However, I've found myself starting to wonder just how accurate that statement might be.
Considering I've just come off of Ultima IV, with all the gushing and praise-singing I did there, heralding it as my favorite of the series... this puts me in something of an awkward position.
|One of the longer fights I found myself in|
There's a lot that Ultima V improved on, and I think I'll start with the magic system. This was the game that gave us the structure and syllables of magic - eight circles, twenty-six syllables that each represented different ideas, and you strung them together to get a related spell. You wanted a spell to cure poison, you intoned a spell that contained the syllables of poison and negation. You wanted to blast your enemies with a stream of fire, you could invoke a spell with the words for creation, fire, and wind. It added a certain amount of depth to the system, gave it a certain logic and order even moreso than Ultima IV did, where the components of a spell were chosen for the magical properties they necessitated. It was nice to not have to mix spells one at a time, as well - I could tell the system I wanted 10 spells of this type using this blend of reagents, and there they were. Made it a little easier to use.
|The dungeons have far more character to them than previously.|
While I found the day/night cycle frustrating when I made my first attempt at Ultima V, I've come to appreciate it immensely now. It contributes a lot to the atmosphere of a living, breathing world, a world that I'm stepping into rather one that simply exists while I'm around to see it. People come and go about their business, ailing NPCs spend most of their day resting, everybody takes the time out of their day to have a meal - it's small touches, but they add so much to the feel of the world.
|A demon in a desert - who'd have expected to come across this?|
And there's the knowledge that there's a good portion of the game I still haven't seen, too. I never once set foot into Destard, I never paid a visit to Windemere or attempted to infiltrate the Oppression, missed out on the plans for the HMS Cape and the Chaos Sword and the infamous room of bloodthirsty children in Hythloth. There's more yet for me to discover, and I know I'll be coming back to the game down the road.
|Right under Blackthorn's nose...|
As far as its position in the larger Ultima narrative, Ultima V represents the middle volume of the Age of Enlightenment trilogy, or as I called it in my second post of this blog, the "Age of Philosophy." Things always take a turn for the darker in the second portion of a trilogy, and Ultima V is no exception. If Ultima IV began to define the culture and ideals of the setting the Ages of Darkness (the "Age of Struggles," as I referred to it) set up, then Ultima V refined them further, expanding on the structure of Britannia's government and social structure, and demonstrating the differences between the ideal of Ultima for and actuality. It reinforced the idea that the Quest of the Avatar truly is forever (as even the ending screen reminds the player, in runic), that it's a constant struggle. It even took a step in defining the Avatar's role in the world - Lord British, the most highly powered individual in the realm, still can't save himself. It's up to the Avatar to see to the well being of Britannia - an idea that's examined way down the line in Ultima IX as to whether this was truly the best role for him. Ultima IV made the Avatar - Ultima V began to show what exactly that meant. And this, perhaps, is the most important role Warriors of Destiny plays in the grand story of Ultima.
So now do I turn from Ultima V to Ultima VI, and as I do, my regard of the game is considerably higher than it used to be. It still hasn't overtaken my favorite spot, but it's now a very, very close second, I think - Serpent Isle is going to have some catching up to do when I get to it again. It'll be fond memories behind me as I advance to the story of the False Prophet - and I must admit I've been very much looking forward to it.
But that's something to be saved for my opening post of Ultima VI, I think. Until then!