not an Ultima anymore.... but a quite good game
Ok guys, so this is U7 part two. Before playing this, I've played and completd U6 and U7 - read my reviews, if you want, before reading this one.
It has the same graphics (improved, see the inventory display), same 2D engine, same party management. We are in a new world to explore, and in this new world there is a great variety of landscapes (forests, brushlands, mountains, icy lands, flaming dungeons, swamps, and so on). There are only 3 towns, but we face a lot of npcs, with a huge amount off conversation.
The plot is more exciting than in U7, definitely. As you begin and go on in the game, you have no idea of its ending, and you are fascinated about this ancient serpent culture that seems to be involved in the game but still you don't know how.
So, a new world, new faces, a new culture from an ancient civilisation... and, the dungeons are back again!! There's quite a lot of tunnels, on different levels, to explore (maybe they realized that U7 was so poor, with no underworld levels at all).
The northern area si damn cool: all is snow-covered and there are new beasts (the snow leopards are too nice!), temples, a new civilisation again (the gwani). Cool.
And the new means of teleportation are very nice (it's something similar to the orb of the moons, but more fascinating).Moreover, the plot is a bit less linear than in U7: there are a few things you can do in an order of your choice (for example, solving the subplots of the 3 main cities in order to get the items of truth, love and courage).
it's difficult to explain. What may be a step back for me, it might be a step forward for another player as well.
THIS IS NOT A RPG, and it has nothing to do with earlier ultimas.
Ok, same graphics and party management, but this is an arcade game, in fact. There is a story you must follow, and various triggered events occour during the game.
As you begin, you can only access certain places on the map: the cities of Monitor and Fawn, the Sleeping bull Inn, and a little more. This is opposite to the Ultima core feature: you can go wherever you want, do whatever you want, and have fun just exploring, without following the plot at all.
Making the Swamp of Gorlab the only way to get to the northern areas was a bad choice. Since you must go and beat the swamp anyway (in order to get the serpen necklace), it would have been nice to reach the north since the beginning of the game, opening a very huge gaming area for early exploration (northern forest, snow lands, skullcrusher, spinebreaker, Shamino's castle, and so on).
I admit this is only my point of view. I say: let's explore everything since the beginning, gathering pieces of information about the plot in the meanwhile, and then start to do things in order to complete the game. Others may say: oh, they finally made a less dispersive game, we like this new arcade-rpg hybrid.Back to the plot: it is cool and fascinating until Batlin dies and the Banes appear. After that, I didn't like it at all. Almost everybody in the land dies. You get to walk in cities and dungeons full of corpses. In general, too many people dies; ok, you restore balance at the end, but at which price? you are almost alone! And the rest of the plot is too abstract (gather various serpent items, visit various shrines, restore a mysteriuos balance in the land). Ok, so the ancient serpent culture becomes the core, but everything is too symbolic- there are a lot of serpent items (earrings, necklace, ring, sword, crown, armour, blackrock serpents, eyes of the serpents.........), and you get very confused about their meanings.
The Bottom Line
Well. This is really a great change from previous Ultimas. They all were rpgs (even U7, although the worst of them all, was an Ultima rpg). This is an arcade-adventure game, with some rpg features.
On an absolute point of view, this game is good, really good. far better than U7 for me, since the plot is more interesting, and most of the bugs and the annoyances of U7 are eradicated.
From an Ultima fan point of view..... well, if you expect the freedom of U4, you get frustrated. This is not a game where you can enjoy a living world and live in it, getting hours and hours of funny play just walking around, talking to people, exploring the whole map.
Still my advice: ok play this, but also play a game from the Ultima enlightenment trilogy - the 3 real Ultimas.