And thus has it was foretold, I stepped through the Moongate and entered Britannia.
This actually marks the beginning of the actual introduction video of Ultima IX. This video basically consits of two parts.
The first half is basically a reimagination of the Ultima VIII ending, with the Avatar magically appearing in Britannia and facing a gigantic fortress modeled after the Guardian’s face. It’s not a direct retranscription of this ending since the Guardian Fortress is obviously much smaller than the mountains seen in the end of Pagan, and the Avatar has lost his freaky Titan of Ether outfit for a more traditionnal Avatar outif. But it does basically take things were Ultima VIII left of, and the game was originally supposed to start with this very video before it was decided to add the Earth tutorial.
As opposed to the end of Ultima VIII, the events go farther as a Wyrmguard appears on his dragon and attack the Avatar engulfing him in flames. This events also has this importance since this was supposed to be how the Avatar lost his Titan’s powers before regaining bits of them at each Column deactivated. But I digress.
The second half of the video cuts to the Guardian’s throne room where he is discussing these events with his cohort which is reveled at that point to be none other that Blackthorn!
I have to say that I love this introduction, and this undoubtedly the best introduction any Ultima game had to offer. I was very impressed the first time I saw it (both with the Gamestar video that only showed the first part with UO’s introduction music AND by the full introduction showcased in the demo), and I sitll am every time I see it.
The tone is set from the start, it’s exciting and George Oldziey’s wonderful music really set the mood. It’s also very well done technically and beautifully shot and framed. While there has been some complains about the reimagined look of the Guardian (he now has ears and a larger chin), it’s important to note how detailed he is in the video, with a very detailled skin, pulsing veins… in other words, he feels much more like an actual living creature than its rendering in previouses games.
The video also offers what is simply wonderful voice acting. Doug Forest is quite simply perfect as Blackthorn (gotta love the way he says “Shall I reduce Stonegate to a cinders, my lord?”) but Bill Johnson also offers what is by far his most impressive performance as the Guardian. This is just chilling.
The only last thing I would point about this video is the Ultima logo.
Now, I actually really like the new Ultima logo they had come up with for Ultima IX, and especially the colored version on the box. Likewise, I like the illustration done by Dennis Loubet for the cover. But I gotta admit a part of me really wished they would have gone with this logo where the game was originally called “Ascention: Ultima IX” and used the traditionnal font. It would have been fitting to end the series.
But in any case after this introduction you appear inside the tower of Stonegate, saved from the dragon’s flames by Hawkwind. The former abode of the Shadowlords has been cleansed by the spirit, and now stands as the last place in the world where Virtue still stands.
And it also serves as the second half of the Tutorial.
You begin by getting some gear (which will varies depending on the class you ended up with at character creation), and then get your end on your Spellbook. As this point of the game, only linear spells are available but this is enough to showcase the point of magic and also give a sense of dungeon design to come as the area requires how to uses these linear spells to further to the exit of the Tower.
Much like the Earth part, this is actually a very effective tutorial… not very long, but already tends to show that dungeons promise to be very interesting. The area if of course not big – but it does not have to be.
Upon exiting, you face a few monsters and eventually come across a Wyrmguard who tries to kill you. After killing him, you can finally take a teleporter to Lord British’s castle…
And with this, the adventure is about to trully begin!