User review spotlight: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (DOS)

Battle Bugs (DOS)

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79
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
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Written by  :  Alex Man (32)
Written on  :  Oct 30, 2002
Platform  :  DOS

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Summary

I hate cockroaches

The Good

Graphics, setting, gameplay. It's like Command & Conquer in a kitchen. IMO, they could've really replaced the bugs with a bunch of toy soldiers but that'd take away the "sim" pretense - in any case, it's a "sim" of sorts, a sim of children playing war games inside the house. There's huge sinks, bottles, forks, knives, etc - and your little soldiers battle around them. It has a wonderfully childish feel about it, and yet the gameplay is fully functional and with lots of strategic thinking involved. First things first, the stop-start RTS engine which X-COM 3 later ripped off, which is quite frankly great - sometimes it's like pausing an avalanche though. And then lots of small things - flying units, positive influence of commander units on the soldiers, use of the landscape, slower-faster/stronger-weaker units, all kinds of adult stuff like that there. It's fun, funny and smells a lot like another Sierra game of this period, the Incredible Machine.

The Bad

Too damn hard. No point in making a little fun funny game and then making it much harder than most "serious" RTS. The battles are too much about "get this bug standing there JUST now" and "get these guys dead BEFORE my heavy artilery arrives" and "for god's sake don't let them get the commander unit but still keep the damn thing near enough to get the combat boost". All the battles are a bunch of short set-pieces and mostly there's just one ideal path that you have to figure out, else you fail. It's more like a puzzle game really than an RTS, there's no freedom and improvisation and those are exactly the things that a game with such a childish original setting should have so it kinda shoots itself in the leg a bit there.

The Bottom Line

Tries to capture that mystical feel of children playing with toy soldiers but forgets the most essential element, the feeling that you can do anything, change everything and pretend to be what YOU want and feel like. You have to play by the rules here, and the game doesn't give you the time nor space to feel any sort of immersion in its world. In the end, it's just a quaintly original puzzle game with RTS elements, fun but mostly too difficult and not worth the trouble in the later stages.