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Video Game / Ultima I

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"Thou hast saved the princess. She giveth thee 500 hit points, pence and experience points. She informs thee that thou art now ready for time travel, and that there is a time machine far to the northwest!"

The first game in the Ultima series, later subtitled The First Age of Darkness is largely a Video Game Remake of Akalabeth, a simplistic Dungeon Crawler game generally considered to be "Ultima 0". The evil wizard Mondain, using the aptly-named Gem of Immortality, has terrorized the land of Sosaria for over 1000 years. His monsters roam the lands freely, and none, not even the mighty Lord British, can hope to oppose him. It seems as if the bad guy has already won.

In desperation, a lone hero, known as "The Stranger", is summoned from another world. He must gain favor with the kings and princesses of the land, defeat Mondain's hordes, and travel from darkest dungeons to deepest space, and even through time itself, to defeat a seemingly unstoppable threat. Will he succeed?

Though the game is simplistic by modern standards, it's an important stepping stone not only in the development of the (better-known) later games in the series, but for western RPGs in general.


This game had examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Even for a fantasy world.
  • The Bard: Iolo, found in towns, sings "Ho eyo he hum". That's about it. Don't let Iolo get next to you, or "something" may get stolen and you'll need a pretty good memory to see what.
  • Damsels in Distress: The princesses.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Interestingly, there's no such thing as completing a dungeon; all you're required to do is to kill specific monsters that can be only be found on certain levels of a dungeon. And any dungeon will do: they're all the same save for the placement of some walls and tunnels. It's the clearest legacy of Akalabeth, with many enemy graphics and some of the mechanics left intact.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Read the rest of the page. If the game was made in the present, one would likely invoke What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?
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  • Easily Forgiven: The player. Steal something or kill someone in a town or castle? Death penalty. Leave and come back right immediately? Suddenly nobody cares.
  • Expy: A lot of the names and monsters were lifted wholesale from The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Faux First-Person 3D: The dungeons, and perhaps the space shooting segments count as well.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Hyperjump lets you travel between sectors in space.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Numerous signs have arbitrary Latin phrases on them that sound cool but are Ultimately useless, such as "ultima thule" and "omnia mutantur".
  • Immortality Inducer: The problem with Mondain. In fact, when you finally do fight Mondain; you have to destroy his partially created Gem of Immortality first. Otherwise he'll keep coming Back from the Dead. Pity you don't think of destroying the Shards.
  • The Jester: Gwino the Jester has the key to one of the cells, and advertises the fact. It's not clear why she has it, but the only way to get the key to the prison cells is to kill her. Like Iolo, Gwino may steal "something".
  • Level Grinding: Averted. Levels only really determine how many enemies are on the overworld and what shops will have in stock. The bulk of the time it takes to win the game practically is spent on raising your stats. But it's not quite Stat Grinding, either, as using a skill doesn't do anything to improve it directly; the conventional method of stat raising will require you to travel continental distances over and over to collect quest rewards and visit signposts that cast spells on you. (The unconventional method is to throw lots of money into certain ponds.)
  • Market-Based Title: Richard Garriot tells Spoony that the title was originally Ultimatum, but the publisher wanted something that could be copyrighted.
  • Random Events Plot: You got to kill an evil wizard, find his immortality gem that does exactly what it's supposed to do and makes him immortal, and so you have to travel back in time to kill him. Doing so, among other things, involves flying a space shuttle into space and become a Space Ace by shooting TIE Fighters. No joke.
  • Repeatable Quest: Just talk to a king again after receiving your reward.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The ultimate goal of the player is to travel back through time and smash the Gem of Immortality before it can be completed, thus preventing Mondain's millennium-long reign.
  • Schizo Tech: Best weapon in the game? Laser blaster. Superior to pistols, phazors, and light swords. Spoony wondered how long the Blacksmiths had to apprentice for before being able to build Space Shuttles?!
  • Time Travel: The goal of the game is level up and do enough quests to show the local rulers that you are tough enough to go back in time and kill Mondain before he becomes immortal.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In order to prove your worthiness, you have to buy a space shuttle; fly into space, rent a fighter, and shoot down enough... TIE Fighters... to gain the title "Space Ace." No really. All There in the Manual.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Every step you take in a dungeon or the overworld will eat into your stash of sacks of food. Fortunately, they're pretty cheap and you can carry thousands.

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