the right compromise between Ultima 4-5 and Ultima 7. Probably the best Ultima
AAAhhh.... my chance to review one of my favourite games.
Foreword: I completed this (right when it came out, at the times of Amiga!), then I completed U7 and U7-SI ten years later, and then took a look on U4 and U5, which I liked a lot but didn't complete 'cause I already knew the story from U6 game and manual.
Reading other players reviews, I realize that there seems to be a U4-U5 clan, opposite to a U7 clan, and not too many people care about U6. U4 fans say that U6 lacks of atmosphere, and U7 fans say that it lacks of graphics, items and so on. Well: in my opinion, this is a fantastic game, and maybe the one to recommend to anybody that has never played an Ultima game.
I heard more than one say that the plot of U5 is more fascinating. Ok I cannot reply, since I didn't complete that game; but the story of U6 is really good, and it has something to teach: tolerance. You understand once more that what seems to be evil is often just a bit different, and may have a lot to teach and a lot to share with you.
And I loved the fact that everything becomes clear just near the end of the game (despite what happens in U7, where everything is quite obvious since the early game - and this is the worst thing about U7).
graphics shouldn't be too important while reviewing a game like this; anyway, I think that having the whole world map on a unique scale is a big conceptual step ahead from U4-U5, where the main map was only symbolic, and cities where just icons on it. It brings really a lot more fan to the exploration.
Moreover, the true good thing to say about this game is: everything works well. You are brought into a damn real living world, with very accurate dialogues, and you get a lot of fun just walking around.
The interface is perfect, I'd say - less friendly than U7 interface, but more realistic and useful. Ok I won't repeat myself , so if you wanna know why U7 is a step back from U6 for me, just read my U7 review.
U4 is famous for its total-non-linearity. Ok, U6 has a story behind it, and it's more linear. But it's far from being totally linear (see U7): since the beginning, you can choose among various things to do (gathering informations about the book of prophecy, starting to follow the main plot, or seeking a way to cleanse the shrines, or knowing more about the gargoyles in battle). In each of the eight cities you have to find a rune of virtue, which is simple in certain cities and difficult in others. Anyway, these are 8 things you have to do and you can do them in any order. Proceeding with the game, you get to look for 8 different map pieces, having only a vague idea about their locations, and again you can find them in any order. I mean: ok the plot is somehow linear, but it splits in different non-linear tasks in more than one occasion.
Everything is ok. maybe they could have put some more puzzles of the kind "use this item on that place", since there are only 2-3 of them (apart from using keys), and the rest of the tasks (pratically 99 percent) are exploration tasks.
The Bottom Line
You have the freedom of U7 without its silly plot and its stupid inaccuracies. You have the charme of U5 without playing an only symbolic exploration of Britannia. What more? As I said, the right compromise. And having played previous and next ultima games, now I understand why Ultima fans wouldn't rate this as the best of the series, since they are bond either to U4 or to U7. But there's no doubt: if you've never played Ultima and you want to play only one of the nine, you have to play this - definitely.