Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds

Ultima Underworld II is the second and final episode of the Ultima Underworld series. Released in January 1993 and still developped by Looking Glass Studios. It basically took on the approach that most good sequels do: improving on its predecessor.

From a technical standpoint, Ultima Underworld II uses the same engine as the first episode – albeit with some obvious improvements. The gameplay window is much bigger than it used, graphics and animation have greatly improved, and digitized sound has been added throughout the whole game for pretty much anything, from footsteps to opening door, thus improving immersion a whole lot.

In terme of gameplay little has changed compared to the first Underworld, the only major difference being the way skills are handled, since instead of meditating at shrine you now improve your skills by training with specific NPCs. Other than that it plays pretty much the same that the first episode.

What DOES set appart Underworld II from his predecessor however is its plot and context, making it in essence more of a spiritual sequel as it has little relations to the first episode plot-wise.

As a matter of fact, Ultima Underworld II is more a direct sequel to Ultima VII – taking place exactly one year after the destruction of the Black Gate as the Guardian launch a second attack upon Britannia by imprisonning Lord British’s castle under a gigantic Blacktrock Dome. As such many NPCs from Ultima VII are back (with a lot more depth I might argue) along with numerous references to the previous episode of the “Guardian Saga”.

The context of the game also change quite a bit, since instead of offering a single dungeon, the game offers to travel to Eight different worlds under influence from the Guardian – who vary in size and content, but manage to offer a lot more variety than the Abyss did in Ultima Underworld I.

Personally, Ultima Underworld II remains one of my favorite episodes of the series and it also holds a special place in my heart.

Because you see this was my very first PC game back in 1993. I can even pinpoint the date exactly really: we got our fist home PC on March 3rd 1993 and we had two game for it: I bought Ultima Underworld II, and my brother bought Wing Commander II (of course, two Origin games!). Murphy’s Law willing I only played it the day after that because we were new to PC and didn’t know all the intricacies to get EMS running and such… since the PC had not EMM386 set up by default.

We had actually bought these games a couple of week before release and I had basically read the manuals multiple times in anticipation, dreaming of what kind of game it might be like. Now I guess one might wonder why I choose to get Ultima Underworld II instead of the first episode or even really Ultima VII.

I think I choose an Underworld because really I was fascinated by the kind of gameplay it was and how unique the game looked from the numerous reviews I had read. Also Underworld II was the most recent Ultima game, having just been released a couple of month before, which basically made it a no brainer to get this one instead of Underworld I. Also I have to point that back then, it was much harder to get old games as opposed to today where you can just google multiple shop or find alternative means if you really need a game that badly.

I greatly enjoyed Ultima Underworld II from the get go and was very impressed by the kind of gameplay it offered. I have to admit however that my love for it kind of came as an acquired taste because truly: the game was just damn hard, which made it a really frustrating experience at times. As I matter of fact I only first finished Ultima Underworld II over a year after I first begun playing it (through probably restarting it from scratch then), and when I got Serpent Isle upon its release a couple of month later I began thinking that I should have gotten Ultima VII instead because I really enjoyed Serpent Isle so much more!

But I was young in naïve.

In any case I’m also very eager to play Ultima Underworld II. You might have noticed I’ve really picked up pace since beginning Ultima VII – and I guess this really is because the latest games for all the flaw they might have really are much more fun to replay nowaday despite their age that their older counterparts.

So here it goes, Labyrinth of Worlds – here I come!

Ultima V Cover

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