As we proceed onward with our Ultima series retrospective we find ourselves for the first time outside of the main series proper as we look at spin-off title Ultima Underworld.
Deviating from the standard structure of the games up to that point, Ultima Underworld was an entirely different beast to that of its siblings, while at the same time being something of a throwback to the older titles in the series.
The game, full title Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, sees the Avatar protagonist return to the world of Britannia, summoned by the ghost of a wizard who claims his brother is enacting a plot which will see the world end. You know, the usual. The Avatar returns at the moment a baron’s daughter is kidnapped and he gets framed for the crime. The baron, who doesn’t recognise the Avatar (the most famous and iconic person in the world of Britannia mind, but suspend that disbelief!) and tasks him with retrieving the girl from where she has been taken; the eponymous Stygian Abyss.
What follows can best be described as a dungeon survival simulation, where the player is tasked with not only surviving, but also conquering, the vast Stygian Abyss, rescuing the damsel and foiling the end of the world into the bargain. As you do…
The game itself is most noteworthy for being set entirely in the first person perspective. While not the first game to do so, Ultima Underworld really broke new ground with its approach. Developed by Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Studios) and published by Origin Systems, the game was released in 1992 and was, quite simply a game changer. Pretty much every aspect of the game was cutting edge, from the ability to explore three dimensional environments more or less at will to simply being able to look up and down.