After Savage Empire, it didn’t take long for a sequel to be release a few month later in 1991, intitled “Martian Dreams.”
While this sequel is technically the second “World of Ultima” game, it actualls sports the name “Ultima Worlds of Adventure” instead. There actually is a reason for this: you see Savage Empire just didn’t sell as much as hoped, so someone at Origin’s marketing obviously decided the series needed a new brand name, and one with a bigger Ultima to show – hence the “Ultima Worlds of Adventure” bit.
But of course, it’s still Worlds of Ultima 2. Nevermind the fact that it once again uses the Ultima VI engine (with even more improved interface and graphics), but it also has a couple of direct reference to Savage Empire, and offers one of its character as one of the game’s main companion: Dr. Johann Spector. The difference being of course that instead of a prehistoric valley out of time, the game takes place on Mars in 1895.
This is a peculiar approach, but is basically an exemple of steampunk – most notably it goes back to authors such Jules Vernes, Edgar Rice Burroughs or H.G Wells, with the concept of having a sci-fi story set in the victorian era. Closer to geeky heart, it also reminds of a famous RPG setting of the 80/90 called “Space 1889” which focused on space travel and planetary exploration in the victorian era. Interestinly, Space 1889 has also be turned into a CRPG in 1990 which was quite reminiscent of Ultima!
But I digress.
I must say I really love Martian Dreams. As I mentioned in my first Savage Empire post, it was very hard to find. I first played it some time after Ultima VIII was released and I trully fell in love with. While the game suffers from the rather monotonous landscape of Mars, a tad too much backtracking, and the removal of some traditionnal Ultima aspects such as NPC schedule – it shines through its atmosphere, its beautiful graphics, and most importantly a really brillant plotline with some of the best dialogues of the entire Ultima series. It also brings back some traditionnal RPG elements that were somewhat lacking in Savage Empire, which means more levelling and combat – but in reasonable amounts. It also keeps the same level of interactivty of Ultima VI, with some really brillant design ideas.
I have to confess taht Martian Dreams remains to the day the only core Ultima game I don’t have a legetimate copy of, much to my dismay. Alas the game is now impossible to find (except in some unreasonable amounts), and I think I’ll always has this deep regret into my heart: you see about a month before we first got a PC I saw Martian Dreams in a computer shop, brand new, at a normal price. Had I known I would have bought it.
In any case I look forward to this adventure, which is know is just gonna be memorable!