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Title: Original Ultima 4 review
Posted: April 13, 2011 (12:11 PM)
Review by CoarseDragon
December 30, 2009

Review by CoarseDragon
This is a review of the PC version.

Doest thou seek ultimate knowledge? Then Avatar thee must learn of and follow the eight virtues of Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility. Go now and gather unto thyself seven companions, brave the deep dungeons, and find the knowledge you seek.

And there in essence is the premise of a game unlike any other that had come before it.

Starting off alone you as the Avatar must seek out and understand these eight virtues by venturing into the dungeons of the opposite virtue. The opposite of Honesty would be Deceit. By traveling to the depths of the dungeon of Deceit you find the Stone to activate the Shrine of Honesty then chanting the Mantra you would attain an understanding of the virtue of Honesty. Once you have meditated at all the shrines and have become enlightened you and your party members can travel to the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. In order to discover the mantra and shrine locations you actually get to converse with people in the different towns. Asking single word questions you are able to glean information related to the different quests in the game.

Britian is large both above and below the ground but thankfully we are provided with ways to travel the world a bit more easily. You could capture a ship from Pirates or you could use the Moongates to travel to different cities. You could also create spells to help you travel.

Spells are created by combining reagents such as Sulfurous Ash, Ginseng, Garlic or Black Pearl. If, for example, you were to combine a Black Pearl with Sulfurous Ash you would create a Fireball spell for use in combat. Combining 99 reagents allows you to create more spell uses (up to 99) not a more powerful spell. Reagents however were not easily found and some towns had only a tiny selection of reagents to purchase.

In addition to the unique story line creating your Avatar was an adventure unto itself. You are asked a series of questions related to each of the eight virtues and based upon how you answer or resolve each question. You could end up playing as a Paladin (Honor), Ranger (Spirituality) or a Shepherd (good luck with that one). Then as you travel the world you pick up companions that also represent one of the eight virtues.

Battles are a rather simple straight forward affair and interestingly for an early game you see your opponents on the screen before the battle. Generally enemies are on one side of the battle field and you and your companions are on the other. You then advance toward each other in a turn based fashion or use missile weapons or magic until one side has been defeated, hopefully the enemy. After battles you might get lucky and find treasure!

Battles in the dungeons are handled a bit differently in that most battles occur in “rooms”. Very often in the rooms you would find several treasure chests and a number of monsters. Just remember to bring your torches and lockpicks when dungeon delving.

Personally I rate this game very high but considering the very basic graphics and minimal sound effects the game really does not rate all that high in those areas according to today’s standards. However, if you just look past it’s age and give yourself a chance to understand what Origin Systems and Richard Garriott were trying to say here you will find yourself immersed in one the most unique games ever made.

Oh, and remember not to steal from Lord British or thou will lose an eighth!
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