Ultima VI - Retrospective @ The CRPG Addict
The CRPG Addict has a new retrospective for Ultima VI: The False Prophet.
Origin System's motto was "we create worlds." It was a fitting motto for a company so dedicated to detailed back story and lore. Britannia is the most obvious example, but even the company's minor titles, like Times of Lore or Knights of Legend, have rich game manuals and complex histories. For years, I've thought of Origin as the paramount example of what became the first category in my GIMLET index: "game world."
Richard Garriott created the Ultima series in a time when hardly any games were paying attention to good stories--and even if they did, the technology of the times wasn't sufficient to justify much of the prose. In this era, Ultima IV comes along like a revelation, with a manual outlining Britannia's history, detailed descriptions of every town, monster, and item, a fully constructed virtue system--and, most importantly, a game that made full use of all the manual's lore. It's one of the few games of the era in which the manual and game seem like partners in the gameplay experience. It is, in fact, one of the few games of the era in which the manual and game feel like they were written by the same people.
But perhaps as notable as the effort and detail put into Britannia's history is how poorly Origin maintained it. The Ultima series is rightfully famous for re-inventing the game engine and magic system between numbered titles, but it also re-invented its stories, too. Hardly any aspect of the world holds up to scrutiny between any two games. IV and V are the closest, but in general, the game manuals engage in a rampage of retconning between titles.
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