And thus, I have begun my exploration of the Stygian Abyss. Which to say the least… has changed quite a lot since Ultima IV.
But then it was supposed to be destroyed, so I figure building a city inside a dungeon that doesn’t exist anymore is quite a feat, heh?
But before dwelving further I should perhaps mention first the manual of the game – Memories of Sir Cabirus. It is a very good manual as usual, altough Cabrirus tends to get a bit preachy and shows an anti-Gargoyle bias which is kind of funny.
It also feels short compared to the core Ultima manuals, but since I feel they sometime get a bit on the long way, it’s alright.
The interesting aspect about this manual is how it tries to work Underworld into canon. As I mentioned in my presentation of the game, Underworld has a lot of inconsistent aspect with the Ultima lore due to its late addition as an Ultima game but at least the manual does try to make it fit (with more or less success) in the Ultima lore, which is to be commended.
But now how I can talk of the game without mentioning the wonderful introduction? Well it is wonderful… bu 1992’s standard though, which means it has awefully corny voice acting.
And it also stands as proof that Britannian English should not ever be used for voice acting.
As for the game itself well… it really feels like a breath of fresh after doing all the traditionnal Ultima games and spin off. Having an actually 3D world to move in and explore is just great fun, and so it having dialogues that don’t consist of using stupid keywords. In essence, it gives the game a sense of modernity that still works 18 years after the fact (and indeed Arx Fatalis a few years back really proved that the concept of Ultima Underworld and its core philosophy is still as great now as it was then).
The level design remains wonderful – even if it admitedly tends to feel smaller that one might remember, combat works well, so does magic. So what is there to complain about?
Oh yeah. The UI.
Because this is really the aspect that did NOT age well. While I sitll find it serviceable, in the modern age of mouselook, Underworld’d interface feels archaic at best.
Indeed this almost make me want to do an appeal to the community. DOSBox is both a blessing and a curse, because it has lead to the death of many engine recreation such as Underworld Adventures.
But i’ll say it.
Ultima Underworld needs and engine recreation of the likes Underworld Adventures and Labyrinth of Worlds were doing. These are both wonderful games which are actually not to bad by today’s standard – a simple 3D accelaration would means much more beautiful graphics with filtered textures instead of pixel, monsters models could be replaced, the game could be made to run in full screend with a mouse UI. This would be a dream for many fans I think. Which is why I beg anyone with incling to work on such an engine (or who is already working on one), to do so. This would be an awesome way to celebrate these games!
But I digress.
So as I was about so say, I have finished the first level of the Abyss… this one is pretty straighforward but it’s fun to explore. I do have one rethorical question to ask though:
How come people whines constanstly about the jumping puzzles of Ultima VIII (with good reason if you take the original version account) and Ultima IX (with sheer hypocrisy considering the game has ONE jumping puzzle) and don’t say anything about Ultima Underworld?
First level, and it already has a lot of Jumping, and a real Jumping puzzles, and things are not going to get better, and even more so in Underworld II. And yet they’re still “classics” !
Of coufse this is not a complain on my part – I actually love being able to jump and i feel it’s a necessity in a 3D engine really (note to Bioware: please put Jumping in Mass Effect 3!)… but this has always striked me a odd.
In any case I am no on Level 2, having just talked with some friendly dwarves (*sigh*) and ready to continue my adventure…