My personal experiences with the Ultima range are quite special. As a child, I loved the crumbly, colorless block graphics from Ultima 3: Exodus (1983) or Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar (1985) because it stimulated my imagination enormously. As a 13-year-old, I had that from Trade press like players praised Ultima 6: The False Prophet from 1990 so my problems. The fantasy world Britannia shone for the first time in rich colors and pixel-fine details – but not everything in it met my expectations.
In addition, the pretty character pictures scared me off. I had somehow imagined fellow comrades like Jaana, Dupre or Katrina differently in the previous games.
Regardless, I felt I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. In Ultima 6 there was no longer a division between the upper world, city and underground. On the one hand, the role-playing game seemed like one piece, but on the other hand it also lost its overview. Even more: you could take almost any object or at least move it.
The cities were swarming with buildings, the inhabitants of which were similar to those of the previous one Ultima 5: Warriors of Destiny (1988) followed a regular daily routine and therefore could not always be found in the same place. In general, the numerous conversation partners in the game overwhelmed me, with whom you could chat forever. In short: In 1990 all of this was just too much for me and I lost interest in my previously much loved role-playing series.
In the meantime, 30 years have passed in which I have tried again and again. Due to lack of time and perseverance, I never got very far; I only explored the immediate vicinity of the first city. But now should be the end of the excuses: For this retro article I wanted to force myself to stay on the ball and finally find out what I really missed at the time.
Fortunately, installing the old MS-DOS classic on modern PC computers is no problem: The digital sales platform Gog offers several Ultima collections, including the Second Trilogy for cheap 5.39 euros (as of May 25, 2020). This includes the fourth, the fifth and the sixth part. As a consequence, my old PC and C64 original disks are still allowed to sleep in the archive.
The beginning of The False Prophet is depressing
On top of that, I now own a Roland MT-32, by far the best sound card for old PC games. Whereby “card” is not quite correct: It is a midi board that I can plug into my computer with a special USB cable.
Then I have to manually reconfigure the version installed by Gog until everything works. The effort is worth it for the cool intro, whose hypnotic medieval music is now booming out of my Teufel system in perfect sound quality.
The introduction to The False Prophet seems a bit depressing at first: As usual, I take on the role of the legendary avatar who leads a boring life on earth between his adventures in Britannia.
He squats sadly in front of his television and zips through the canals unmotivated when suddenly, under the thunder of a lightning strike, a familiar moon gate and moonstone appear. Driven by the desire for a new adventure, the avatar marches through, whereupon the intro pauses for now and I can create my character.