Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Quest of the Avatar
One of the best loved fantasy role playing games of all time has finally made its way onto the Sega. So don your chainmail and hack into Ultima IV...
Many years ago (ten actually) in a land very far away (America to be exact) a great adventure was born. T'was Lord British who wrote it, and for generations after his name was spoken in hushed tones. Yes indeed, verily, let it be known that Ultima has been around (and haven’t we all?), and on more computers than you can shake a sword at, than any other computer adventure game. Ultima was the first with graphics, the first with sound, and even the first with little stickmen that walk around a map made out of lego. Seriously, this is a version of the popular roleplaying adventure first seen many moons ago on the aged Apple II and PC computers, and it’s an ambitious and daring game which could either be really totally brilliant or complete and utter wibble.
The game basically has you playing the role of an adventurer, roaming the land of Britannia in search of fame. Oh, and a bit of loose fortune as well, if there’s any going. Throughout your adventure you will meet a lot of interesting people from all walks of life, and sort of kill them.
Lord British tells you at the beginning when you ask him for help: "To survive in this hostile land thou must first know thyself! Seek ye to master thy weapons and thy magical ability. Take great care in these thy first travels in Britannia. Until thou dost know thyself, travel not far from the safety of the townes!" Lord British always ends a sentence with an exclamation mark. He’s a king-type person so he can shout as much as he likes. He also tells you that "The Ankh is the symbol of the one who strives for virtue. Keep it with you at all times for by this mark you will be known." So off you go, grabbing the Ankh on your way past, off into the woods to do battle with countless slime dribbling weirdos from the times of yore. (The what?)
Brittania Fair, home of the mysterious fortune teller who holds your fate.
Cross my palm with silver, deary. What? You haven't got change of a tenner? Oh never mind, that'll do. (CHING!)
Lord British tells you what he really thinks about architecture...
...and then it's down to your old chum the armourer to get clad.
The fortune teller gives your character his attributes for the game.
The map of Central Brittania gives you an idea where you start the game.
Oooh! It’s awfully dark and gloomy in here... good job I brought my trusty torch. Hello, what's that slimy slurping noise? (Argh!)
But this is no shoot'em up, as you have to really prepare yourself for the adventure. In the beginning you have no armour, and just a slingshot as a weapon. You have to fight creatures and people along the way, and if you beat them you are awarded a chest, in which you will find gold or other items. With the gold you can buy items to make magic, heftier armour, more dangerous weapons and other items to help you in your quest. While roaming about outside you have to watch your step, as sometimes you meet a beast who can kill you. You can guard against losing all your possessions if you save your position in the game, as this is one of those splendid battery backed games! And anyway, if you come up against something that looks a bit heavy duty, you do have the option to run off. Inside towns you're usually pretty safe, but there the problem is finding the right person to talk to who will give you a clue. This can be hard as some entrances are concealed and blend into the walls, but persistence usually does the trick. It's best to try all the walls and see which ones give. Also along the way you gradually build up a party of like-minded folks who wish to join you on your quest. They all have powers which may be of use to you, and they can help you carry your treasure (for a small consideration). So although Ultima is basically a one player game, with one person controlling all the members of the party, you can draft in some chums to take on the roles of other characters in the game.
The game comes with an absolute wad of books and maps, so you can't complain that you aren't well briefed. In fact in the intro sequence asks you to stop and read the history of Britannia before you begin, so there's no excuse. There's a lot of essential information in the docs, so don't be put off. It's actually quite an entertaining read, and it all adds to the atmosphere of the game. You need to know which spells do what, and what you need to mix and cast them. It's all good fun, and adds an extra dimension to the game. You can of course choose to be more of a fighter and just go around pelting people with stones and lopping their heads off, but the choice is yours. This is one thing that makes Ultima brilliant, and that's the flexible way you can play it. Be whoever you like, with whatever name you like, and with any powers you like. It's endless!
There are many weapons to be found in the land of Britannia, some can be bought anywhere, and some can only be found on the bodies of your enemies, once slain. Search the land for new weapons to ease thy quest, and pick and choose from this thaumaturgical (that's magic, to you) selection afore ye go...
Although this is a well old game, it really doesn't show its age. It's as fresh as a spring cucumber, (but not as green) and although troublesome to get into at first, has a wicked long term appeal. This is real roleplaying country, and if you are prepared to delve into Ultima's many layers, you'll be richly rewarded. As well as that, it's a neice game to play as a group, with one person controlling the game and the others backseat driving and arguing over who gets the most treasure.
▲ Small but very cute graphics throughout, giving you a wide area of play
▲ Different scales for inside cities/buildings lets you know what's going on
▼ If your mother was this small you wouldn't recognise her
▲ There are tunes for every phase of the game, and are all these good if repetitive
▼ Annoying blip blip blip noise for your hero's footsteps
▲ This game is so deep it's virtually bottomless
▲ A load of different characters interact with, and so many things to do it's hard to know what to try first
▼ Perhaps a little bit too omplex for first time gamers
▲ This is so addictive there ought to be a law against it (but they can't touch you for it)
▲ There's a real lot to get into, which keeps you going for months
If you like a game with a bit of depth and strategy then this is the kiddy. If you like your games to be a bit more immediate, then beat a path round it. Although not as visually stunning as Phantasy Star it's a good meaty game.