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Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (DOS)

92
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  J S (7)
Written on  :  Feb 06, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Summary

The best game ever.

The Good

Where to begin? Firstly, the superficial: both the graphics and sound were by far the best I'd seen or heard as far back as 1993. Nine years have passed, and its once youthful looks have been ravaged accordingly, but...

The storyline and immersion of UW2 are second to none. A compelling tale of imprisonment, treachery and heroism, with some truly amazing alternate worlds - the idea of a parallel universe with eerie similarities but a great difference due to the inhabitants' beliefs is not an original one, but is executed impeccably here. Without wanting to give too much away, the eight alternate dimensions are incredibly diverse, and fit together with each other commendably.

Wolfenstein 3D is generally credited as the first 3D game, but this is flawed for two reasons: the first Underworld game was released about half a year before it, and also it was as flat as Pong - there were no stairs or raised/lowered terrain, let alone bridges that can be walked over and under. The Underworld games, by way of a contrast, had (for the time) unparallelled 3D which, although taken for granted today, amazed me at the time.

The depth of NPC conversation was excellent. I wonder what happened to the good old multiple-choice replying system that featured in it so wonderfully - recent games tend to be a case of walk-up-to-someone-and-speak-linearly-to-them. What was said by each character in conversation really enabled the player to get a good idea about their personality, and have a sense of empathy for them. They were not simply vending machines on legs, as per Diablo 2 and its ilk.

Finally, I also love the tension of it all. Certain events happen throughout, which dramatically alter the mood - even conveyed entirely by text - and this builds up to a climactic finish. Whereas most computer games use all their ammo at the beginning and sort of fizzle out towards the end, leaving the player to lose interest, UW2 is quite easily the most satisfying game I have ever played, from start to finish.

The Bad

I had to think really hard about a shortfall, and I genuinely cannot think of any at all. The graphics and sound may no longer be state of the art, but it's unfair to judge a nine-year-old game on current standards.

The Bottom Line

An immersive, non-linear RPG with brilliant characterisation and tension. To neglect this is criminal, akin to dismissing a classic movie or piece of literature.