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Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (PC) artwork

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (PC) review


"Man's quest for enlightenment and knowledge has lead him to explore the farthest reaches of the known universe. Now one man, and his companions, will venture forth to seek the knowledge that has eluded the people of Britania for so long: The Codex of Ultimate wisdom."



Man's quest for enlightenment and knowledge has lead him to explore the farthest reaches of the known universe. Now one man, and his companions, will venture forth to seek the knowledge that has eluded the people of Britania for so long: The Codex of Ultimate wisdom. Never before and few since have there been games that led the player on such a journey. Created by Richard Garriott and Origin Systems Ultima 4 takes us to a world where the quest for knowledge is paramount. Can you uphold the virtues, find the true path to enlightenment and set an example for others?

At the opening of the game you meet an old Gypsy who questions your commitment to one of the eight virtues. These questions determine which class your avatar will represent as well as your starting location in the world of Britania. From there, you will be searching for the meaning of the eight virtues, their mantras, the shrines and companions to join you on your quest. According to different interviews with Richard Garriott the virtues in Ultima 4 were partially inspired by the 16 ways of purification which lead to Avatarhood in Hinduism. Of course he trimmed this to the eight virtues that appear in the game.

To become a partial Avatar you will need to adhere to certain aspects of each virtue that can be learned by speaking with the people in the different towns. Although appearing simple and only needing one word questions, the conversation system is quite deep with each person in each town having different jobs and various things to talk about. It is from these people you will learn of the mantras and the shrine locations. From them you will also learn how the eight virtues are combined.

Just how does one go about becoming a partial Avatar? Some virtues are more complex than others. Justice, for example, requires you in part to be non-hostile toward non-evil creatures. This can be a difficult task when those non-evil creatures are trying to kill you. On the other hand obtaining partial avatarhood in Compassion might only ask that you “Give” to beggars whenever you can. You’ll note here that “Give” is one of the single-word words that can be typed into the conversation window. And yes you actually need to know how to spell because you type your commands to the game with the keyboard. I can’t tell you how many times I misspelled Compasion Compassion.

Britinia being the large world that it is requires lots of traveling. We could walk everywhere but that would be boring and why walk when you could fly up, up and away on your balloon or maybe sail around the world in your very own ship. Of course you could get yourself a horse but Moongates will probably be your most used mode of transportation. Moongates appear at different phases of the moons and each of those different phases will transport you to a different location in the world.

When you are not using the Moongates to travel around you will run into hostiles. At first, combat can be a tedious affair because normally you will start on one side of the battlefield and the enemy will be on the opposite side. Until you get magic bows or wands you will need to walk across the battlefield to fight. In my younger days the time it took to fight some of these battles (and even going through rooms in the dungeons) did not matter too much but with our lives getting busier these days finding the time to get through a dungeon could be difficult. But I would not let that put you off picking up the game because the story in Ultima 4 is one of the best I have ever played.

99% of the RPGs out there require you to kill the “big-bad-evil-guy” and save your world but as I mentioned earlier Ultima 4 is totally different. You do not save the world from certain destruction, rather you save yourself and the people of Britania from falling prey to the darker sides of humanity; deceit, despise and covetous just to name a few.

The graphics could be a drawback for some but you can find enhancements on the internet (for the PC version) that will make those dated colors look much better, but this is not a game for looking at this is a game for thinking and philosophizing over. It reminds me of South Park - get past those 2D cut-outs and listen to what is being said.

While a 7/10 might seem like a pretty low score for such an innovative game rest assured that score belies its true beauty. If this were 1985 (the date the game was released) it would score a 10/10 but 2011 the graphics are dated and the sounds in the game are minimal at best. This game is an original classic and is worth playing just to get a taste of something that might never happen again - a game with thought provoking meaning and a story worth paying attention to.

If you can’t live a virtuous life in reality you can always live a virtuous life in Ultima 4.

Rating: 7/10

CoarseDragon's avatar
Community review by CoarseDragon (December 30, 2009)

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Questron (Commodore 64) artwork
Questron (Commodore 64)

Those of you who have played Ultima 1 will notice the similarity between Questron and that game because Strategic Simulation Inc. (SSI) secured a license from Richard Garriott which SSI then used in structuring the game world.

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