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Default Ultima 4 - Quest of the Avatar - Themes @ Dungeon-Games

September 12th, 2008, 02:38
I haven't come across this angle before. Daniel McNeese writes in his dungeon-games.com blog about the way the Ultima series loses sight of the thematic message set up in Ultima IV. Here's the issue:
The moral code in question - the “code of the avatar” - is, admittedly, easy to find flaws in. Not everything it purports to be a virtue really turns out to be under rational scrutiny, and there’s no proper integration of said virtues (such as, what do you do when two or more virtues appear to be in conflict). But still, it was the first game to really try and incorporate a sophisticated moral system and have it actually matter. And arguably, not only was it the first but it is still the best even nearly two-and-a-half decades later; the single-axis good/evil systems (or two-axis good/evil-plus-law/chaos systems) we see everywhere today are primitive by comparison. For this alone, Ultima 4 deserves a lot of respect; taken by itself, its message seemed to be “character matters, and trying to become a better person is worth it.”
Sadly, when you look at the Ultima series as a whole, the message seems to change to ”don’t bother trying, you’ll only make things worse.” After Ultima 1, pretty much every game - with the arguable exception of the sixth - involves you either cleaning up some mess left over from your previous adventures or creating a future mess. With Ultima 4 arguably being the worst screw-up of all.
The Rampant Coyote also picks up this message with his own blog post on the subject of gaming themes and consistency.
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September 12th, 2008, 02:38
Lord British has said that with each Ultima, he tried to explore a theme involving the real world struggles of morality. i can't find the interview, but I think that it went something like this. It went something like this:

VI: The struggle to be moral in an immoral world
V: The flaws of trying to legislate morality, and that grey areas not only exist but are necessary
VI: The problem of misconceptions and prejudice, essentially the need for social tolerance
VII: His rant against organized religion, especially Scientology
VII: Part Two: The problem of a society that becomes too weak from social rifts, allowing evil to inflict itself
VIII: Hold true to your virtues as best you can, but work within the system as you must to accomplish what is right. You can't always change people and make them see the 'light.'
IX: Supposed to be some grand ending good vs evil final battle, but turned into Tomb Raider.

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September 12th, 2008, 07:18
The moral subtext of IX was intended to be that "you can't keep fixing their problems forever and eventually they have to learn to deal with their problems on their own."

Give a man a fish versus teaching him to fish, I suppose. :-)

The subtext is there in Ultima IX, though it doesn't come across as strongly as intended throughout pretty much the entire game.
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September 12th, 2008, 22:36
Entertaining read. But what if the avatar never intervened with Mondain from the start. What if there was never an avatar… things could have been much worse for Brittania… no way we'll ever know.

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September 12th, 2008, 22:45
Maybe Lord British will all his invincibility and such should have got off his noble ass and handled up on things instead of hoping some dude from back home would come up and fix it for him!

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September 13th, 2008, 08:16
Lord British worked hard for Sosaria before the Stranger ever got there. With all the gates lettings the bobbits and the fuzzies in the place was in turmoil due to the people's short life span. It was all he could do to keep the kingdom in check as the land masses broke up.

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