This game creaks with age but is still fun enough for a couple of hours.
This was Richard Garriott's first attempt at a commercial game and the start of the epic series of Ultima games. The game incorporates a slightly enhanced version of the Akalabeth 3D dungeons with allegedly the worlds first tile graphics to create the outside world and towns.
The world is quite a decent size for such an old game, with four lands to explore. Each land has several towns and a couple of castles. The kings in each castle give you quests to either kill a creature ala Akalabeth, or to find a particular signpost on the map. This means you usually know what you are trying to achieve throughout the game.
The game isn't in a typical fantasy setting and the technology gets more advanced as you progress. Later in the game there is a space combat section where you get to shoot down little tie fighters which adds a bit of variety.
I'm not sure all the technology and space section fit into a fantasy rpg although it does give it an epic feel.
Like most RPG's of the time, you spend most of the game raising stats and money. Raising your experience points fighting doesn't raise your stats however. Instead when you visit signposts on a map, your experience in a particular area is raised. You have to visit a different signpost and come back to raise the same stat again, but this means you just travel back and forwards between pairs of posts and raise your stats in no time. This is a bit strange and not my idea of role-playing.
There is no plot to the game and the towns are little more than a series of shops. There is no one to talk to in these towns beyond the storekeepers.
The final battle with Mondain is a bit of an anti-climax. It takes place on a mostly black screen and ends up with you chasing Mondain all over the screen until he stops moving long enough for you to hit him.
The Bottom Line
This was a worthy role playing game for the time. I still enjoyed playing it in 2008, but would have gotten frustrated had it taken longer than a couple of hours to get through the whole thing.