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Saturday, April 2, 2022

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

The first game to bear the Ultima name, and while it is a more technologically impressive game than Akalabeth, the gameplay remains essentially the same at its core - talk to a king, get a quest (usually to kill a monster or find a specific place in the world), then return for a reward. Some new elements make their way into the mix, though - the dungeons remain in a first-person perspective, but the game features an overworld map with four distinct worlds to navigate (some of which would be revisited in later Ultimas). Shops are now a prevalent part of the game too, with the player able to buy and sell equipment, food, HP and even vehicles to aid in their quest (and even resell older gear for a bit of extra cash). Things later take a turn for the downright surreal when one goes from a fairly average Tolkien-inspired fantasy world to something distinctly more science fiction - aircars, spaceships, laser guns and powered armor begin to appear in the later stages, as does a segment where one must shoot down twenty spaceships (resembling Star Wars' famous TIE Fighters) in order to complete a particular quest. The game is relatively simple at its core, but the lack of grinding compared to its followup games, as well as its uniquely strange atmosphere, make it hold up the best of the original Ultima trilogy.

Developer: Richard Garriott, Origin Systems
Publisher: California Pacific Computer Company, Origin, Sierra On-line, Electronic Arts, Pony Canyon, Fujitsu, Vietesse Inc.
Released: 1981
Platforms: Apple II, Atari 8-Bit, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, FM Towns, Apple IIGS