Playing Ultima IX Ascension – Day 1

Preface

I am a hardcore Ultima player; I have played and won almost all of the games, but there’s one I never got around to play: The dreaded Ultima IX. Hated by legions, said to be the most-evilest-thing ever to be created by mankind, I saw and laughed at spoony’s review, but in my opinion you have to witness with your own eyes what a game is before giving your opinion about it.

The only “real” 3D RPG I have played is Dungeon Siege back on the early 00’s (That is if you don’t count Ultima Underworld 1/2 for being pseudo 3D), and I only played briefly (I think I had a demo or something), so this may double as my first experience with “modern” RPGs.

Yesterday I checked my gog.com account and found it there, so I decided it was time to give it a shot.

Now, there are some things I had clear on my mind before starting playing the game:

  • Even though this is a 3D game, for me the representation of the world is still meant to be fairly abstract, not really too far from what it is on its 2D predecessors (specially Ultima 6 and 7, which were the ones to transition into a single-scale world). As such I don’t expect the game to fully recreate visually and in scale what Britannia as a world is to me.
  • I am going to ignore all the newbie bootstrapping features that were clearly included in the game to make it accessible to mainstream newcomers who had never played the series. This includes some dialog options that clearly made no sense from the viewpoint of the historical avatar.
  • This includes the blatant change on the connection between U8 and U9. So I patched that on my mind, and the introduction actually takes place before Ultima IV, then everything goes fast-forward until you get teleported by the Guardian at the end of U8.

In general, I would approach the game in a positive way, fortunately it’s been some time since I watched the reviews so it should be pretty fresh to me.

So I fired my noisy windowzer box (which I only use when I have to run MSSQLServer or work on Flash games), downloaded the game from gog.com and had it run.

Day 1 – Earth, Lord British Castle and Britain

After watching a short intro showing the rising of the columns and the dead of a poor commoner, I am shot into the Avatar’s house at earth in a kind of in game tutorial which I found much needed since the movement system may seem weird at first, but I got accustomed quite quickly. Trained in the yard behind the house and then shot some wolves and bandits in the park; this one’s clearly intended to be a tutorial area that’s why it makes sense for the seemingly out of place enemies to show up. I also swam with the swans and explored a spider cave which gave me good memories of me exploring the caverns on Savage Empire.

This area activated most of the important game elements including a journal were everything gets written and you can access a nifty lot of information, as well as the backpack and the compass.

Then I proceeded to talk with the gipsy… I went for a fighter since I felt that’s what I’d enjoy most of this game, that was pretty straightforward.

I appeared on some mountain where I was attacked by a Wyrmguard and I saw Blackthorn talking with the guardian. Apparently someone saved me and put me on a place out of their reach.

I was sent into a cozy room with some equipment and books where training continued, specially on how to use the linear spells for puzzle solving. Once I got out of the tower it was beautiful: The statues for the shadowlords were cool! I couldn’t help look up the tower and see how it streched into the sky. Awesome.

I whacked the wyrmguard and appeared on Lord British castle. Explored around talking with people and the Gargoyle, got some info about how the gargoyles now look at humans as lesser beings and isolated themselves under a water dome.

Then I talked with Lord British who briefed me on the situation; in a pretty similar to Ultima 6 way he’s basically staying at his castle not doing much while Britannia crumbles around him. Fortunately I am here to help.

I accidentally slept on my quarters, for when I left the castle it was night already as I explored Britain.

I was startled by the Britannian night: Trammel and Felucca in all its splendor, the quiet night at Britannia, it was a great ambiance, albeit it would have been nicer if all townspeople were sleeping instead of just living their life in the dark. I jumped into a river and had some trouble trying to go back to the ground but after a short while I could get out of it.

I explored the museum and found out a lot of awesome renditions of critical items from the series; the displays are clearly magic renditions (holograms?) of the items, and you can toggle the displayed artifact on each one. There’s also the magic tapestry which describes the adventures of the avatar and predicts his end.

I also talked with the major which has a new policy of sending the poor into Paws so that Britain economy may thrive and they can send them food and medicine. The temple of love was also pretty cool, and hinted about a pirate woman (some thug in the docks also talked about her), so I guess she’s an important piece on the plot.

Britain is awesome, I love how everything looks, definitively projects the same feeling I had on Ultima 5 while traversing the Britannys and Britain, may be it being night has helped.

Lord British told me to go to a dungeon to the Northeast I think, but I want to go to paws to see how’s the poor people doing.

One thing I hadn’t liked much so far are the portraits/paintings in the game, there seems to be too little of them and they look like pretty generic middle ages / renaissance stuff, plus some renderings of Lord British all around.

So far I haven’t hit any game crashing bugs in the game.

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