Group DescriptionUltima series contains all main (numbered) Ultima RPGs. They are set mainly in a fictional medieval Europe-like world called Britannia, and are connected by the same protagonist, a nameless person from the Earth, who in Ultima IV becomes the Avatar, an incarnation of virtue. One of the most influential RPG series, Ultima games are notable for open-ended gameplay, detailed interaction, and in-depth morality system.
StoryCreated by Richard Garriott and developed by Origin, the series has undergone several phases, also known as Ages. Each Age is a trilogy of games connected by common main creative ideas and overarching story.
The Age of Darkness encompasses the first three games of the series (sometimes also counting their precursor Akalabeth). The protagonist is referred to as "Stranger"; similarly to other role-playing game heroes, his goal is to stop an evil antagonist and save the world. The land which the Stranger liberates in the first and third game (the second one takes place on the Earth) is called Sosaria.
The Age of Enlightenment is seen by many as the turning point of the series, where its characteristic philosophy and design goals were manifested for the first time. The remnants of Sosaria have become a new world named Britannia, ruled by the benevolent monarch Lord British, and sustained by the Eight Virtues derived from the combination of the Three Principles: Love, Truth, and Courage. The fourth game is dedicated entirely to the Stranger's quest to become the Avatar, an incarnation of these virtues. The fifth sees the virtues misinterpreted and twisted by the tyrant Blackthorn; the Avatar must rescue the imprisoned Lord British and restore the virtues to their original meanings. In the sixth game, the Avatar is to find a way to make peace between the inhabitants of Britannia and the race of gargoyles.
The final age of Ultima is called The Age of Armageddon; it is also known as The Guardian Saga. The seventh game introduces a new enemy of Britannia, a mysterious and powerful being known as the Guardian. The second part of the seventh game is set on Serpent Isle, another remnant of Sosaria; tracking down the leaders of a dangerous organization called The Fellowship, the Avatar learns the history and the ethical principles of the new world. The eighth game takes the Avatar to a hostile world called Pagan, controlled by the Guardian. Finally, in the ninth and last installment of the series, the Avatar returns to Britannia to defeat the Guardian once and for all.
GameplayThe gameplay of the series has undergone significant changes during its course. Traditionally, Ultima games used turn-based combat with free movement on the battle field, and a leveling system similar to other role-playing games (the highest level usually being 8). Conversations with NPCs were carried out by typing key words. Characters who joined the hero's party for personal reasons (rather than being created by the player or hired as mercenaries in the game world) were one of the innovations implemented in Ultima IV; it also featured for the first time the characteristic spellcasting system based on mixing reagents. Ultima V introduced a higher level of interactivity with visible objects, and Ultima VI pioneered in creating a seamless world, with towns and wilderness areas integrated into a graphically homogeneous whole. Ultima games were open-ended up to that point; objectives could be accomplished in any order by carefully and meticulously gathering information from the world's inhabitants and finding crucial objects required to complete the quest.
Ultima VII introduced real-time combat with automated actions for party members, as well as physical (drag-and-drop) interaction with the world. Non-linear accomplishment of objectives was integrated as well. The game's second part, Serpent Isle, retained all of its gameplay features, but opted for a significantly more linear story development. Ultima VIII was perhaps the most drastic change in the series gameplay-wise, abandoning the party-based combat of earlier games in favor of action RPG mechanics, including the abilities to jump and climb. Ultima IX reduced role-playing elements even further, but enhanced the interaction with the environment by implementing 3D graphics and adding the ability to swim to the other physical activities.
The series has spawned many spin-offs, most notable of them being the two first-person 3D RPGs that formed the Ultima Underworld series. All these spin-offs are included in the Ultima Universe group.
- Computer Gaming World
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #6 Most Memorable Game Hero (The Avatar)
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #3 Most Memorable Game Villain (The Guardian)
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Front cover for The Complete Ultima VII
Front cover for Ultima
Front cover for Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
Front cover for Exodus: Ultima III
Front cover for Pagan: Ultima VIII
Screenshot from Ultima
Screenshot from Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
Screenshot from Exodus: Ultima III
Screenshot from Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny
Screenshot from Ultima Trilogy: I ♦ II ♦ III