Ultima VIII: Pagan
Ultima VIII: Pagan is the penultimate game in the Ultima series and a huge milestone in my life.
At the end of Ultima VII: Serpent Isle the Avatar is left floating in the void and is taken by the Guardian. He takes the Avatar to the world of Pagan, and banishes him there. Pagan is a broken world mostly covered by ocean and only a small landmass. The people of Pagan worship the four Titans:
- Lithos; the Titan of earth and death. Followers of Lithos are called Necromancers and can use magic of the earth and can raise undead.
- Pyros; the Titan of fire. Followers of Pyros are called Sorcerers and wield powerful fire magic.
- Hydros; the Titan of water. The royal blood line of Pagan contains the power of Hydros storms and a master of these abilities is called a Tempest.
- Stratos; the Titan of air and life. Theurgists are followers of Stratos and are healers and mystics.
A Necromantic ritual.
Ultima VIII is a third person role playing game. The game took a very different approach than the previous games in many respects:
- The Avatar travels alone in Pagan and never has companions.
- The Avatar is able to jump and fall down (the world is pseudo 3D) and the view is isometric. This was done to make the Ultima series more approachable to mainstream gamers (more action based). You can also climb up ledges.
- Combat was more hack'n'slash based with a lot of clicking (as opposed to turn based or automatic).
- Overall the game was smaller, less open-ended, and more bugged than even previous games.
- The plot is largely linear in nature. You can only complete major plot components in a certain order.
Stats were gained by completing activity. For example; reading books improved intelligence, and fighting or simply attacking the air improved strength and dexterity.
Magic weapons and armour were unique and rare. Each item had a specific power. For example the mace "Slayer" has a percentage chance of instantly killing anyone you strike with it.
There is no doubt that the story and the game are intriguing. The game is epic, if you manage to complete it you'll feel pretty good (except that the endgame credits are... disappointing).
The schools of magic are a fun mechanic to explore. Each one is unique and fun to discover.
There is a lot to see and explore within the game, it is a real experience.
This game is dark. It lacks a lot of the humour and light hearted fun in the previous games. This somewhat diminished the attachment I had to the game world.
The isometric view and the movement style were a little confusing. When I first played I often died just trying to jump from stone to stone over water.
The one major area of the game which links everything together is the Catacombs. They are a set of tunnels under the earth filled with traps and enemies. The entire Catacomb system looks very alike and is very confusing to find your way through. I found this pretty frustrating, and it actually gets quite boring looking at the same grey walls over and over again.
The kind of rock terrain typical of the Catacombs.
The whole game was lacking some of the magic of the Ultima VI and Ultima VII games. There was just something missing which I mourned for. It felt like a game in a different series entirely, and I think this was done to try and make it more approachable to the mainstream gamer.
Despite all the negatives I played this game in its entirety and explored everything about it. I have fond memories of the game and it remains one of the most influential games of my early life.
I remember the Catacombs... trying to find my way around without dying. The music that played as I approached the Zealan Gods temple was pretty awesome. I remember being really disappointed that I couldn't become a Tempest, but really enjoying the other schools of magic.
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