Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress (1982)

Info

Genre Period Developer Publisher Theme
cRPG, Open-world, Dungeon-crawling Vintage (Pre-1990) Richard Garriott a.k.a Lord British Sierra Online (originally),

Origin Systems (subsequently),

EA (presently)

Medieval, Fantasy, Magic, Sci-fi, Space

Ultima II is the sequel of the much celebrated cult classic Ultima. In the early 80s, games of the Ultima series were revolutionary and this one was no exception. It had built up on the success of its predecessor by introducing further complicated features into the gameplay; perhaps too complicated as Ultima II is unanimously considered the most difficult title of the whole series. The world of Ultima II is harsh and unforgiving! The setting is Earth in various different time periods. You play the role of the hero summoned by Lord British to vanquish Minax, evil consort and protege of Mondain who was the main antagonist in Ultima. Minax has come of age and has become more powerful than ever Mondain was, and is bent on destroying Earth, the planet which was the birth place of the hero who killed Mondain, so that the eventuality of Mondain’s death is prevented from transpiring. To this end she has opened several gateways through time-space and has spread her villainy inside men from various era of the Earth in order to ensure a nuclear holocaust in 2111 AD. You must kill Minax who is residing presently in the origin of time – age of legends, in order to stop this from happening. Thus in the course of your journey you will go back and forth in time through various time doors, looking for clues on how to kill Minax. Throughout the over-world you will kill monsters. There is dungeon-crawling and space travel to other planets. Raising your stats is not an easy task, gold is precious, and you are in constant need of food in order to survive. If you want a hard challenge and wish to absorb the history of Ultima first-hand, you have to play this game.

Game Assessment

Complexity Matrix 

Complexity Parameters Values (0, 0.5, 1)
Control Scheme 0.5: Moderately complex
Complexity 1: Complex (iventory)
Story 1: There is a story
Lore 1: Rich (World of Ultima)
Immersion 0.5: Although role-play but premature
Difficulty 1.0: High difficulty
Learning Curve 1.0: Steep without help or guidance
Total Score 5.5/7: Heavyweight game 

Satisfaction Matrix

Needs Satisfaction Score (0-3)
Analytical 3: Well met
Creative 0: Not met
Mastery 2: Moderately met
Destructive 0: Not met
Entertainment 1: Slightly met
Pace 0: Not met
Horror 0: Not met
Total Score 6/21: Moderate Game

Game Review

TL;DR Not the best of Ultima games. People say its the worst, but I have not yet played all of them, so can’t say that. But this game is quite bad. Without cheating and guides, it is just plain self-abuse. So buy only if necessary to experience whole of Ultima series for historic reasons.

Pros

  • Set in the world of Ultima so has its unique charm

Cons

  • Pathetic gameplay features
    • No automap for dungeons
    • Stats increase is random and unpredictable
    • Experience points and leveling only influences frequency of monsters
    • Character balancing is terrible
  • Grinding, grinding, grinding
  • Bad save system
  • Nothing is intuitive

Game completed with save-game editor cheat.

Purpose – Study

Gameplay – It is a NIGHTMARE. What was Garriott thinking?? Mindless grinding. Half of the features in the game are optional show pieces. Raising your stats is out of your control, unpredictable, random, and extremely costly. There is no modicum of balance. The clues to the story are buried under tons and tons of shit. You have to talk with 200 NPCs to get one bit of clue, that also in incomprehensible riddle form. It is practically impossible to play this game without a guide or cheats. I have no idea how they used to manage playing this back in the day.

Graphics – CGA pixel graphics. Has not aged well.

Performance – Peanut.

Entertainment – There is of course a story,  connected to the rich lore of Ultima series. Also it has some humor of the suggestive type and some weird charm of its own… and also the hype surrounding it.. the cult status. Yet, it is not as good as its predecessor. .

Plot (if applicable) – Clear plot, lore, world of its own.

Replay value – None. Unless you want to try out different levels of difficulty by creating different type of characters.

Immersion – Not quite as immersive as its predecessor.

Overall a bit of pain really, that is best avoided. Can only be tolerated for the sake of experiencing history and evolution of Ultima

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (1986)

Release

Originally released in 1981. Version played is the 1986 remake with graphical enhancements, and optimizations.

Info

Genre Period Developer Publisher Theme
cRPG, Dungeon Crawling, Open World Vintage (Pre 1990) Richard Garriott California Pacific Computer Co.

Origin Systems

EA (presently)

Medieval fantasy, Magic, Space

Ultima I can be pretty much termed as the birth of RPG. This game pretty much defined the genre. It has a fantasy oriented storyline, basic skill-based RPG progression, and an open world full of monsters and enemies. You play the role of a nameless hero called upon to cure the land from the devilry of the evil wizard Mondain. Lord British, one of the 8 kings in the land has begged of you to achieving this feat. You travel around the open world across land and sea. You have various transports like horse, rafts, frigates. You obtain missions from the different kings, and go into procedurally generated dungeons to slay different types of monsters or visit various land-marks to complete them. Visiting land-marks also help you gain skill levels. There are cities with shops where you can either buy your weapons, armor, magic, food, or steal them. You need adequate food to survive in the lands. You also get to rescue princesses from king’s castles and last but not least, also engage in space combat! Ultima-I is thus a a true gem in all its simplistic glory.

Game Assessment

Complexity Matrix 

Complexity Parameters Values (0, 0.5, 1)
Control Scheme 0.5: Moderate
Complexity 1: Complex
Story 1: Story
Lore 1: Rich (World of Ultima)
Immersion 0.5: Although role-play but premature
Difficulty 0.5: Medium
Learning Curve 0: Easy
Total Score 4.5/7: Heavyweight game 

Satisfaction Matrix

Needs Satisfaction Score (0-3)
Analytical 2: Moderately met
Creative 0: Not met
Mastery 2: Moderately met
Destructive 0: Not met
Entertainment 2: Moderately met
Pace 0: Not met
Horror 1: Slightly met
Total Score 7/21: Good Game

Game Review

TL;DR A game that shines with its innovation and brilliance despite its age. If you are a faithful fan of RPGs, then you simply must experience this grand daddy of all RPGs.

Pros

  • Good story, inspite of being cliched, still gives you a strange feeling of greatness
  • Good realism implemented even with so old technological infrastructure
  • Good immersion, if you have a good imagination

Cons

  • Levelling up of skill does not depend upon usage or exp points, but only based on visiting certain landmarks.
  • Serious balancing issues for characters
  • The exp points are there for no purpose basically
  • No automap for dungeons

Game completed

Purpose – Study

Gameplay – Okay! First of all.. yeah we all know that in 1981 this was revolutionary, but nevertheless there are a few fundamental problems which I must criticize. Firstly again, the primary difficulty lies in being able to manually map the dungeons, which is quite stupid. The secondary difficulty lies in raising the stats. And here is where it gets really crappy! Apparently leveling up is useless as it does not  affect the stats. I mean really! Nor do they increase based on actions like combat, movement etc. So how do you increase them? By going back and forth between certain landmarks in the map. This is plain ridiculous. So in the end the only challenge boils down to going back and forth between points on the map. Yet, as you will see, in spite of such crappy gameplay, Ultima 1 happens to be one of the best gaming experience I have ever had and had gripped me like Malaria fever for the fortnight or so I played it for.

Graphics – Wire-frame graphics in the dungeons. Pixel graphics in the over-world. Vector graphics in the outer-space. All considered, pioneering standards.

Performance – Can run on a peanut (!)

Entertainment – There is of course a story, especially with a rich lore connected to it that followed in the rest of the games in the series. Also it has some humor of the suggestive type and some weird charm of its own… and also the hype surrounding it.. the cult status. So very entertaining, considering all.

Plot (if applicable) – Clear plot, lore, world of its own.

Replay value – None.

Immersion – There is some weird sense of immersion but only if you have a very powerful imagination.

Overall a love-hate relationship. You can’t just let it go easily but the crappy gameplay is really annoying. Will require patience and tenacity to finish. ~ ULTIMA THULE

Akalabeth (1979)

Info

Genre Period Developer Publisher Theme
cRPG, Dungeon Crawling Vintage (Pre 1990) Richard Garriott California Pacific Computer Co. Medieval fantasy, Magic

Akalabeth is a dungeon crawling cRPG developed by Richard Garriott, creator of Ultima series. This game was his experimental pre-cursor to the Ultima games. It only has historical significance and some nostalgic value for those who played when it was first released, because during its time it was a revolution of sorts.

Game Assessment

Complexity Matrix 

Complexity Parameters Values (0, 0.5, 1)
Control Scheme 0: Easy
Complexity 1: Complex
Story 0.5: Dungeon crawling, levels, quests
Lore 1: Rich (follows into the world of Ultima)
Immersion 0.5: Although role-play but premature
Difficulty 1: High
Learning Curve 0: Easy
Total Score 4/7: Mediumweight game

Satisfaction Matrix

Needs Satisfaction Score (0-3)
Analytical 2: Moderately met
Creative 0: Not met
Mastery 3: Well met (difficult)
Destructive 0: Not met
Entertainment 0: Not met
Pace 0: Not met
Horror 1: Slightly met
Total Score 6/21: Moderate Game

Game Review

TL;DR A game that has not aged well inspite of its innovation and brilliance. Do not waste time unless you want to get a taste of PC gaming history..

Pros

  • None I can think of

Cons

  • No automap in the dungeons

Game rejected.

Purpose – Study

Gameplay – Considering the period from which this game is from, the gameplay is quite obviously good and challenging. The primary challenge however boils down to the capability of manually mapping the dungeon levels. That did not appeal to me much and therefore I had to give it up.

Graphics – Wire-frame graphics. Considered ahead of its time in 1979.

Performance – Can run on a peanut (!)

Entertainment – Frankly, there is none.

Plot (if applicable) – There is a vague setting about a king sending you into dungeons to slay various monsters, but it cannot be really termed as a ‘plot’.

Replay value – None.

Immersion – None.

All in all a good example to try out for someone who wants to experience history of RPGs or computer games. Otherwise, it is of no particular use.