After having brought peace to Britannia during his previous journey
there, the Avatar returns to our world. However, he is haunted by ghostly dreams that warn him of a great danger in Britannia. The Avatar decides to travel there once again. Upon his arrival, he witnesses the kidnapping of Baron Almric's daughter. Found guilty of the crime, the Avatar is thrown into the Great Stygian Abyss with the choice of either finding the girl or rotting in the dungeon. On his journey he will have to get along with the many inhabitants of the dungeon, who are survivors of a failed colony, and eventually find out that there's much more to this kidnapping than meets the eye.Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
is commonly considered the first role-playing game with fluid first-person movement in a real 3D environment. Unlike earlier first-person RPGs such as Dungeon Master
or Eye of the Beholder
, the player can move in every direction and the graphics are updated continually. The player is also able to look up and down with the press of a key, jump, and swim. The dungeon is not made entirely of corridors and rooms arranged in a rectangular fashion, but has a lot of variety: slopes, stairs, bridges, underground rivers, and more.
The game's combat system is action-oriented. The player has to draw his weapon, aim at his opponent, and hold the cursor over the game screen to inflict damage; the longer the player holds it, the stronger is the attack. Some weapons have different types of attacks, depending on where the cursor is held: for example, jabs are executed when the cursor is near the bottom of the screen, while slashes are performed with the cursor in the middle.
In the beginning of the game, the player chooses the gender, the class, and the initial skills for the Avatar. Skills include various weapon proficiencies, lockpicking, bartering, and others. They can be increased by reciting mantras at special shrines after having accumulated a sufficient amount of experience points. Leveling up also increases the Avatar's hit points and mana. The magic system is based on runes that can be found in the Abyss. If combined in the right order, they produce a magical effect.
As the Abyss is populated by more than just monsters, there are various conversations the Avatar can conduct with non-playable characters. The player can also make choices regarding the Avatar's behavior towards these characters. Game progression is largely non-linear: the player is able to explore most of the Abyss in any order, though several specific tasks must be accomplished in order to complete the story. An auto-map displays all the locations the player has explored previously, and also allows the player to make notes on it.
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The Press Says
Towards the end of the game you can learn a spell that will destroy all life. If you cast it, all other creatures, items, doors and even stairways are destroyed, leaving only the walls, floors and ceilings.
A complete version of Ultima Underworld
is available on the July 2000 issue of PC-Gamer Magazine (CD-ROM edition).
- According to PC Gamer (July 2000), Warren Spector wasn't involved with Ultima Underworld until about a year into production.
- The programmers' test image for the texture-mapping code was a digitized B&W photo of Abraham Lincoln.
This was the only Ultima
game released for the PlayStation system, and only released in Japan. It can only be played on Japanese consoles because there are regional lockouts built in. Supposedly the monster graphics were improved over the PC version and the title music was redone.
Near the Magic Academy there is a spectre called Warren floating around. This is a obviously a reference to Warren Spector and continues a tradition of him appearing in the non-mainstream Ultima
games (The Savage Empire
and Martian Dreams
is the forefather of modern continuous-movement first-person texture-mapped gaming. It pioneered the use of "real" 3-D which allows the player to change the view up or down as well as jumping.
Reportedly it was a demonstration of the in-development Underworld technology during the 1990 CES that prompted John Carmack
to write the Catacomb 3-D
(released about six months before Ultima Underworld
) engine which uses texture mapping. However, the extent of this influence is not clear due to conflicting statements from the id people.
Information also contributed by
Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe
- Computer Gaming World
- November 1992 (Issue #100) – Role-Playing Game of the Year
- April 1995 (Issue #129) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #68 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
- 2001 – #8 Top Game of All Time
- GameStar (Germany)
- Issue 02/1999 – #8 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
- Origin Awards
- 1992 – Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Computer Game
- PC Games (Germany)
- Issue 01/1993– Best RPG in 1992
- Power Play
- Issue 02/1993 – Best Game in 1992
- Issue 02/1993 – #2 Best RPG in 1992
- Retro Gamer
- September 2004 (Issue #8) – #62 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)