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The final trilogy chronicled the rise of the Guardian, a new ultimate bad guy bent on the destruction of Britannia. Ultima VII was such a large and complex game that it was released in two parts (in 1992 and 1993) as well as two additional expansion pack storylines. It wowed players with an incredibly detailed and lifelike world and an open-ended storyline.
Unfortunately, the games were not to have a happy ending. Garriott’s company Origin System was sold to its former rival Electronic Arts in 1992, and some have blamed the tension between Origin’s team and Electronic Arts’ management for the decline in quality of the series’ final two games. Ultima VIII: Pagan was criticized both for radically changing the gameplay mechanics (such as the inclusion of jumping puzzles) and abandoning the virtue system of previous games. Ultima IX: Ascension tried to take the game into 3D, but the result contained a game world that was far less complex, as well as many bugs in the game’s original release.
In the end, Richard Garriott left Origin Systems, the company he created, over his creative differences with Electronic Arts. He is currently working on a new game, Tabula Rasa, scheduled to be released in the near future.
Apart from the central nine-game storyline, the world of Ultima was explored in numerous spin-offs and quasi sequels. Ultima Underworld was a 3D dungeon exploration game that revolutionized the use of 3D graphics in such games. The Worlds of Ultima series used the Ultima VI engine to tell stories in prehistoric times and on Mars, other Ultima games were specifically created for video game consoles and handheld systems such as the Nintendo Gameboy. Finally, Ultima Online was one of the first massively multi-player role playing games, in which thousands of players worldwide could play the game together.
Ultima Facts and Links
* A few years ago, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar was released for free on the internet (legally). The PC version can be downloaded from the Ultima Dragons (an Ultima fan collective). Click here for one such link.
* Ultima fans have been working on a number of remakes of Ultima games, some in 2D, others using 3D game engines. Here are links for remakes of Ultima IV and Ultima V.
* Ultima games have become sought after collector’s items on Ebay and other auction sites. While more common titles such as Ultima VI can be found for $20 online, rarer titles such as certain editions of Ultima I and II can fetch up to $500 at auctions. Auctions for Akalabeth, Garriott’s first game, can even run into the 1000s of dollars. Here are two links to online collector’s guides: http://www.ultimacollectors.info/ and http://www.notableultima.com/
* Want to know how it all ends? Here’s a video of the final gameplay sequence of Ultima IX. In the game’s original plot (which was not used), the final spell caused not only the destruction of the Avatar and the Guardian, but of all of Britannia (as can be seen in this sequence).
* Two other noteworthy videos: a fan-made look at Ultima games over the ages and an interview with Richard Garriott on the game’s creation.
* We always like to drop references to classic games in our own creations and have hidden two references to Ultima IV in Wonderland Adventures. Can you find them?