SOFTWARE REVIEW: ULTIMA IV by Lucas van den Berg
Hello all readers to a brief, "technical" description of
Ultima IV by Lord British/Origin Systems.
Although I usually write relatively long narrative-style game
descriptions in ST NEWS under the heading "Crimson's Column", I
now present you with a different approach. I may still write a CC
issue concerning Ultima IV later on, but the editor asked for a
brief review now - which is what you see here.
For those of you unfamiliar with earlier Ultima role-playing
games I will start from scratch.
You start off as "visitor". You - the player - are treated as
the long awaited hero who will lead a party of valiant
adventurers to Avatarhood. In order to establish your moral
convictions, you must answer a number of very unpleasant
questions; the choice usually is between two wrongs (i.e. you
will either lie to you liege or be called a coward) and after
eight such situations (all pertaining to the eight virtues) your
character has been made up and, depending on the outcome, you
will start the game as a just Druid, a valiant Paladin or one of
the other six classes (though I doubt if you'll ever start off as
fighter or shepherd; they're special cases). From now on, you're
in the game - and on your own.
Seeing how you can travel with eight people (though this does
cost a lot of food) you must seek companions on your quest. There
are eight cities in various more or less accessible places around
the country and each city yields a companion - though some may
refuse to join you until you have sufficient experience.
You can speak to anyone you meet (as long as they don't attack
your or turn away). There are three standard questions that
everyone will respond to: name, job and health. Any word used in
answer to one of these questions may then be used to gain further
information. Example: you meet a man and ask "name". He says,
"Linpret". You ask "job", and he responds "I am looking for
Sachar". Now you may ask "Sachar" and he'll say "He knows the
secret of love". At this point, you can try to find Sachar, but
you can also ask on about "love" or "secret" or anything else.
Hint: when you're in bad shape, ask Lord British about his
health. He may help.
In each of the eight cities, you must find a) the virtue of
the city (easy; even Lord British can help you with this), b) the
companion that will join you, c) the virtue's Rune and d) the
Mantra. You may also learn the location of the shrine and the
whereabouts of a special stone. Before you are allowed to
meditate in a shrine to attain partial avatarhood you must have
its location, the rune, the mantra and, most important, the
virtue itself. All the runes and mantras in the world won't give
entrance to the shrine of sacrifice if you always refuse to part
with blood (medical donation) or money.
While travelling through Britannia - on foot, on horseback,
from Moongate to Moongate or on a ship - you will meet a lot of
enemies. The thing to do is, of course, gain experience in
You can fight with long-range weapons such as slings, bows and
crossbows and this will save you a lot of wounds. When enemies
close in, you should fight with melee weapons. All kinds of
(magical) weapons are available, as well a magical armor and
The other way to resolve combat is by using spells. Magic is a
very complex thing: first, you need so-called reagents. Six out
of eight reagents (all but Mandrake Root and Nightshade) can be
bought in a few faraway places at various prices. When you want
to cast a spell, you must have the appropriate mix of reagents -
otherwise you can't cast it, and while in combat you can't mix.
Make sure you have a good supply of fireballs and sleep spells
and healing and the like. And when you do find Mandrake and
Nightshade you'll be able to make some very powerful brews. Oh,
and do talk to the dude in the Lyceum, he knows the mix needed
for recall (which is resurrection).
Ultima IV is truly "an adventure of epic proportions";
estimated playtime is 100 to 200 hours. With the game comes a
cloth map of Britannia which means you don't need to do too much
mapping on land - you only need to draw some "undiscovered"
islands and indicate the locations of certain villages, shrines
and the like.
Mapping is necessary for underground explorations; Dungeons
are nasty places and there are quite a few - the ones I've seen
so far are Deceit, Shame, Wrong and Despise. A cute lot
For those who liked Ultima I to III, this is a must. Others
should keep in mind that Ultima IV is a game without "quick
combat" option; all battles are fought in some detail and there
are a good many of them. Don't expect to travel from one town to
another (except perhaps by Moongate) without a couple of fights
in between. The thing to do is, of course, gain experience (to
increase strength and dexterity and such) and gold (to buy
weapons) so that battles go easier and quicker.
Good luck in Ultima IV - Quest of the Avatar. If you have any
questions, send them (and a self-adressed envelope and
international reply coupons) to
Lucas van den Berg
6511 RL Nijmegen
-- The Netherlands --
P.S. Don't let the Rogues get near you; they'll steal all
you've got - and you need every gold piece you can find.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.