Ultima I, or rather Ultima as it was originally called, was Richard Garriott’s second commercial game and was publisher either in 1980 or 1981 (sources seems to be conflicting on that point) for the Apple II. It was later remade in 1986 for the PC and other platforms with improved graphics where it gained its final title “Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness.”
In many ways, Ultima I feels like an expended version of Akalabeth (and notably used the same dungeons graphics), though with much more content and variety. It also has some sort of plot, where you now have to find the evil Wizard Mondain and kill him and a manual which offered quite a bit of background content.
Ultima I is a game I’ve discovered pretty late as well. I’ve discovered the Ultima series on the Atari ST and this was the only game of the Darkness and Enlightenment trilogies that was never ported to the Atari ST. As such I had to wait until the mid ’90 when I finally tracked down the Ultima I~ VI Series compilation in a mail-order selling computer shop. Of course it came with only the CD and not box or manual of any kind, but never mind.
I was pleasently surprised by the game actually because it looked real good: except for the dungeons it look very much like the 16 Bits versions of Ultima III&IV (which as far as I knew where the only existing one… that was before I tried Ultima III for the PC) altough I missed the music and was a bit puzzled at all the Sci-Fi elements (I already knew Ultima II, but it didn’t expect these stuff to pop up in Sosaria!).
As far as old school RPGs go I do feel it’s an enjoyable game – or at least it was the last time I played it!
Now I’ve been thinking carefully as to what version of the game I should play. The PC version would probably have been fine (I mean… I survived Akalabeth!) and it actually is one of the better looking ones. But there are also some more unusual port which stays true to the original game but with even more improved sound and music.
I’ve finally decided to play Ultima I on the Apple IIgs version. This remake was hard to track down but it is well worth it. Produced in 1994, it offers much improved graphics as well as original in-game music, which feels very Ultima-ish. So I’ll be sure to post some screens to show you how different it looks from other versions.
So, here comes Ultima I! Sosaria awaits its savior!