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SummaryThe first classic Ultima game
The GoodThis is the first game in the series that really feels like a Ultima. It has a lot of the standard elements that were in the later games such as moon-gates, an underworld and familiar towns like Yew. The modern technology has gone and the game takes place in a true fantasy environment. The game also has a musical soundtrack (with the upgrade patch) which although basic helps the atmosphere no end.
You control a party of four adventurers and combat takes place on its own screen, where you can move your characters around, attack or cast spells in turns. This is far more interesting than the mindless attacking from the earlier games.
The characters in the towns still only offer one line of conversation but there are far more characters that have something worthwhile to say. These tend to be hints you need to complete the game, and it adds another gameplay element where you have to search through the towns to get all these clues.
The game also adds line of sight so you can't see around corners, and viewing distance is limited in forests.
The BadSome of the spells are not as useful as they should be. The light spell lasts about 8 turns before you are in the dark again and with wind blowing out your torches all the time, you need a serious supply before tackling any dungeons. The clerics heal spells seemed a bit underpowered at the start of the game but are even worse later on.
Ships are far too rare, in this game considering you need one to show up before you can finish the game.
The Bottom LineThis game is a real classic - the beginnings of everything that Ultima developed into can be seen here. The gameplay is far more balanced and varied than the previous games and it doesn't feel like a load of elements thrown together ad hoc. It was fun to play through 25 years after it came out. I did use the upgrade patch from http://exodus.voyd.net. This adds a frame limiter, midi music (previously missing on the PC), EGA graphics and also a very useful restore hot-key (this required a restart otherwise).
If you are an Ultima fan and can see past the technology, this game is still worth playing even these days. Back in 1983, had I been old enough to appreciate it, it would have been truly outstanding.