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Default Ultima VIII - The Digital Antiquarian on 'How to Destroy a Franchise'

February 20th, 2021, 08:55
The Digital Antiquarian looks back at Ultima VIII and claims it destroyed the series.

This, then, was the calculus that went into Ultima VIII, which begins to make the inexplicable at least somewhat more comprehensible. At this juncture in time, epic CRPGs were at literally their lowest ebb in the entire history of computer games. Therefore Ultima, the series that was virtually synonymous with the epic CRPG in the minds of most gamers, needed to become something else. It needed to become simpler and faster-paced, and if it could also jump on the trend toward grittier, more violent ludic aesthetics -- I point again to the rise of id Software -- so much the better. It may not have been a coincidence that, when Ultima VIII eventually shipped, it did so in a box sporting garish orange flames and a huge pentagram -- the same general graphics style and even iconography as was seen in DOOM, id's latest ultra-violent hit.

Of course, the flaws in the thought process that led to Ultima VIII aren't hard to identify in retrospect. Games which lack the courage of their own convictions seldom make for good company, any more than do people of the same stripe. The insecure child of a nervous creator who feared the world of gaming was passing him by, Ultima VIII could likely never have aspired to be more than competent in a derivative sort of way.

The biggest blunder was the decision to slap the Ultima name on the thing at all, thereby raising expectations on the part of the franchise's preexisting fan base which the game was never designed to meet. Ironically, the audience for an Ultima was every bit as "pre-sold," as Garriott puts it above, as the audience for the latest Madden. And yet one game that fails to meet fan expectations can destroy just such a pre-sold audience really, really quickly, as Garriott was about to prove. (An analogy to the radical change in course of Ultima VIII might be a Madden installment that suddenly decided to become a cerebral stat-based game of football management and strategy instead of an exercise in fast-paced on-the-field action…) It would have been better to announce that Ultima was taking a break while Lord British tried something new. But it seems that Garriott identified so strongly with the only line of games he had ever seriously worked on that he couldn't imagine not calling his latest one Ultima VIII.

[…]
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February 20th, 2021, 10:16
I remember being stunned by the fanciness of this game when it was released back in the day but did not manage to play it far. It lacked something. Perhaps the darkness and the thrive that Ultima 5 had. That (U5) is still my favorite Ultima game. The Lazarus Project was a really cool remaster too.
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February 20th, 2021, 11:05
After moving from Amiga to PC, Ultima 8 and Ultima Underworld 2 were just recently released and I played both to the death. Especially fell in love with U8, played and finished multiple times. Looking back I see all those flawed aspects of this game. But at that time? Best game eva! Guess rose-tinted glasses dont work just through nostalgia :-)
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February 20th, 2021, 16:23
Ultima VIII was the best of the franchise, I think. Most immersive world for me. Also it didn't have any censored content, which the pre-woke mob caused in Fallout 1-2. Earlier Ultimas I couldn't suffer.
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February 20th, 2021, 19:05
Great game agreed, yet it didn't surpass the seventh for me, in terms of overall enjoyment. But it was a solid romp, I think in total I only ever replayed this one maybe twice, might have to revisit it again.
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February 20th, 2021, 19:11
I never played Ultima VIII - my friends advised against it.
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February 20th, 2021, 22:41
The game was interesting in many ways, but it should not have been called Ultima VIII, if not for the flaws and bugs, it could have been a great game on its own right.

But it is a completely different type of game compared to Ultima VII, a spin-off at best. I mean for example what happened to the party and companions which was the main thing about Ultima? let us just remove that and make buggy jump puzzles instead?

This actually reminds me of the new Final Fantasy, let us remove the core of the game which is the party and make a single-player action RPG instead…..
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February 21st, 2021, 00:26
I HATED Ultima 8!!!! If I'd wanted to play a platform jumping game I would have bought one!! I expected an RPG in the same vein as all the previous Ultimas and that's NOT what I got!! U9 was only marginally better and LB has gone downhill from there!!!!
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February 21st, 2021, 00:30
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
I HATED Ultima 8!!!! If I'd wanted to play a platform jumping game I would have bought one!! I expected an RPG in the same vein as all the previous Ultimas and that's NOT what I got!! U9 was only marginally better and LB has gone downhill from there!!!!
The only thing I like about it is the music. I tried to playthrough it and discovered there was no moral way to complete the main quest. I dropped the game soon after.
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February 21st, 2021, 01:40
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
I HATED Ultima 8!!!! If I'd wanted to play a platform jumping game I would have bought one!! I expected an RPG in the same vein as all the previous Ultimas and that's NOT what I got!! U9 was only marginally better and LB has gone downhill from there!!!!
Expectations are behind lots of bad blood. Happens all the time. I hated Neverwinter Nights for same reason.
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February 21st, 2021, 01:41
I bought a new pc ahead of U8’s release. I learned the lesson not to make big purchases for dumb reasons. I really disliked U8 but it ran great on my brand new pentium…
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February 21st, 2021, 04:04
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
I bought a new pc ahead of U8’s release. I learned the lesson not to make big purchases for dumb reasons. I really disliked U8 but it ran great on my brand new pentium…
I had the same reaction to Masters of Orion 3. Bought it on name recognition and discovered it was a glorified spreadsheet simulator.
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February 21st, 2021, 09:37
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
I HATED Ultima 8!!!! If I'd wanted to play a platform jumping game I would have bought one!! I expected an RPG in the same vein as all the previous Ultimas and that's NOT what I got!! U9 was only marginally better and LB has gone downhill from there!!!!
I didn't dislike U8 as much as you did, but U9 was not any better. I guess maybe at least U9 was more of an Ultima game, taking place in the same setting with the same characters as the previous games, but U9 has to take top place on my biggest video game disappointments list.

Over 20 years later I can still remember the reasons why I disliked Ultima 9. I might not remember all the reasons, but if anyone ever starts a complain-about-Ultima-9 thread, I could fill pages.
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February 21st, 2021, 18:54
Nod, my true sense of revilement for the Ultima series is focused on the ninth game, for sure. That's when I really checked out.
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February 21st, 2021, 19:00
I liked U8. The story continued from the end of U7.5, Serpent Isle, so I wasn't surprised/disappointed that Iolo & Co. was missing. And for the record, there really wasn't much jumping in the game, and they patched away the most annoying aspects of it.

U9 on the other hand….ugh!

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February 21st, 2021, 22:19
Call me strange, but I also liked U8. Not as much as I liked UVII (including Serpent Isle), but still. I remember there was a patch that made jumping less problematic, simply click and jump was enough then. But yeah, it was more like a spin-off to the Ultima games, the Avater doing a vacation trip or so. U9 on the other hand was horrible.

Some parts of it seemed to really wait for a DLC, for example I found a cave where you had to remove a lot of rubble to get in. IIRC there was some old home in there, but not much else. Added to the feeling of there being "more".
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February 22nd, 2021, 18:42
Again, I'd also say that back in the day, games were much more scarce and we were pretty grateful for what we had to play. Things are much different now, even back then I know I plodded through a lot of bad games just hoping the sun would eventually shine on it, which didn't always happen.
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February 23rd, 2021, 09:34
I liked U8. I actually rented it back in '96-97 for a weekend before I'd played the rest of the series and was enthralled by the early exploration and quests in it. It barely ran on my Dx2-66, but the animation detail was certainly cool and the soundtrack was quite ambient. Sound blasters back then had so much charm!

Many years later after subsequently finishing U7+Serpent Isle, its flaws became more noticeable, with the exploration gradually becoming less appealing with many empty locations. The mildy annoying jump mechanics were well documented too. I stopped and started it a few times, but eventually did complete it. There might even be a thread here on the 'Watch from when I did…
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February 23rd, 2021, 20:04
U8 was an excellent game on its own. The world was very immersive and intriguing.and gameplay was good, at least in my opinion.

The problem is that after U7 everyone would have expected something building upon its strenghts, that n many aspects had been unmatched for years if not decades.

Instead they spolied U7 of all its best points, the vastness of the world, npc schedules, day-night cycle etc and offered a completely different, somewhat more action oriented, gameplay.

It should have been a spin off, not a sequel.

That said, at least it was a good game overall, what doomed Ultima was 9, that while somewhat admirable for its ambition, it was just a bad game.
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February 24th, 2021, 00:13
Originally Posted by Francesco View Post
That said, at least it was a good game overall, what doomed Ultima was 9, that while somewhat admirable for its ambition, it was just a bad game.
I actually liked U9 or at least what I've played of it. I was never a huge fan of the series though, (U3: Exodus is the only game I've finished), and had no expectations whatsoever. I also didn't play it until years after release and with a fan patch to go along with the official ones.

I heard it was a nightmare at release.
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