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Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss - All News

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Monday - November 25, 2013
Tuesday - November 20, 2012
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Saturday - June 04, 2011
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Monday - November 25, 2013

Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ FaultyPixel

by Couchpotato, 04:43

FaultyPixel has posted a new retrospective for Ultima Underworld.

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.

Tuesday - November 20, 2012

Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ PC Gamer

by Dhruin, 09:35

Thrasher sends word of a PC Gamer retrospective for Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, reprinted from the UK edition of the magazine. A sample:

My memories of Ultima Underworld are of an endless stream of delighted discoveries, an abject fear of what might lurk in the dim and tortuous tunnels, and of scribbling notes about which NPC wanted what item and which rune sequence created which spell.

Jumping back into the sprawling dungeons of the Stygian Abyss today is gleefully exciting. But it’s also a tiny bit depressing, because I’ll never get to play it for the very first time again.

Not only was this the first ‘proper’ PC game I ever played, but also one of the most influential PC games in terms of technology and design that has ever been released. Like its Ultima predecessors – in spirit if not in mechanics – Underworld was a genuine RPG, stuffed full of quests and magic and exploration and dialogue and weapons and stats.

Wednesday - April 11, 2012

Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ Rampant Coyote

by Dhruin, 01:22

The 20th Anniversary of Ultima Underworld was apparently in March just gone and Jay Barnson muses on what made this game so special, beyond the 3D movement:

* Ultima Underworld had what is still one of the best auto-maps of all time. While the features stood out, the walls and parchment background looked like it belonged.  And your ability to write (and erase) directly on the map, anywhere, was a big deal. Actually, it still is.  It’s fortunately more commonly matched in the modern era than it once was, but I don’t think it has been surpassed. I’m not sure what you’d do to surpass it, to be honest.

* A dynamic music system. Many games at the time would switch between combat and exploration music, but the music in Ultima Underworld was even more situational, and was designed to (almost) seamlessly transition between themes as you transitioned between states. The UU music remains on my inspirational music playlist.

Saturday - June 04, 2011

Ultima Underworld - Reminiscing @ Rampant Coyote

by Dhruin, 01:22

The GOG release of Ultima Underworld evoked memories of a formative gaming experience in Jay Barnson:

But besides the technological innovation (which doesn’t age well), Ultima Underworld (and the sequel) did a lot of things very, very right. The ability to trade with most non-hostile NPCs, for one thing, was really cool (duplicated somewhat in the first Fallout games, but not so much elsewhere). The more open-ended “simulation” approach to the adventure was really refreshing and enjoyable. There were a few puzzles that demanded (or at least suggested) specific solutions, but much of the game allowed you to organically problem-solve. Maybe that capability seems exaggerated through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia that I look through, but that is how I remember it. This was long before anybody coined the term “sandbox game,” and I don’t feel it was too literally that kind of game. But if you are a fan of the Thief games, that open-ended approach to missions originated in the Ultima Underworld series.

In many ways, I prefer Ultima Underworld‘s approach over the common sandbox approach which feels like you are just encountering the random dungeon inhabitant of the week. (Huh? What makes you think I’m talking about The Elder Scrolls?)  As I recall, the world, treasure, creatures, and everything are fixed (and therefore, to me, feel more meaningful) – every game begins with exactly the same. But every game also plays out differently according to your approach (and, sometimes, just random events in the game).

Friday - February 01, 2008

Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ Man Bytes Blog

by Dhruin, 11:19

Corvus Elrod's Man Bytes Blog has a multi-part retrospective of Ultima Underworld. There are currently three entries that cover an introduction, presentation and the magic system, so we'll check back again when a few more entries are in. Here's a snip on magic:

Those familiar with the Nordic runes will be right at home with UW’s rune set. There are twenty four runes and each rune has a specific meaning–AN means negate, BET means small, CORP means death, and so on. Runes can be combined in twos or threes to form spells, which when read from left to right describe the effect of the spell. For example, combining IN (cause), MANI (life) and YLEM (matter) has the effect of creating food while combining IN (cause) and LOR (light) produces the magical equivalent of torch light. Adding a VAS (great) rune to front of the light spell VAS (great) IN (cause) LOR (light) produces the magical equivalent of sunlight.

This provides a consistency to magic and makes spells much easier to remember without the convenient reference card Origin provides with the game. In fact, I didn’t look up a single spell during this play-through. The spells I couldn’t remember off the top of my head, I worked out by reading the runes. The effect this approach has on the narrative is crucial. Rather than an arbitrary system involving a progression of various magical effects, UW’s runic system has an internal consistency that lends it a gravity, if you will. Collected RunesRelying upon actual cultural symbols that most RPG geeks will recognize and ensuring that the implementation of them is consistent practically removes the designer from the equation, allowing the player to build a relationship directly with the system.

Source: Rampant Coyote

Information about

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

Developer: Blue Sky Productions

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: None

Regions & platforms
Unknown
· Platform: PC
· Released at 1992-03-27
· Publisher: Unknown