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Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ Man Bytes Blog

by Dhruin, 2008-02-01 11:19:35

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

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