Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

2011-04-11 23:00:49

Today we're going to go way back, back to a simpler time. Back when games weren't about graphics or sound effects, when fun wasn't measured by story or achievements. A Purer time, when fun was just playing a game for games sake. Ultima I, the first in a many part review I intend to do on a Majority of the series was the first to bear the Ultima name but was not the first in the series. for that game we'd have to go back even further to a game called Alkalabeth: World of Doom. which was the first in the series to feature the 3d drawn dungeons using wireframe enemy sprites. in the original game you only had to slay 10 increasingly tough monsters for the king to win. The Ultima Series games were far bettery storywise than this, though at the same time a testament to the batshit insanity of your average group of D&D Nerds.

The games designer Richard Garriott(known as Lord British by his D&D nerd brethren since high school) basically took to converting his D&D sessions into playable games for people to enjoy, and based on the missions you achieve in these games the tabletop sessions must've been quite the spectacle of powerlevelling and mixed genres. In this first edition of the series, your ultimate quest is to stop an evil wizard known as Mondain from creating a crystal that grants him immortality which he intends to use to conquer the world. In order to do this however you have to go back in time to prevent him from creating the crystal in the first place. The kings won't just hand over the 4 crystal keys to the time machine until you do side quests for them. Even once you've gotten the keys you need to discover the time machine which you can only do by rescuing a princess from one of the kings castles, and even then she will only tell you the location if you are a space ace.

That's right. a Space Ace. This isn't your average D&D game, nor is it even Final Fantasy with its air ships, nope, this is a world where you fight on land using plate mail and mace, but after a time you can afford to buy a space shuttle, fly into space, dock at a space station, take off in a fighter ship and kill tie fighters to attain a mythical space ace title.

Not only that but you can also buy an air car that is equipped with lasers, and if you use the altars around the world you can eventually come across phazors and blaster rifles to take out your land based aggressors. Become a space ace, save a princess and finally you get in your time machine and go back to kill mondain, who you approach a little too late as he just finishes the gem, but early enough that you can blast him to dust, and while he is reincorporating smash the gem and save the day.

For an old game the story is pretty good considering when it was first made the game came on low density 5 1/4" floppies. the graphics aren't too appealing but you can at least understand what you are looking at which was a plus for that era. Sound effects are beeps and boops which were probably PC speaker compatible at the time, but the 3d dungeons and navigating them were a big thing back then, and no built in mapping software meant you would be a fool not to jot down the map in your notebook you kept beside you as you played. 

This game was suprisingly fun and kept me hooked throughout its gameplay, it wasn't a long game but I did end up dying a lot and having to load quite a bit. Games were often unforgiving back in those days, but in it there was a certain strength, a certain feeling of satisfaction from finally overcoming the odds.

For an old game to hold its own while played in this day in age and be compelling enough to keep me playing for a couple days. I give this old school game a 6/10 worth playing if you can get your hands on it, and truly a timeless masterpiece. Only complaints I have with the game is the spawning of enemies. often times you will have cleared a hallway, turned around, walked 2 steps the opposite direction and have a giant beast at your back attacking you out of nowhere. a small amount of realistic spawning would do wonders here, at least in the difficulty balance. Most of the game even when I had 5000 hitpoints I did not feel confident enough to descend past the 4th layer of a dungeon without spells to warp me down and up.