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SummaryNot very Ultima, but still a great game
The GoodU8's music is very very good. A little bit too epic if you compare them to the elegantly small music of the earlier parts, but the music is rather evocative anyway. Graphics are pretty good too.
The Pagan game world is pretty good, and definitely interesting (even though I would have preferred Britannia or something...) and the game definitely stays interesting. There's all sorts of good and terrible things to keep me on toes.
The BadExtremely frustrating user interface. This is, above all, an action game. Action games require precise UIs. Yet, right now, I always encounter some silly problems, like when I open a door and try to walk through it, the Avatar tries to walk through the wall instead, or when I should run, Avatar starts to sneak, or the brain-dead simple combat in which the only action is to stab forward and even that misses half of the time... in other words, the UI is very very *very* clumsy. The patched version adds targeted jumps, which is good (though even then, the Avatar doesn't always jump, but instead stays on spot to do rude animations).
The action focus isn't good in my opinion. I much preferred Ultima VII where you can just hit 'c', sit back and watch baddies die.
The game performance isn't stellar (the game was pretty resource-heavy and these days just about the only reliable way to run the game is in DOSBox, since the Pentagram engine isn't release-quality yet...)
The Bottom LineHoo boy. Ultima VIII. Also known as "Ultima III: The Action Game". Also known as "Super Avatar Brothers". Fans thought this was the worst part of the series until Ultima IX was released and someone actually found the Escape from Mt. Drash game.
Yet Ultima VIII has its good sides - it has a pretty interesting game world, very good music, lots of interesting details, and good story. Pretty dark, but good anyway. The game as such was pretty well thought of - even when it didn't actually have a lot of actual Ultima flavor.
Some of its bad reputation is definitely undeserved. Yeah, it has far too action and a pretty awful UI - but the game itself is definitely interesting. If you aren't afraid of tons of quickloading, I definitely recommend it.
(For what it's worth, I've played through about a third of the game...)