To be very impressed! To think it is great!
Since Ultima IV
the series had been firmly following an established tradition of gameplay and creative ideas. Ultima VI
once again delivers a meaningful story that is accompanied by flexible, versatile gameplay, and is set in a world that is even more detailed than it was in the previous game.
The interactivity level is higher than ever - there are tons of objects everywhere, which you can manipulate the way you like. Ultima V
already had great interactivity, but Ultima VI
allows you even more - you can drop objects anywhere you like, and all of them are visible now. There are infinitely more types of objects now - every room is highly detailed, with an enormous amount of stuff to collect.
The gameplay is extremely flexible. Your party is now visible on screen, and each party member can be put in a solo mode and walk around on his own. This feature allows such refinements as having a mouse
in your party, putting her in solo mode and letting her explore various mouse holes.
One of the most famous innovations of Ultima VI
is its concept of a continuous game world. In previous Ultima games (and other RPGs), the characters were required to walk on a "world map" and access locations (such as towns) that were represented as icons. In Ultima VI
there is no such "world map"- or, better to say, the whole world is now a huge world map. There are no "locations" to enter - you walk around just as you would in a real world, with everything being proportional in size. When you leave a town, you don't access a different level, but remain on the same screen that just keep scrolling with you in whatever direction you decide to go. This makes Ultima VI
look like an adventure game, only with a game world that is hundred times larger. It is truly amazing how all this was possible to achieve in the early nineties.
Graphically, Ultima VI
is stunning, although it was to be expected with the introduction of VGA graphics. The most important graphical addition are character portraits, which are wonderfully designed, adding so much to the atmosphere of the game and the credibility of its world. By the way, this is also the first PC Ultima to have music.
The characters are way more realistic and appealing in Ultima VI
than they were in previous Ultimas, not only thanks to the graphic enhancement. The dialogues are much more complex, more varied, and more natural. You can simply stay around and chat with people, talk about their personal affairs, family, business, their town, the current war between humans and gargoyles, etc. In particular, your party members are now more interesting. In previous Ultimas they were accompanying you silently, and once a party member joined you, you couldn't communicate with him in any way. In Ultima VI
, not only all your party members are visible on screen and are able to act on their own, but you also can talk to them at any time. They also react individually to your conversations with NPCs. Sometimes they would recognize a friend and exchange a couple of phrases with him. They will sometimes comment upon your actions and show interest in what you do.
Britannia is generally much more believable in Ultima VI
than in earlier Ultimas. Towns are much larger and have, beside the obligatory stores and taverns, many other kinds of buildings populated by weavers, farmers, bakers, and other people. This is really a fantastic feature that very few games have. In most games, designers don't pay much attention to characters that don't bear any importance to the game. Ultima VI
is also more user-friendly than its predecessors. The interface is simple and convenient (although still far from the intuitive interface of the next game), and commands can be executed by both keyboard and mouse. Combat system is a bit different now - there are no battle fields, and your party members can also be controlled by AI (although it is still best to control them, since they do stupid things sometimes). In conversations with people, some important keywords are highlighted with red, which makes it easier to track down keywords for further usage. Inventory management is very comfortable, and many old one-letter keyboard commands are now replaced by the handy command "Use". Ultima VI
is very open-ended. A large portion of what seems to be the main plot is in fact just a huge side quest which is not necessary to complete in order to finish the game. There are tons of optional locations, and the obligatory battles are reduced to the point of being non-existent. It is possible to finish Ultima VI
without fighting at all
. In the very few dungeon-like locations which are necessary to visit (like Sutek's dungeon), you can simply run away from monsters. You start at level 3, and although you can fight a lot, gain experience, level up, and have access to powerful spells, it is not required. I finished the game at level 4, and I found out that, strictly speaking, no leveling up was necessary - I used invisibility potions and rings in tough situations, ran away where I could, and finished the game with minimal damage done to my fellow creatures.
Like its two predecessors, Ultima VI
is extremely demanding. You can spend months just wandering around aimlessly through the huge game world, unable to find the right clues and getting stuck at every corner. Ultima VI
is not difficult combat-wise, and is also more user-friendly than the previous Ultimas, which makes it overall easier than its predecessor, but the abundance of items to find, people to talk to, secret areas to explore, and quests to complete is enough to confuse even an experienced player.
My biggest problem with this game is the way it is structured. Truth has to be told: following the main quest - which is the only way to complete the game - is a rather tedious affair. They have gone too far with the amount of small tasks you have to complete in order to finally advance the story line. The biggest portion of the game basically consists of traveling from place to place and performing menial tasks for stupid town inhabitants. Some of those quests are interesting, but overall, the story is not very focused, and all you are left with are annoying errands that seem to have no end. You can skip some of them, but in order to do that, you have to consult a walkthrough. Otherwise, there are no clues available, so everything must be done through wandering and talking. The main story is pushed backwards and becomes a mere background for the small tasks you are forced to perform.
The Bottom LineUltima VI
is a ground-breaking game, with more layers of interactivity and more believable world than ever before. Together with its predecessor
, it was way ahead of its time and defined the high principles of Western role-playing long before other RPGs dared to compete with it in content and depth of gameplay.