Sunday, May 25, 2014

Doctor Ryan Plays: ULTIMA I: The First Age of Darkness (1981)



This game may have some of the most basic graphics you will ever see. But by damned, this still is a wonderful adventure. The only Ultima I had ever played was Ultima Exodus on the NES. It was just one of those series I just never got into. To many games, not enough time. Anyway, I recently got these from GOG.com and am looking forward to trying to get through the series.

 It starts out like this. Far away in space there exists a world known as Sosaria. Here is a world that is filled with magic, swords, dragons, and spaceships????? Anyway, the world is under siege by an evil wizard, known as Mondain. He has a powerful crystal called the Gem of Immortality that gives him unlimited power. He raises an army of monsters to terrorize the land and surprise, surprise, take over the world!!! This was an original story back in early 80's. So all the kings in the world shut themselves up inside their castles and the good people were pretty much left to fend for themselves. But there was one, the ruler Lord British, who would not just stand by and let his kingdom be destroyed. He called out for a champion to go forth and free the realms from Mondain's evil grasp. Soon afterward, a hero did indeed come forward to answer the challenge. Guess who?? 
 
So your mission is to complete quests for kingdoms, all around the world, while searching for a way to destroy the wizard. This actually works really well as you have to explore to find clues as to how you can defeat Mondain. And there are a couple of neat twists thrown in that made this different back in the day. The first being that these people even though they are living in a fantasy world, also have access to very high level technology. And this plays a big part in advancing your progress in the game.
 
The graphics are basically colored pixel stick figures running around a multicolored wonderland of more pixels. The version I played was the updated EGA graphics version from GOG.com and I actually liked it. It was more advanced than an Atari 2600 game and you can tell what everything is. The dungeons are just wire frame graphics with a black background, but even those seem very well done. I really liked the wire frame monster designs. Screenshots don't really do this game justice. 

Sound is basically just beeps and boops letting you know you hit something. No music, which is kind of a downer, but you can listen to your own. I myself was listening to the Myst soundtrack. 

The controls are actually pretty complex as it seems like every key on the keyboard does something. So you will need a list of what keys does what written down somewhere in the beginning until you get use to it. 

Battles are very simple, but somehow very fun. Especially when you build up your stats and start mowing monsters down like a tank. Hell, even vehicles have weapons for you to decimate the local monster population. And also you will be going into space at one point, but I'm not going to be the one to ruin that for you if you have never played the game. 

Also, some of the events in the game are not explained to you. Like there are places you visit to boost your attributes and even can upgrade your weapons. But you can't visit the same place more than once. So if you didn't know this you might just visit one hotspot and never go back to it because you think your done with it. But the secret is, you visit one landmark on the map, then go to a different landmark. That resets the first landmark so you can get the attributes boost. This isn't really explained very well in the instructions either, so I recommend a walk-through to help when you get stuck. 

I recommend this game, because it is a piece of gaming history that set the standard for rpg's to come. I had a lot of fun with it and I think you will too. Until next time stay groovy!! 

 And for more information on Ultima visit: