Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 5

The Ultima series provided the world with some truly groundbreaking games over the years and it is great to see the humble roots of such an excellent series. This EGA version has been given a new visual coat of paint compared to the monochromatic original, but still looks archaic compared to modern titles. However, the gameplay, although simplistic, can still entertain if you are able to look past the limitations. Whether you want to play it for nostalgic reasons or simply see what all the fuss was about, Ultima 1 should definitely be owned by all retro fans and RPG aficionados.

Gameplay: Truly great for its time, but obviously it is very simplistic by modern standards.

Graphics: Once again good for its time, but time hasn’t been too kind.

Sound: Nothing more than noise

Summary 7.0 Good
Gameplay 0
Graphics 0
Sound 0
Summary rating from user's marks. You can set own marks for this article - just click on stars above and press "Accept".
Accept
Summary 0.0 Terrible

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

Developer: Origin Systems | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Release Date: 1987 | Genre: RPG / Remake | Website: N/A | Purchase: GOG

All was well in the world of Sosaria until a evil wizard called Mondain showed up. Wasting no time he unleashed hordes of evil creatures upon the land to do his foul bidding and even went as far as making a pact with a race of evil space-faring aliens. The people of Sosaria now cower in their towns and castles, desperately awaiting the arrival of a hero to save the day.

It is into this troubled world that you must step as either a Human, Elf, Dwarf or Hobbit. You can play as a Fighter, Cleric, Wizard or Thief in your quest to travel through time and space in a desperate attempt to vanquish Mondain. The world of Sosaria is not your average medieval kingdom though. While fighting the usual Giant Bats, Carrion Creepers and Balrons you can also purchase vehicles to travel around with ranging from the humble horse and cart to more exotic fare like frigates and air-cars. Don’t expect to be fighting with swords and daggers for long either as you’ll soon find pistols and blasters.

Your quest in Ultima is simple. To kill Mondain you’ll have to travel back in time and stop him before he becomes so powerful. To find the time machine you’ll have to buy a shuttle, jet into space and kill twenty aliens to earn the ranking “space ace”. Then it’s back to Sosaria to rescue a princess and learn the time machines location. All that is left then is to kill four specific creatures for certain Kings to get the gems needed to power the time machine. Along the way you’ll fight for cash and experience, buy food, weapons and armor to survive and look for areas to increase your stats.

Although Ultima is a Role Playing Game with all the usual magic, stats and dungeons there is very little character interaction and apart from buying stuff in the towns you’ll spend most of your time in the dungeons raiding chests and hunting monsters. Although the map graphics consist of a overhead perspective the dungeons are all in First Person and consist of wire-framed graphics. Although everything (including monsters) consist of straight white lines, the effect works quite well and looks unique. This conversion by John Fachini improves on the original with more colorful EGA graphics. this means it’s better looking than most of it’s sequels and the best place to start if you are new to the series. The map is quite large with lots of towns, castles and dungeons, but there are little to distinguish them from each other once inside. You can save only on the overhead map making the dungeon tables more challenging as the creatures grow more powerful the deeper you venture.

Ultima also shows some originality with it’s space sequences as you travel from sector to sector keeping an eye on your fuel and shield levels while blasting aliens and perfecting your docking techniques. Most of this is also done in a top down view while you blast the aliens in first person mode by moving your cross-hair and targeting their H-shaped craft.

The game uses the PC Speaker to generate some sound effects ( or “noise” as the manual aptly calls it ) but these are so minimal you’ll barely notice it apart from a few beeps when you bump into something. Thankfully they haven’t even tried to create music. The entire game is keyboard driven and most of your commands are but simple key-press away. This means you’ll press the “A” key to attack, “B” to board, “C” to cast a spell and so forth. Combat and indeed movement are both turn based and time does not pass when you stand still. You consume food with every movement though, so it’s wise to stock up and always have a healthy supply when venturing into dungeons or exploring the map.

Ultima is a very easy game to get into and complete, but is also quite addictive. There are no real puzzles to solve and the fact that you can buy health points from the local castle also helps a lot. Money is also not hard to come by so you won’t find yourself having to spend hours fighting just to generate enough cash for the next weapon. The game does have it’s fair share of annoying moments though. Dungeon dwellers have a habit of materializing out of thin air behind you and some of the more powerful ones can hack away great chunks of your health while you waste time turning around. To make things worse, some are even invisible or disguised as treasure chests. The final battle with Mondain is also a bit of a letdown and anyone who bought enough health should have little trouble trashing him.

Although not particularly long or challenging Ultima is still very entertaining and worth playing even if only for completion sake. If this is your first Ultima though be warned that the other titles did not enjoy similar graphical overhauls and might appear a bit basic after this. Get it as long as you don’t mind playing a RPG which can be completed in under a day.

*Portions of this review originally published in 1997.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Processor
  • Memory: 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • Graphics: 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Hard Drive: 2GB HDD
  • OS: OS X 10.6.8 or later.
  • Processor: Intel Core Duo 2GHz+
  • Memory: 1GB of RAM
  • Graphics: 64MB of video memory

Related posts

MURI

MURI

If you remember the classic DOS era platformers such as Duke Nukem, Commander Keen and Bio Menace then you will love Muri. Everything from the visuals and sound right down to the frame rate is a homage to these early titles. It is rare to see a title embrace these kinds of limitations so faithfully and still manage to deliver an entertaining experience. Gameplay: Perfectly captures the run-and-gun platforming feel of a DOS era title. Graphics: 16-Color EGA at its best. Sound: Faithfully recreates the PC speaker sounds.

Trapped Dead: Lockdown

Trapped Dead: Lockdown

If you are not tired of killing zombies yet, Trapped Dead: Lockdown invites you to a small American town to get acquainted with the undead locals. The game features five different playable characters, hordes of zombies and buckets of blood, but because it is a linear experience it can also become rather repetitive. The game is still entertaining and features a lengthy campaign as well as multi-player with four players, but if you are not a fan of the genre this is unlikely to sway you. Gameplay: Enjoyable, but repetitive and there are a couple of minor annoyances. Graphics: The visuals are detailed and the locations varied. Sound: Decent voice acting, but the music and sound effects are largely forgettable.

Super Comboman

Super Comboman

Super Comboman contains some great ideas, but is let down by less than stellar gameplay. Games such as Guacamelee! and Aces Wild have already demonstrated how great titles in the platform brawling genre can be, but Super Comboman doesn't quite live up to expectations. The controls are the biggest source of frustration and the steep difficulty curve also feels more like a punishment than a challenge. Gameplay: Lots of potential, but let down by frustrating controls and a steep difficulty curve. Graphics: The sticker style visuals is an interesting and unique choice. Sound: Not bad, but a little repetitive.

Euclidean

Euclidean

Euclidean is a game of geometric horror that tries very hard to make use of Lovecraftian elements to inspire dread, but only manages frustration instead. Not only is it hard to see what is going on around you, but the controls are also sluggish to the point of feeling useless. Instant death is very common, forcing players to restart the level, but mercifully the levels are short and there are only nine of them. Unless you are a huge fan of Lovecraft, can handle frustration and can find this game on sale, it is not really recommended. Gameplay: Fall down very slowly while battling sluggish controls in order to avoid enemies. Graphics: Enemies are far from scary and the whole thing is just too dark and foggy for its own good. Sound: The ambient soundtrack is good, but the taunting voice can become repetitive.

Knee Deep

Knee Deep

One suicide, three investigators and a whole town of shady characters to question. That about sums up Knee Deep, but the focus on conversations, intriguing story and unique visual presentation definitely make it worth a second look. It is more of a visual novel than a typical point & click adventure, but will definitely hook anyone who loves a good story and memorable characters. Gameplay: The focus of the game is on the story and not puzzle solving, so expect plenty of conversations. Graphics: Character models look a little stiff, but overall the visual style works well. Sound: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is very good.

Princess Maker 2 Refine

Princess Maker 2 Refine

It has been quite a long wait, but Princess Maker 2 Refine is finally available to western audiences. There is no denying that it is a very niche title and still has a couple of rough edges to smooth out, but it is still a very addictive title with plenty of replay value. Prepare to lose at least a couple of hours when you get hooked on this game. Gameplay: Very stat heavy, but once you get the hang of how things work it becomes extremely addictive. Graphics: The visuals have been spruced up, but still look a little dated compared to more modern titles. Sound: Nice tunes and full Japanese voice overs.

Leave a comment

three × two =