Sunday, December 8, 2013

Akalabeth: Opening Thoughts

A prologue to a story is meant to set the stage for what is to come. It's not necessarily connected to the main story as a whole, but is a good way to catch a reader's interest and give them a sense of what to expect from the rest of the tale.

I feel that Akalabeth is, in essence, the gaming equivalent of a prologue for the Ultima series - not necessarily connected to the Grand Overarching Story, but setting the stage for it rather well.

Akalabeth was released in 1980, and is affectionately referred to by the Ultima community as 'Ultima 0,' so I would be rather amiss to leave it out of my little adventure here. While it's only tenuously connected to the Ultima series proper - Lord British makes an appearance, of course, and Mondain is mentioned in the manual - it's clear there's a lot of ideas here that would be expanded on and developed further in what would become Ultima I. It's clear that the roots of the series are here, and so when one begins a journey through the Ultima series, one needs to start with Akalabeth.

I've played through Akalabeth once before about a year ago, and I remember it the same way as Ultima I: slow and somewhat frustrating to get started, but once a certain point is hit, a fun little dungeon jaunt that makes for a pleasant afternoon. As I recall, the trick to Akalabeth is recognizing the patterns - when amulets pull off the good results, where everything is, finding the quickest way to get there, and so on and so forth. I also remember getting through it in a single afternoon, so chances are this will be rather short!

The best way to start any Ultima game is with the manual, and Akalabeth is no exception. It's a rather short one, but provide a simple little framing story and a brief explanation of game mechanics. As mentioned earlier, this is the first mention of Mondain, though he's not the Grand Evil Immortal Wizard here as he is in Ultima I. Instead, he's the second son of a great king, and jealous of his brother's inheritance, does Generic Evil upon the land of Akalabeth - digging dungeons, releasing monsters in said dungeons and unleashing pestilence upon the landscape. Lord British, in his first appearance as well, drives Mondain from Akalabeth, but his monsters still roam the land, which is where the player comes in.

So, onward into the World of Doom! Time for me to see if I can become a knight in the realm of Akalabeth.

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