http://ultima1.ultimacodex.com/files/2012/05/ultima-1-title-screen.jpg
Will_Ball gives this a solid "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.
Will_Ball gives this a "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.
I have toyed with the idea of sitting down with the Ultima games for some time now. I finally took the plunge with Ultima I.

Ultima I is a role playing game that was released in 1981 for the Apple ][. In 1987 Origin ported it over to the PC and DOS. This version came with enhanced graphics, more town and city variations, monsters traveling on the map, and some money enhancements. It is the 1987 version that I ended up playing.

You play the hero, who is given the quest of destroying Mondain, an evil wizard that has released monsters on Sosaria. This hero is customized at the beginning of the game. First you have to choose a race. The races consist of Human, Elf, Dwarf and Bobbit (think Hobbit). From here you pick a profession. You can choose from Fighter, Cleric, Wizard and Thief. After you choose your race and profession, you can upgrade some of your stats before venturing off into Sosaria. For this game, I ended up playing a Dwarf Fighter.

Once you enter Sosaria, you are presented with an overhead map that you can explore. The map is fairly big and easy to get lost in. I had to track down some maps to help me get around (and I still got lost from time to time). The main points of the map are castles, cities, towns, sign posts and dungeons. There is also the occasional monster traveling around that you can either ignore or fight.

When you go into a castle or town you are presented with a different overhead view. The design of the castles and town are very basic. Each castle has a king, a princess in a cell, a jester and some guards. Each town has a tavern, food shop, weapon shop, armor shop, transport shop and magic shop.

Overall there is not much to do in towns/castles. The castles provide you with some basic find/kill quests by the kings, while the towns are where you can get some hints/information and some of the items you need to beat the game.

When you go into a dungeon the perspective changes to a first person view. There is a wireframe feeling to this view. Each dungeon is a nine-by-nine grid. From what I read, they are randomly generated based on your character name. Every dungeon has multiple floors to explore. Given the number of floors, and how similar everything looks, you need to map these out as you go. I broke out some graph paper to help me through the dungeons, which in turn helped me navigate them fairly easily. The one negative thing about the dungeons, is you truly only need to go into one. Outside of layout and names, all dungeons are the same.

The overall gameplay has you killing monsters, leveling up your character, getting gold, buying food, weapons, etc. In the end it is pretty much a grind, until you beat some quests and are able to go fight Mondain.

Warning, I am getting into spoilers below. If you want to skip them, scroll down until you see "END SPOILERS".

SPOILERS

For the majority of the game, you go get quests from each king. You truly only need to complete the four monster killing missions, but you can complete the finding sign posts missions for some extra stats. After completing each "kill" mission, you are presented with a different color gem. Each "kill" mission has you killing a monster found in a dungeon on a certain floor.

When you go into a dungeon the first two floors are the easiest. These floors are a good way to grind for gold and experience. When you get enough experience, you level up, which unlocks various items in the stores.

There are two main resources that you are going to need to manage in this game: Health and Food. Health does not increase as your character levels up, rather it increases when you leave a dungeon (based on the monsters you killed) or if you buy it from a king. Food decreases each step you take (less so in dungeons and when you get different forms of transportation). If you run out of either health of food you die, loose all items and are resurrected with 99 health and food.

Your main goal at the start is just to increase your health, food and gold. Once you get some gold, you can get some armor, a better weapon and some type of transportation.

After you get some form of transportation that can go over water, you can really start exploring the map. You can pretty much ignore all dungeons and towns, you just want to focus on castles and sign posts. Sign posts not only complete some of the quests that you are sent on but can also up your character's stats. The nice thing about sign posts is that you can keep going back to them to up your stats. This in turn can make your character pretty powerful fairly quickly.

In order to figure out what to do to defeat Mondain, you need to buy ale at the tavern and talk to the bartender. On occasion, the bartender will drop a little nugget of information that will tell you what to do in the game.

In order to defeat Mondain, you must first get all four gems. Once you get all four gems, you need to gather up some gold, buy a reflect suit (armor) and buy a space shuttle. Once you get a space shuttle you can travel into space.

Once in space you change over from managing health and food to managing shields and fuel (which is pretty much the same thing, now that I think about it). Your first stop is a space station where you should transfer to another spaceship with better shields and fuel. You have a choice of a ship that is heavier on shields or a ship that is heavier on fuel. The goal of the space portion is to destroy twenty fighters and get "Ace" status. To destroy fighters you have to hyperspace into different areas of the space map. From there you chase around fighters in first person view and try to shoot them down. This game mechanic was a little annoying in the fact that you are always fighting to get your target over the fighter. It seemed more of a game of chance then skill.

When you have acquired your "Ace" status, it is time to return to Sosaria. When you return, it is time to rescue a princess. Each castle has a princess in a cell, and the jester in the castle holds a key. This was my other annoyance of the game. The jester holds a key to one of the two cells, but you will not always get the princess key. To get a key from a jester, you must kill the character, which in turn causes the guards to come after you. The guards (outside of Mondain) are some of the toughest monsters, so if you get the wrong key, you have to fight some guards, get to the cell, find out it is the wrong key and then leave the castle and start over again. These guard battles can be a real drain on your health. This mechanic had me restarting the game a few times just so I would not loose so much health.

After you save a princess, she will tell you that you are ready for the time machine. You have to go find the time machine in the map and then travel back in time. At this point you are put in an overhead map with Mondain. You must destroy Mondain and destroy the evil gem that is giving him power. Once you do that, you are given a nice little "afterwards" story to close out the game.

END SPOILERS

Overall I had fun with this game. It is not too long (it took me a little less than 10 hours to beat). It was something that I didn't have to think much about and could sit down and play in somewhat short sessions and make progress. All that being said, I would probably only recommend this game to people that want to play through all the Ultima games.

Next up: Ultima II.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/28/2018 at 04:11am

Looks like there is an original Ultima pack on GOG of the first three. Is this what you played?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/28/2018 at 04:12am

Love the graphics of the game. Because it started on the Apple II the graphics remind me a bit of Oregon Trail.

Will_Ball   Game Mod   Member   Post Author wrote on 02/28/2018 at 05:41am

That is exactly what I played.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 03/01/2018 at 04:12am

Cool. Euclid bless GOG and the great work they do to bring this stuff back.

Will_Ball   Game Mod   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/01/2018 at 04:36am

I already have all the games on CD somewhere, that I got with Ultima 9. But I was able to get Ultima 1 - 9 on GOG for a total of $8 the other day, so I went with the lazy method. :)

jdodson   Admin wrote on 03/01/2018 at 05:17am

Sounds like a good way to play it. Funny thing is installing games on CD is SLOWER than downloading it now with faster internet.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/02/2018 at 03:59am

I am definitely jealous Jon.

A 52x CD-ROM drive transfers at 7.8 MegaBYTES per second, which translates to 62.4 megaBITS per second. My recently upgraded 25 megabit internet and I could install a game (at optimal speed) two and a half times faster from disc than I could download it.

If it's from a DVD, and you have a 16x DVD ROM, that cuts the disc read time roughly in half, so (again at optimal speeds) you'd need around 120megabit internet to match it.

Now, 60ishMb and 120Mb internet is definitely available here, I just don't want to pay the insane prices Shentel wants.

*Shakes fist at markets with competition and cheap internet*

jdodson   Admin wrote on 03/02/2018 at 04:31am

So I don't have anything that fast at all.

That said.

If you have a game on DVD and a game on Steam try installing them both sometime and see which is faster. To my eye, the Steam game is a faster install for a couple reasons. Firstly the raw install speed on a DVD doesn't always translate to actually being that fast IRL. I think a couple things contribute to it, but one is that for certain games they were encrypted on the disc and need to be decrypted on install. Half-life 2 comes to mind that does that, that install is CRAZY SLOW. If the game spans multiple CD's the spin up, down effects things too. I also think at times there is an unpack that games need to do to uncompress the assets. That can take ALONG TIME.

Steam, to my understanding, simply installs the flat files and then any kind of runtime the game needs. No uncompression, DRM is usually an auth server thing so the install is actually quicker than from media. This is all from eyeball tests, I haven't run anything conclusive.

Travis   Admin wrote on 03/02/2018 at 02:06pm

There are some games that are stupid slow from disc. I bought DOOM 2016 on disc just to have something on my shelf and I’m pretty sure I would have been better off just downloading all of it instead of using the portion from the disc.

Will_Ball   Game Mod   Member   Post Author wrote on 03/02/2018 at 04:52pm

I have 120 Mbps download speeds. So it is stupid fast for me.

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