Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The Ultima series of role playing games are America's favourite RPG's. Their eccentric designer, the self styled Lord British, has become fabulously wealthy on the proceeds of his games and has invested some of his cash in building a fabulous castle-style home complete with secret passages and its own observatory.
The attraction of the games rests in their complexity, attention to detail, and the variety of commands at the players finger tips. They offer you so much more than the average Search, Talk, and Move commands. The impressive achievement in the Sega version is that it has lost none of its RPG sophistication through the loss of a keyboard. If anything the keypad makes the game quicker and easier to use.
The Quest of the Avatar sets the adventurer the mystical task of searching the land for, in the words of Lord British, "a new standard, a new vision of life" and guidance from the "Age of Darkness into the Age of Light".
There are "Eight Virtues of the Avatar" and the adventurer must become well schooled in all of them to attain the true enlightened state of the Avatar.
The path of enlightenment lies in conversation as well as exploration. The traveller must talk to all people in all the towns, villages, and Hamlets in the land of Brittania. He who finds the Avatar will become truly enlightened.
The early history of Brittania is provided in the excellent manual that accompanies the game. This is essential reading if you want to experience the rich characterisation of the char acters and also to learn the history of the land as played out in Ultima I, II, and III. You do not need to know this to play the game. Ultima IV is the first of the series to appear on Sega and stands alone in its own right. You will get more out of it if you do read it though, especially if you have not played an RPG game before.
The land of Brittania is viewed from above with the terrain scrolling in four directions in a window to the left of the screen. The window on the right opens up to enable you to select the actions you want to implement. These are many and varied, and divide into various subheadings depending on which main heading you select. Spell, for example, leads into a list of ingredients that you will need to make the spell that you wish to cast it. Full instructions on casting spells and other magic is provided in the manual.
As with all RPG games, the 'Status' panel needs to be visited regularly to check your health and strength, find out what you are carrying, and see if your weaponry is sufficient to enter into combat with a certain enemy.
There is so much depth to Ultima IV that it is difficult to get all of it across in short review. If you have never had the inclination to try one, then there has never been a better incentive. There are a lot of games in this style for consoles, particularly in Japan. The Ultima series are the originals and the best. This is good enough to last you right through the Summer holidays and into the Winter as well, by which time, hopefully, Lord British's minions will have finished work on Ultima V.
£39.95ct OUT NOW
Good RPG's always score highly in the longevity stakes and this Sega version of the excellent Ultima game is no exception. There are so many commands for you to master, territories for you to explore, spells to cast, people to talk to, creatures to fight, and mysteries to solve that it has the potential to keep you hooked for months. Many Ultima players find it doem't last quite that long. But this is generally because they find it so gripping that they play it virtually around the clock until they have solved it. Enough said.