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SummaryRushed? Half-Assed? Too Ambitious? Disappointing.
The GoodThe graphics were simply breathtaking in more than one location, the character creation was traditional Ultima which really made it special, the introduction was interactive; always a plus, the interface is simple enough not to be irritating and complex enough that it encompasses everything it needs to, the controls are thoughtful, the storyline is well written and well played out, the puzzling gameplay is nice to see in an action/adventure rpg.
Awesome easter eggs. If you can find them, you'll be laughing your ass off. It's good to see that Richard Garriot never lost his sense of humor.
The BadThe framerate before v1.18 is inexusable, especially since the requirements state 266 w/ 64megs RAM and an 8meg 3D Accelerator. At 2fps in a box that is Lord British's main hall, make damn certain that you have either purchased the remastered version or that you have downloaded and installed the v1.18 path (avalible at all fine file outlets such as ultima 9's website or fileplanet).
Post Patch Ultima 9 has few problems to speak of save for the most irritating of all, the voice acting. While some of the characters are decent, and some are downright excellent, the good majority of actors come off as complete hacks! I was surprised to hear such underpar voice acting. In fact, I turned off the speech and simply spoke the words aloud MYSELF! Strange? Maybe, but hey when you're an Ultima fan you do strange stuff.
The character interaction is subpar. I've found that the conversation systems are in sour need of an overhaul simply because I can ask a person their name in the initial conversation, and either ask them their name AGAIN three topics into the conversation or end the conversation and then talk to them again as if I had never met them before. These are mainly inconsequential characters which have little to nothing to do with the storyline, but it's a sad note to hear in such a marvelous symphony as Ultima: Ascension (the ninth installment in a grand series).
There are a LOT of glitches in this game. I don't understand why, but it seems that when the Origin team gets together for the development of an Ultima game they think about what kinds of bugs they can deliberatly throw into their software. I'm serious, there are a LOT of little glitches, snags, bugs, and just plain errors that need ironing out! These cannot be named simply because they are too plentiful, but after moments of playing you will spot at least a few of them, and by the time you've finished the game, you'll have spotted a thousand of them. While flaws in the level design are few and far between, don't expect not to get stuck in one area or another on some strange obstruction. Save OFTEN and if you become stuck, either reload, or play around and try everything to get free, sometimes you can pull yourself out of a snag by doing whatever crazy shit you can think of (casting spells, jumping, attack air, running and then reversing and then running...etc...)
The character creation, while groovy, is lacking simply because you can't name your character or pick your gender. True the game couldn't allow this due to the speech, but the voice acting sucks anyhow, I would have been happy with text alone!
Artificial Intelligence. There is none. Your enemies harken the days of Wolfenstein 3-D (even Doom enemies were smarter. they could find their way around obstacles). Your enemies are dumb as doornails and that way they stay until the end of the game where the Guardian, who is cool, is also simply a moron with a script. Nevermind the NPCs all throughout the realm. I saw a beggar asking a chicken for alms. No joke! I've never laughed so hard in my life, but there he was 'please sir! please...please!!!'
Finally there is the interactivity which is limited at best. Buggy and lacking, you can sometimes sit on chairs/lie down on beds, and some things that you'd expect to be able to do, you simply cannot! For instance, the ever famed turning grain into bread from U7 is not here. There is the ability to distill potions through alchemy sets, but nothing like UO.
And while on the subject of UO, the sound effects in U9, along with a good number of graphics were obviously lifted from UO to create U9's environment. I recognized many terrain textures, along with 'gump' (backpacks, chests, bags, menus, etc...) after 'gump' and the fonts as well! The sound effects that were taken from UO are horrid. Bassy or static-ridden, amateurish stuff!
All these gripes seriously detract from the magnificence that is Ultima: Ascension, thus reducing my love for the game.
The Bottom LineAll in all, Ultima: Ascension is a must have for the Ultima fan/Hardcore RPGer and more of a bargain-op for the RPG enthusiast. If you like Zelda, you'll love this bad boy!
Personally, I just bought this game and while the bugs are plentiful, I'm still enjoying the game. But then, I'm an extremist when it comes to games such as Ultima, and Zelda (I completed Zelda 64 with 96 gold skulltulas).
Overall, post-patch Ultima has good performance and a nicely reduced bug quotient but if you have no patience for a thousand niggles, avoid it. Love Ultima? Love Zelda? Buy it.