SummaryWelcome to the dark and dangerous world of Pagan
The GoodUltima VIII: Pagan followed on the footsteps of one of the finest single-player RPGs ever created, Ultima VII: The Black Gate. That game was bright, cheerful, and your character could travel with as many as seven companions. Ultima VIII, in contrast, is a comparatively miserable affair where the only friend you can trust is whatever weapon you happen to be wielding.
Ultima VIII improved moderately upon the graphics of Ultima VII, but the color palette looks drab under the perpetual cloud of Pagan. Character animation is greatly enhanced, but this demands serious CPU cycles, no doubt requiring that you traverse the world of Pagan without the usual stalwarts of Iolo, Dupre, and Shamino to lower your already tenuous framerate.
The overall feel of the gameworld is rather grim. The citizens of Pagan are living under the yoke of four elemental Gods and their human representatives. Monsters range from gargantuan ogres to ponderous zombies to demonic imps. The spell system has been complicated from previous Ultimas, and while the alterations are not really improvements per se, they are nonetheless interesting enough for one installment of Ultima.
The BadAlthough everything about the world of Pagan reflects the grim sensibilities of its conqueror, The Guardian, the pervading sense of hopelessness actually makes it quite a memorable game. Being the lone wolf merely to escape this dark world, instead of being the usual paragon of virtue is a refreshing development for the series. The experience of butchering hordes of zombies with a great axe is a visceral affair, with more weight and gravitas to your swings and strikes than in Diablo and its sequel. Production values are uniformly high, the plot is largely forgettable, but the overall experience of playing through the game was well worth the money back in 1994.
The Bottom LineWhile Pagan may have been somewhat of a let-down from the near-perfection of The Black Gate and Serpent Isle, it does stand in its own right as a very satisfying three-week gaming experience.