playing Martian Dreams. What really seems to make Savage Empire and Martian Dreams stand apart from other games I've played is their imaginitive scope. Rather than making something as humongous as Ultima VI, the programmers and writers seem to have spent more time on the quality of the story and making it an enjoyable experience.

    Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams

    I can agree with some people that the game play is quite linear in Martian Dreams, but it's storyline is so great that it's still worth getting (if only it was easier to find in the stores). One thing that I liked about this game was the play on historic characters on a trip to Mars! I remember so long ago when I saw an advertisement for Martian Dreams inside my Omega box for the Apple IIgs. Oh well, back then we didn't have an Intel PC and when we did get one, that box was so old that Martian Dreams wasn't being sold anymore. :-P

    joshuacantrell@yahoo.com

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