Ultima VI: The False Prophet
"Think again, Avatar: For whom dost thou seek the Codex?"
— Altar of Singularity
is a PC game released in 1990 by Origin Systems. It was the last title of the "Age of Enlightenment" Trilogy of the Ultima
games. The Avatar is once again summoned to Britannia, but not by Lord British — this time it's by a race of demonic-looking beings called Gargoyles
who immediately try to sacrifice him. He is rescued by his core party from the previous two games and discovers that the Gargoyles have invaded Britannia and have taken control of each Shrine, the focal points of the Way of the Avatar.
Why have the Gargoyles attacked? Where did they come from? How can their threat be stopped? And who is the False Prophet?
This game was first made for the IBM-PC, then ported to the Atari ST, C64, Amiga, and SNES. It was also ported to the FM Towns in Japan. A fan-made engine called Nuvie
is available that makes the game playable on many modern PCs. It is currently available at Good Old Games
, bundled with Ultima IV
and Ultima V
This game has examples of:
- All in a Row
- Always Chaotic Evil: Richard Garriott himself has stated that the entire purpose of the game is to absolutely deconstruct the hell out of this concept.
- An Interior Designer Is You: Due to the Wide Open Sandbox, many players would set up a base in the room in the castle provided by Lord British, or find an empty home, or kill a character who wasn't important to completing the game and take their house. So long as it was near a moongate any old place would do, and you could appropriate furniture and items from nearby houses to furnish it.
- Animated Armor: The Animate spell to make pieces of armor come alive. Many players can exploit this along with the Clone spell to duplicate rare armor. See Game Breaker for more details.
- Ascended Glitch: Smith gives you an important hint... for Ultima V.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: You can actually get the prostitutes to sleep with Sherry by making a party of only her and the Avatar, then making the Avatar go to sleep so that you control only her.
- Big Damn Heroes: The Avatar's friends rescuing him/her in the intro.
- The Call: Ever since Ultima IV, the series have explicitly stated that the Avatar was from "our world".
- Came Back Wrong: Killing an NPC (by normal methods) and resurrecting them breaks their scripting, permanently rendering them a vegetable that can't move or speak. This can be circumvented by killing them with a cannon.
- Cartoon Juggling: The jugglers in the game to a standard cascade - you can even have a juggler join your party! (Blaine, one of the traveling gypsies.)
- Chained to a Rock: In the game's intro, and to the Avatar, of all people.
- Cheat Code: Talk to Iolo and enter "spam" three times and then "humbug" to bring up the cheat menu.
- Con Man: Finn, who likes to hang around outside Lord British's castle.
- Control Room Puzzle: The Shrine of Control, especially, but a few other places in the dungeons.
- Dark Secret: Whitesaber, the mayor of Trinsic used to be one of Hawkins' crew.
- Dialogue Tree: In the SNES port, instead of the Rainbow Speak
- Famed In-Story: Almost everywhere you go, people are excited to meet the Avatar they've heard so much about.
- Fan Remake: The Ultima 6 Project, a mod for Dungeon Siege. The whole game has been seriously expanded und pains were take to remove most, if not all, of the inconsistencies and plot holes.
- Fantastic Racism: Both sides in the human-gargoyle war demonstrate this, though both sides also have more reasons for antagonism than simple racism - the humans have to defend themselves against hostile invaders that have captured human holy sites, and the gargoyles need to avert a prophecy that threatens their race with extinction and has been coming true so far.
- Foreign Queasine: Horse chops.
- Gay Option: Both the male and female Avatar can sleep with prostitutes of either gender.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Bonn
- Great Offscreen War: There's supposedly a huge war with the gargoyles going on. The soldiers talk about it. You see the wounded being cared for in Cove... however due to the Wide Open Sandbox gameplay you travel all over the fairly pristine world and never find a single battleground.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Avatar himself/herself, though it never actually ends up happening.
- Isometric Projection
- Joke Weapon: There are many things that can be equipped as weapons, but aren't practical as such. These include kitchenware, farm tools, and decorative swords.
- Karma Meter: Actually visible in the SNES port.
- Left Hanging: Quenton's murder. It's certainly set up to look like you should investigate it, and it's not hard to figure out the killer, but there's no way to bring him to justice (aside from killing the person yourself, but this brings no story development). Whether this was intentional to show the Avatar can't solve every problem in Britania or a design oversight is a source of debate among fans.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: The Commodore 64 port bit off more than the poor system could chew, it required constant floppy-disk switching and loading (as in, every time you talked to an npc.)
- Lord British Postulate: Like other Ultima games, Lord British is immune to conventional attacks, and one of the only ways to kill Lord British in this game would be to use a Glass Sword and attack him while he's sleeping in bed.
- Lost Aesop:
- The shock of The Reveal is greatly lessened by no one mistaking Gargoyles for Balrons or Winged Daemons (indeed, the "B" word was only ever uttered once, in Ultima VII). Everyone realizes they are "like" these beings. That there were Winged Daemons/Balrons who referred to themselves as Evil in previous games are never mentioned. Justifying Gargoyles working for Mondain, Minax, and Exodus because they admired their Discipline is a rather weak justification. That none of the Gargoyles who spoke the same language that Mondain or Minax spoke tried explaining things also dilutes things.
- Making things even more confusing is that there are also actual Daemon enemies in the game; you encounter them in Hythloth (the dungeon that links the two worlds).
- Mad Scientist: Sutek the Mad Wizard
- Manual Leader, AI Party: By default. You can change it so you have control over your companions, however.
- Minus World: The "land of the dead" where dead characters are sent. You can get there by using a hex editor, as explained here.
- The Missingno.: The "Swift," a glitch character who is both a party member and a vehicle. You can create one by having a healer resurrect a skeleton (like the Bones of Zog).
- Money for Nothing: The wisps want the Book of the Mantras, and all you have to do it get it for them - a piece of cake on the second playthrough. The wisps pay you by filling up your entire party's extra inventory space with what they consider Worthless Yellow Rocks - gold nuggets. A common player tactic is to fill up their party with as many people as they can but dropping their entire inventory, thus giving them more gold nuggets than they could ever spend in the game.
- Multiple Head Case: The Pushme Pullyou in Sutek's basement.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When the Codex was raised by Lord British and the Great Council, it ripped apart the Gargoyle world and stole their greatest Shrine.
- No Hero Discount: A notable aversion, you do get some special treatment including a freebie or two from a few merchants, and plenty of people tell you help yourself to their stuff.
- Optional Sexual Encounter: The gypsies north of Trinsic. They don't come out and offer the service, but if you type "sex" you can pay for a text "you go off somewhere private for a while". They'll even do it with same-gender player characters, but admit that it's not usually their thing.
- Our Gargoyles Rock: They're a foreign race that follow Disciplines instead of Virtues; a different yet equal value system.
- Outside-Context Villain: The gargoyles, having not played any prominent role in the series up until this point. The main goal of the game is to understand the gargoyles, their motivation, and how to make peace with them.
- Pacifist Run: To some degree, you can probably gate in at each shrine, purify it, and gate out without having to fight the gargoyles occupying it. Since they aren't actually evil, this is actually a pretty virtuous choice.
- Prophecy Twist: The gargoyle Book of Prophecies states that the only way to prevent the utter destruction of their people is by "sacrifice of the False Prophet." The gargoyles believe this means they must sacrifice the False Prophet, but in the end the False Prophet that is, the Avatar, fulfills the prophecy by sacrificing the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom into the Void.
- Portal Network: The Orb of the Moons, which you have at the start of the game, can teleport you to each town, to each shrine, and to the Gargoyle country.
- Rainbow Speak: Links are highlighted in red in the dialogue.
- Retcon: This one is a doozy. The Gargoyles are actually the Balrons from Ultima IV and prior games.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Horance
- Start of Darkness: In this game, we find Horance living in isolation, talking in silly rhymes, and selling offensive magic. In the next game, we find that these were all symptoms of Hornace eventually going mad and playing a pivotal role in the destruction of Skara Brae.
- Sequence Breaking:
- There's a quest to gather materials for a lenscrafter to repair a broken lens. You can do the quest, but you can also simply pickpocket the finished lens off the required NPC.
- The huge quest to translate the Book of Prophecies (that is guaranteed to take A LOT of your time if you decide to do it) is also entirely optional, despite being related to the main plot.
- If you do decide to translate the book, you're required to find pirate treasure to do so. So you have to find the map, which is in pieces spread out all over the world... but you don't really need more than the one with the X and maybe a few others for reference in order to figure out the location. Or you could just check every dungeon you find until you get the right one.
- If you follow the old strategy of asking every NPC you meet about all of the major keywords you can skip the Book of Prophecy quest accidentally just by mentioning it to Sin'Vraal, an important NPC from Ultima V who lives near the Shrine of Sacrifice.
- Have a locked door in your path and don't want to find the key? Don't worry, just throw a Powder Keg at it! Alternatively, you can also cast Magic Lock on the door, then Unlock. The door will now be completely unlocked.
- Spiritual Sequel: Cythera is almost graphically identical to Ultima VI and features the same conversation system.
- Strange Syntax Speaker: To inform you that the Gargoyles' speech always start with infinitives.
- Take Your Time: Don't worry, the Gargoyle world won't be destroyed that fast.
- Take That:
- All of the pirates are named after employees of Electronic Arts, in response to a frivolous lawsuit EA filled against Origin. For example, Captain Hawkins is named after Trip Hawkins, founder and then-CEO of EA. In addition, some of his crew (Bonn, Ybarra, and Alastor Gordon) are named after then-senior employees of EA.
- During the intro, one of the TV channels that the Avatar is flipping through shows a televangelist getting hit by a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
- Talking Animal: Sherry and Smith
- Targeted Human Sacrifice: The Gargoyles believe that killing the Avatar will stop their world from being destroyed.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- In any town where there are cannons, a player short on cash could just move a few to the designated guard patrol routes and kill a guard NPC using the cannons with no repercussions. They could then just loot the body, sell the equipment, and wait an hour for the NPC to respawn. They don't seem to notice who's killing them, and the shopkeepers happily accept equipment blasted full of cannonball-sized holes.
- Especially silly is how common guards come equipped with say, Halberds, and just a few of them would rip through any of the Gargoyles camped at a shrine.
- Touch of Death: Lord British's attack will One-Hit Kill you and anything else in the game, except (sometimes) daemons and dragons.
- Unwinnable by Design:
- Using the Orb of the Moons, you can go to the Gargoyle country at anytime from the beginning of the game. You can slaughter all of the Gargoyle NPCs, and the game will never be won. Several of the plot-important NPCs will flat-out attack you if you go there without completing the quest that's supposed to send you there.
- And then there is the Armageddon spell...
- While ships and skiffs can be controlled to go wherever the player wants, if you hop onto a raft (found here and there along creeks), you are at the mercy of the currents. Unfortunately you can't get out of a raft until are alongside land - and if you don't manage to get off the raft you will get washed out to sea and get stuck against the starry sky at the edge of the world. I hope you didn't save there hoping to find a way back...
- Another way would be burying the Moonstones you acquire from each shrine of virtue in a dungeon. Being perpetually 'night', they would create a blue moongate. The problem is, you need them to finish the game, and they can only be retrieved in the daytime. Hope you didn't save...
- Video Game Stealing: Mostly averted with the "Pickpocket" spell, except that you can use it to steal "meat" from animals.
- Violence Is the Only Option: A notable aversion. Like with Planescape: Torment, the emphasis is on talking to people and figuring things out. Very little fighting is actually required to complete the game, although you do have to traverse some hostile areas where it's difficult to avoid.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Here is one point where the game excels. Every NPC, even shopkeepers, have a bed and house they sleep in and a routine they follow. Conversations are incredibly in-depth, and there's plenty of exploration that can be done just exploring the actual world.
- With This Herring: Averted, Lord British has a room for you with a bunch of gear, and tells you to grab anything in the castle you need.