As you can see, no I don’t mean Ultima Online. I’m sure that very few of you remember the first six or seven Ultima games, and quite a few of you haven’t seen anything before UO. I didn’t actually start playing this series as early as Ultima 1 which was released in 1981. I was introduced to it in high school by a friend. I remember being instantly hooked by visuals and features I’d never seen before in a game. We’d had consoles in our family for years, starting with our Atari way way back, but we didn’t get a PC until somewhere around ’92. I’m not positive but I believe my buddy introduced me to Ultima VI: The False Prophet.
Some of the things that grabbed my attention right away were the extras. I was used to a game coming in a little box, and inside that box was a little paper manual and the game cartridge or some disks. This was the first game I’d seen that included a cloth map, and supplemental story in the manual. I’d seen RPGs before, like Kings Quest and the like, but if you remember RPGs back then they were mostly puzzle games rather than action/story games. I think there were four true RPGs that I remember from back then, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, and this game. I’m sure there were more but those are the ones that really stood out to me.
I think the other key with Ultima, that hooked me so much, was choice. I’m pulling from memory here but I seem to remember the ability to steal from merchants. Conversation choices rather than reading pre-scripted dialogue. More ‘forks’ in the road of the story so to speak. Things that all good RPGs have today. These games obviously don’t hold up today, and even I would have a hard time playing them now despite my love for them. It still holds a special place in my memory, and should be honored as one of the games that laid the groundwork for all the great RPGs we play today.