Video Game / Ultima IX

"What's a paladin?"
— The Avatar note 

Ultima IX: Ascension (1999) is a video game, the ninth and final installment in the Ultima series of role playing games.

The Avatar is called to Britannia one last time, where he discovers a series of monoliths have risen all across the kingdom, and the locals are acting very strangely indeed. It turns out that these towers are the doing of the Guardian, whose realm, Pagan, the Avatar has recently escaped from. It's down to you to defeat the Guardian once and for all... by making a Heroic Sacrifice.


This game provides examples of:

  • Accidentally Accurate: Turns out that the Avatar really is the False Prophet after all, albeit his managing to wipe out nearly all the remaining Gargoyles is more the fault of the Gargoyle leader in Ambrosia.invoked
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Theoretically this is what happens to the Avatar at the end of the game, though in practice it just looks like him blowing himself and the Guardian up.
  • Back from the Dead: Sir Dupre.
    • Given the nature of his original death, this probably means the universe falls apart a month or so after the game ends.
  • Bag of Spilling: The Avatar completed Ultima 8 as the Titan of Aether but begins this game with all of his stats being either "poor" or "dim" and having no magic whatsoever. Even if he starts out as a mage!
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Almost all of the 8 companions have been corrupted by the Guardian and turned into members of his Wyrmguard, serving as the bosses of several of the Glyph Column dungeons (the only exceptions are one who was considered too weak by the Guardian to be worth bothering with, one who was stuck in the Ethereal Void at the time, and one who was busy being dead). The Avatar can either redeem them with a Puzzle Boss fight related to their respective virtue, or just straight up kill them with hacking and slashing.
  • Blatant Lies: Technically, as the Avatar is promised that his "knowledge of the land shall be great" once he reaches Britannia however most of game has him being clueless about just about everything and needing NPC's to constantly enlighten him.
  • Costume Copycat: One of these can be found in a hut outside Britain, claiming to be the Avatar's biggest fan.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The museum area is meant to be this, with its artifacts from previous games however the fact that they're there in the first place goes against any and all continuity in the first place.
  • Crate Expectations
  • Death Is Cheap: Even if you do choose to kill your former companions during the course of the game, they'll all be resurrected (along with Sir Dupre, who died two games previously) with no ill effects whatsoever, after you restore the Shrine of Spirituality.
  • Dragon Rider: The Guardian's villainous Wyrmguards, though sometimes having a dragon with them is optional.
  • Dumb Blonde: What the game also turns the Avatar into. To a lesser extent Gwenno, who gets turned from an Action Girl into a housewife for this game, and for some strange reason now has blonde hair instead of brown.
  • Dummied Out: Large sections of the game were hacked out of the finished product. Many of these missing areas are still present in the game code, and enterprising hackers have discovered ways to access them.
  • Easily Forgiven: Whenever you do anything bad in this game — including killing your former companions — it's invariably reacted to with what amounts to a shrug and being told "oh well, you had no choice."
  • Elemental Weapon: The game has swords of fire, ice and lightning variety.
  • Enemy Without: The Guardian turns out to be the Avatar's evil side.
  • Flaming Sword: While it's incredibly useful for seeing in dark areas, it's actually... not that powerful a weapon, really.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: More than a few of them too, even after patching.
  • Grand Finale: This game was intended to be the grand cumulation of the entire series, but suffered serious Executive Meddling by Electronic Arts during development. Let's just say that many fans consider the final product to be a letdown.
  • Grid Inventory: The only game in the series that adopts this approach, after previously using either text or freeform inventories.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • The Avatar himself sacrifices his corporeal form in order to destroy the Guardian in the game's ending.
    • In a rare inversion, Sir Dupre's sacrifice from all the way back in The Serpent Isle is casually undone, with no real explanation of how or why it happened.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: As with the previous entry in the series, this is often the optimal way to win battles, since you no longer have a party and enemies after often too stupid to try pursuing you more than a few feet.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Aside from the Avatar's legendary case, the Guardian can pretty much kill anyone on the planet with a thought. He nukes Skara Brae with fire with a thought. And yet his ultimate plan relies on his 'giant evil columns' dropping moons on the planet. Why not just kill everyone with magic and avoid the complexity?
    • Lord British is not entirely sure why bad things are afoot in Britannia. This despite the fact that he learned about Guardian and his plans to invade Britannia several games ago and now there is an enormous stone carving of the Guardian's head at the entrance of his main fortress.
  • Idiot Hero:
    • The Avatar comes across as one, due to seemingly knowing absolutely nothing, even basic facts, about the world he's explored and been the savior of for the past dozen games. While his dialogue was obviously scripted this way to avoid Continuity Lockout for new gamers who haven't played any of the other games, it makes him come across as a complete moron (earlier games handled this much better with As You Know dialogue instead of giving the Avatar a sudden onset case of complete amnesia). It's Lampshaded early on, when you see your sheet and see that you have dim intelligence.
    • Even worse, he has to ask about the fate of Skara Brae (despite the fact that the Guardian destroyed it and gave him a front row view) ask Raven how to cleanse a shrine (when he's done so already). There's forgetting things from the previous games and then there's forgetting things that just happened hours, if not minutes, ago.
  • In Name Only: For many in the Ultima fan community.
  • Lampshade Hanging: After the infamous 'The Codex of Ultimate Wisdom?' line, the gargoyle he's speaking to offers us this:
    To not believe that the Avatar could have forgotten the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom!
  • Loony Fan: See Costume Copycat above.
  • Lord British Postulate: The trope namer returns, invulnerable to attack... unless you made a poisoned loaf of bread on Earth and feed it to him. Then he drops like a brick.
  • Money Spider: Every damn monster drops a pile of coins upon death, which is something the previous games had carefully veered away from.
  • Obvious Beta: The bugginess of the game is legendary. One humorous game review magazine (Games Accelerator) posted a fatal error message as one of their screenshots for the game instead of a shot of the gameplay, with a caption, "Lord British and Electronic Arts defeat you with the ultimate foe."
  • Optional Sexual Encounter:
    • In Buccaneer's Den, a prostitute will offer you a good time. Taking her up on it leaves you with less gold, and it also hurts your Karma Meter. Resist the temptation, Avatar!
    • In one cut-scene, Raven makes sure the Avatar has a non-optional sexual encounter.
  • Physical God:
    • The Guardian, which makes you wonder why he needs the Wyrmguards or Blackthorn when he can do all the things he can.
    • The Avatar was supposed to be one, the Titan of Ether, but the game forgets about that while bringing in things from Pagan that shouldn't be there.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: In the tapestry, Minax from Ultima II is drawn in a green dress with fur-lining, which can be seen in the hanging sleeves.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Was almost this trope. In short, Lord British appears here as an old man with white hair and a long beard, while in all the other games he was a spry young king with brown hair and a goatee. In early drafts of the script, this was explained to be the result of a curse by the Guardian, but that got cut in the final game, so he just looks old.
  • Polygon Ceiling / Video Game 3D Leap: This was the first (and in the end, only) game in the main series to be 3D. It encounters problems with this, as the game world, which was massive in Ultima VII, has had to be reduced to the size of a shoebox.
  • Plot Hole: The game is riddled with them. A few examples include the Time Lord's warnings in Ultima VII that the Guardian will be unstoppable upon entering Britannia, the circumstance surrounding the summoning of Pyros (which should be impossible for a variety of reasons), the whole issue with magic and the appearance of several things which shouldn't be possible owing to the fact that they've ceased to be (i.e. Mondain's Skull, Korghin's Fang, Dupre's Ashes, Stonegate, etc).
  • Purity Personified: Ascension would have you believe this about the Avatar despite the games having mentioned: "No soul in life can be purged completely of virtue or vice." This by the way was used as the origin of the Guardian. As in, he's the Avatar's dark half.
  • Rail Roading: You're given only a small amount of freedom up until you've cleansed the first shrine, and still forced into a very specific sequence of storyline events throughout the game. The previous three games tended to do this a little bit as well, but you still had a lot of freedom to act once you'd gotten out of the first major area.
    • If you've played the other games, you probably know the correct words to activate the shrines... except that the game will reject the correct word until you've done the relevant quest to discover the word.
  • Retcon:
    • Probably the main reason (other than the bugs and the simplistic gameplay) why this game is so widely hated in the Ultima community. While every other Ultima game retconned some lore from its predecessors (mostly stuff added for flavor), they can't even compare to the sheer number of continuity errors and deliberate retcons in this game. This website in particular was dedicated to listing all the inconsistencies in the Ultima games, and there are about as many pages about U9 (if not more) on that site as there are pages about all other Ultima games taken together.
    • The biggest is that the previous game is entirely about getting back to Britannia to stop the Guardian's invasion, finally gaining the power to construct your own black gate and make the journey only to find that the world has already fallen and Fade to Black. This game starts with the Avatar home on Earth with no idea the Guardian had even returned. Shortly after he gets to Britannia, he does see a red sky with a giant stone head of the Guardian, kind of like the conclusion to U8, but this is Broad Strokes at best.
  • Sequence Breaking: Using the Avatar's normal jumping abilities, and a little bit of trial and error, its actually possible to scale whole mountains, and therefore skip two-thirds of the game. Elsewhere the game uses ridiculously narrow spans of water as barriers, which can be crossed by laying down items to float on the water and use as stepping stones.
  • Series Continuity Error: As seen above under Retcon, Ultima IX contains a nigh-uncountable number of these.
  • Small Steps Hero: The Avatar professes to be this, but suffers too much Moral Dissonance to make it remotely believable.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Elder Scrolls succeeded where this game failed.
  • Stun Lock: What makes the combat rather dull in this game. From rat to bandit to dragon, if you just keep pummeling them, they won't be able to fight back.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Everybody has actual voices in this one. Most noticably the Avatar himself, who in the previous games was always a Heroic Mime.
  • Tell Me Again: Infamously used, see Idiot Hero.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: The Avatar has forgotten practically everything that he experienced in the previous games. See Idiot Hero above.
  • Wretched Hive: Buccaneer's Den, of course. Where else?
  • You All Look Familiar: Character models being constantly re-used is par for the course with this genre, but this game also re-uses models for main characters with little or no alteration. Most infamously, this creates the impression that Gwenno is moonlighting as a prostitute in Buccaneer's Den.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: A woman has to tell the Avatar how to eat food. Granted, this is a way of letting the player know that Nobody Eats is averted, but the way it's presented is really silly.

It averts:

  • Continuity Lockout: Nearly every character will be happy to tell you just how the many things in the world of Ultima work if you're just a newb. However, it's too bad that the person they're telling it to in the game is the Avatar, the protagonist for the past eight or so games and should know all this stuff, which puts him in the Idiot Hero position.
  • Cross Player: Previous games in the series allowed you to choose which gender you want the avatar to be, and some of them even gave you a choice of faces for each. Ultima VIII did away with this, and IX continues making the Avatar purely and irrefutably male. While the game packaging on previous games in the series nearly always illustrated the Avatar as a "him", meaning it was only ever a Purely Aesthetic Gender choice anyway, it was still a disappointment to many players.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Most of the "team" from the previous games are present in this one, but unlike other games in the series (Ultima Underworld and Ultima VIII: Pagan excepted), you can't actually get any of them to come with you.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Its the first game in the entire Ultima series where none of the characters speak like this.