Project: Ultima

For the most part, when I play and review games from my backlog on this site, I do so by generation. For example, some of my earliest reviews tackled classic NES games. Next, I moved on to Super NES titles, etc. Occasionally, I’ll go off on tangents as I did back in 2012, when I undertook the task of playing through the entire canonical Castlevania series in order of release. Then, in 2013, I did the same with the legendary Wizardry series (some of my favorite games of all time). This trend continued in 2014 with my “Final Fantasy Initiative”.

Today, I’m going to announce another playthrough project that’s been long overdue. I’m calling it, Project Ultima. That’s right, if there’s any classic CRPG series that can go head-to-head with Wizardry, it’s Ultima.

Both series debuted in 1981, but the development of the games couldn’t have been any different. Wizardry, created by two college developers, was thoroughly tested and received professional packaging and publication. While, Akalabeth, the precursor to Ultima, was written by a high school student and sold in ziplock bags with hand-drawn artwork. I suppose if we’re getting technical, the first game in the series, Akalabeth, isn’t an “Ultima” title, per se. But, it does serve as a prequel of sorts for the whole series.

The creative force behind Ultima is a man named Richard Garriott (also known as Lord British). As mentioned above, he began designing games as a student in high school. One thing I admire about Garriott is his drive to always better himself with each product he creates. For example, when he learned how some players were abusing certain mechanics in his games, ie: stealing from merchants instead of buying goods with gold, he then decided to include a moral/karma system in the next title to encourage honorable behavior. Concepts like this, have earned him a reputation in the industry for being a pioneer of sorts. Those curious about Garriott can read all about him in his biographical book, Explore/Create (which I reviewed on this site a while back).

My first encounter with Ultima came in the form of the Ultima III for the NES. While the early Ultima games were initially released on Apple computers, they were later ported to PC and other systems as well. This game made me into an instant fan. From there, I continued to gobble up each new Ultima port as they were released for the NES. Despite my love for the games, it would be several years before I would finally be able to properly explore the roots of the series. It wasn’t until 1998 and the release of the Ultima Collection, that was finally able to enjoy every game in the series up to that point. I am even a proud member of the Ultima Dragons, a special online club for fans of series.  (StainedDragon reporting in!)

For this project, I plan to explore every title under the Ultima banner. I’ll be starting with Akalabeth, and playing straight through to Ultima IX. My project will include the Ultima Underworld games, as well as a look at Ultima Online. The whole project will wrap up with a look at Lord British’s newest venture, Shroud of the Avatar.

To accomplish this, I won’t actually be using my old Ultima Collection disc. As the versions of the games included on that disc were designed for Windows 95/98 and still assume that an actual form of DOS is loaded onto the host machine. So instead, I’ll be using the versions of the games that are currently sold through GOG.com. GOG packages their games with built-in DOSBox emulation. In my opinion, GOG always seems to offer the best solution for those interested in playing legacy DOS titles.

So without further ado, I will begin my playthrough tonight. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Picking up the pieces

For those who may not read this blog often, allow me a moment to explain the real purpose behind this site. On the surface, it appears to be a simple game review/geek culture blog. But in reality it’s a very personal pet project of mine. As a child growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I loved gaming. Retro gaming nostalgia is something very important to me. As someone who was a big gamer as a kid/teen, who then abandoned the hobby for several years, before picking it back up as an adult – I decided that it would be a fun project to revisit many of the games from my youth, and share my thoughts online. During the course of this project, I also delighted in playing many of the games that I overlooked when I was younger.

So far in course of this site, I’ve touched on my gaming roots starting with 80’s arcade titles, ATARI 2600, and of course the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. My reviews progressed from there to SNES, Gameboy and even revisiting my early PC gaming experience. About two years ago, I started playing and discussing games for the Playstation console. To date, I’ve discussed several classic PS1 titles: Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania Chronicles, Symphony of the Night, FF7, FF8 and FF9. But there’s still plenty more classic “must play” games from this era that I’ve never experienced.

Once I started my reviews of Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9 – I found myself sucked into a rathole of sorts. I decided to set aside my Playstation reviews for a while and focus on getting caught up to date in the world of Final Fantasy. I recently accomplished this goal, so now I find myself picking up pieces and trying to determine where to set foot back into my generational playthroughs.

There’s a large number of games for PS1 that I want to experience and discuss. A great many of these are extremely long RPGs. While I do want to play them, I also don’t want to get sucked into another 2-year campaign on being stuck on PS1 titles – all the while, neglecting other game consoles from the generation. So what I’ve decided to do, is alternate a bit.

I’ll review a few more PS1 titles, then I want to take a look at some Nintendo 64 titles. Maybe even mix in some of the turn of the century PC titles as well. But don’t worry. I’ll still be sure to break up the monotony with a sprinkling of modern games as well. In fact, I’ve already started. Expect my first back-on-track review of a PS1 classic before the end of the month!

Update: Final Fantasy Initiative

Just a brief update regarding the my Final Fantasy playthrough initiative.  So far on this site, I’ve played and reviewed every game in the series from the original Final Fantasy all the way to Final Fantasy XI (and it’s expansions). This brings us to Final Fantasy XII.

Now, I started playing this title on my PS3 about a month ago but I’m only about five hours in so far. I blame summer vacation on this delay. My kids are home full time and there’s a lot of competition for the TV. On top of that, the game has some minor graphics issues on the PS3. It’s quite playable, but the emulation seems to struggle with this title a bit. On top of that, I have a sneaking suspicion that SE is going to announce an HD remake of the FFXII at E3 later this month. So, I’m going to put my playthrough on hold while I wait to see if there is an announcement. If not, I’ll resume my playthrough right away. If XII HD is announced, I may decide to place the FF playthrough on hold until the release. We shall see. Have no fear, if such a thing does occur, I’ll be sure to resume my exploration in PS1 titles (a task I was undertaking prior to the FF playthrough).