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Released at a time when noone was talking about 3D. This is one of the first 'real' 3D-RPGs - and a good one! The game itself is made up very much like Ultima, it's set in the same world and you can really talk to other characters and so on - this one's not just about fighting (though you need to do that too). You face different problems than in an 'ordinary' Ultima. You have to act and react in realtime. The story itself isn't very interesting in the beginning - you are thrown into the stygian abyss - a famous dungeon that you might know from the other games - because you are suspected having been involved in the kidnapping of a princess - your only chance to prove your innocence is to rescue her out of the depth of this dungeon. The guards will only open the gates of the dungeon when they hear her voice. Not very unique - but in the process of the game you discover many secrets of the stygian abyss - interesting things, unexpected things. You are really not alone down there - not only monsters, but also many friendly people are living in the stygian abyss.
This game really kept people talking when it came out - everyone was overwhelmed by the intense atmosphere. I remember playing this one for hours myself - although I usually don't even like 3D-stuff. A great classic that should be remembered by everyone!
A note about the docs: The walkthrough only contains some hints on mantras that have to be spoken and the manual is only a list of the runes. Sorry that it's not complete, but I thought it would be better than nothing.
Ultima Underworld was one of the first ever 3D first perspective games to be made, using a similar engine to Wolfenstein 3D or Doom except it was developed by and was made by Warren Spector of Looking Glass Technologies; Looking Glass was known as Blue Sky Productions then. It was based on the original Ultima series, and was set in between Ultima VI - VII in the Ultima universe.
The story for Ultima Underworld goes something like this - You are at home on Earth while asleep and you have some vivid dreams of a spectre trying to pull you into Britannia, your second home. The spectre tells you that his brother is unleashing great evils in the land, and that Britannia is in peril. You find yourself pulled to Britannia, and sleeping in a bed in a different place; the Barons castle upon the Isle of the Avatar; in Britannia. A mage appears and says something about his dead brother sending you here, we suspect this is the spectre who is the mages brother. Looking around, you peer out of the room window to see a large troll taking away a young girl in a sack, before you can intervene and stop it, a door opens from behind and the Barons guards take you to their Baron.
The Baron instantly accuses you of kidnapping his daughter, saying you helped the troll take her away, you then explain you are the Avatar. He doesn't fully believe you and tells you that he will prove you innocent if you go and find his daughter; Ariel, who was taken away by the troll to The Great Stygian Abyss - where you discovered the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom from one of you're previous journeys in Britannia.
The Barons captain - Corwin, then takes you to the entrance of the Great Stygian Abyss, and tells you that the door will not open until you find Arial, and will remain shut forever if you dont find her. This is where you're adventures in the Abyss start.
Ultima Underworld uses some high quality VGA-256 colour graphics in a full real-time 3D engine, with an adjustable detail level depending on the speed of the computer you are using the game on; but since the computers are beyond this games time, the detail level wont need to be changed, unless you are using it on a computer such as a 386 or 286. The game also has some nice movie sequences too, with speech for some of them included. Along with the graphics, there is some great music, which I think is quite excellent, the sound effects are okay, but not fantastic.
To finish this review, I think that Ultima Underworld is a fanstastic game, definitly one of the best ever first person perspective games with an RPG style to it. It looks and feels a lot like "The Elder Scrolls - The Arena
too, but with the exception that you cannot go into the outside world, the entire game is set in a huge dungeon. If you have tried this one and liked it then also try Ultima Underworld II, it has much enhancements done to the engine and just about everything basically.
Ultima Underworld starts at the point where you enter Britannia, summoned by a ghost of Garamon who was once a powerful wizard. He tells you that Britannia is once again in danger after which you see a girl being captured by a troll and Garamon's evil brother disappearing before your eyes. Later in the intro you find out that the girl is a daughter of Baron Almric and you appeared in her sleeping chamber. This makes you the guiltily person in baron's eyes and you are thrown into the Stygian Abyss with only one goal - to find baron's daughter and to prove you are innocent.
This is a dungeon-crawl game, although not a typical one for its genre. What makes it different from other games of it's time is the full 3D environment with the possibility to jump, look up and down and even fly with spells. Everything happens in real time and the monsters, people and spells are very nicely animated.
Before you can start playing the game, you need to create your player. There are many character-classes to choose from. Each one has different starting skills that you may choose from. Based on the class you choose, you will get different primary attributes. However, every time you create your player, these attributes are random to a certain point.
When the player is complete, you start off with nothing but a torch in your possession. You will have to find all the equipment such as weapons and armor along the way. Since possessions are scarce at the beginning, you often have to fight for items, as they are usually well guarded.
While traveling from upper floors to lower ones, you will have to accomplish various quests and side-quests. As you talk to the Abyss's inhabitants you will be discovering more and more of the game's story. Defeating enemies brings you experience points, and as you gain a level, you get small amount of "learn" points. You can spend these points at the Shrine of Virtue, which you will have to find first in order to raise your efficiency with some of the fighting skills. There are many skills in the game, but fortunately you get more points per level when reaching higher ones so you can raise some skills up to their highest point.
As the game's areas are relatively large, there is a mapping option which remembers all the places you visited so far. You can also attach your notes to any point on the map to serve as a reminder of what can be found on each location. The levels of the game contain many secret areas, and therefore it's necessary to map out the whole level before proceeding to the next one. This will require some patience at later levels as they will become more complex and larger the deeper you descend. It's worth it, though, as you never know where you'll find the items you will certainly require throughout the game.
The music in the game won't receive an award from me, but it's not bad either. The sounds, though, are nothing worth speaking of. Most of them are usual sounds of spells being cast or weapons hitting walls or enemies. :)
Controlling the game is not easy at beginning. You can get best results by commanding it with a mouse. Keyboard only offers some helpful keys and otherwise isn't a recommended control device for this game. However, once you get used to it, it's not that difficult at all.
After getting used to the game, you'll realize that it won't be easy quitting, since it becomes more and more engaging the deeper you descend. As you progress, you will find better weapons, armors, magical rings and other various items, but most importantly, you will become more proficient in fighting and casting spells. You will constantly be curious about what new items and monsters are waiting for you on the next level. This game won't let you leave that easily, and if you don't believe, just try it out! :)
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