Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Ultima I: Opening Thoughts
Happy New Year, all!
After a brief hiatus due to holidays, lots of travel, slight computer issues, and wrestling with trying to figure out what the best way is to take screenshots (I really should have figured that out before I started this thing - can you tell I'm kinda new at this?) I'm finally ready to get back to Ultima and take on the series proper
Ultima I was released in 1980, the first game to bear the Ultima name and kicking off the series proper. The name was the result of a shortening of the intended title of "Ultimatum" (which was a trademarked board game already) - perhaps this worked out for the better, as a series of nine Ultimatums might have gotten a little tedious after a while. (At least I don't think 'Ultimatum Seven' quite rolls off the tongue as well as 'Ultima Seven' does. Eh, personal preference, really.)
The game was released for the Apple II, but in 1986, the game was remade with a few tweaks and released on the IBM PC and C64 as well. This is the version that I'll be playing, as it's the version that's available through GOG.com and the version I'm most familiar with.
I can't get through opening thoughts without making mention of the game documentation, but when it comes to Ultima I, I've got two versions to mention! The original 1980 version had a manual that was what one would typically expect - what buttons do what, the general mechanics, and that sort of thing. It's got some fairly decent mood-setting illustrations for some of the various monsters the player will face, too, which does help set the stage well enough.
It's the manual for the remake that takes the cake, though. It being a 1986 remake and therefore coming off the heels of Ultima IV, this version of the manual takes the grand Ultima tradition of an in-universe tale of strife and struggle, Mondain having thrown the world into chaos and set the eight kingdoms of the land warring against each other even while they struggle against the evil immortal wizard. It also attempts to paint Lord British as the sole king attempting to rise above all this war, but... well, he's got a princess captured in his dungeon too. But perhaps we'll overlook that bit for now.
I know Ultima I comparatively well by this point, second only to Ultima IV, as I play and replay it fairly often. It's a fairly simple game, mechanics-wise, but still engaging to me even despite its age. I typically play a fighter, so to mix things up a little I think I'll make a mage, as I've never really made much use of any of the spells besides the ladder-up and ladder-down spells - which I'm also going to limit myself on, just to keep things interesting on my end.
We'll see where it takes me! (And just how long those self-imposed limits last.)