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

by Dhruin, 2008-09-12 00:53:36

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.


Source: Rampant Games

Information about

Ultima IV

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Platform: PC
Release: Released


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