The first great computer role playing game!
When I first got started in the computer gaming scene in the early 1980’s I was introduced to the world of computer role-playing games, or RPGs for short. It wasn’t long before I was introduced Richard (Lord British) Garriot’s seminal RPG series of Ultima games. I first played Ultima III and was very impressed by it as a youth, but when my brother and I got our hands on Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar we were completely blown away by its complexity and scale over its predecessor.
It is my opinion that Ultima IV laid the foundation of today’s western RPGs. Where Japan’s RPG focus was on storytelling, Western RPGs allowed the gamer more freedom of movement and exploration within its world. Even today’s great Western RPG’s such as the Elder Scrolls can find their origins in Origin’s Ultima games.
What was significant about Ultima IV was the massive world for the gamer to explore. Several methods of rapid transit including moon-gates, which incorporated teleportation based on the phases of the moon. Most significantly was the players ability to converse with all the non-player characters (NPC) of the world. You had to gain information from its citizens so you could unravel the world’s mysteries. This game mechanic really captured my imagination. That combined with the exploration component of this game and you can see why I greatly appreciate the Western RPG over those from Japan.
What was very unusual about Ultima IV was its quest. Your goal was not to slay some beast or save some princess or even to capture some treasure, rather it was a journey of learning, self discovery, and to attain a level of person above all others, that of an Avatar. What a daring concept, but combined with the world that was presented you had an experience that may not even be equalled today.
And the reason I am writing about Ultima IV today is that if you click on the link below, you can play Ultima IV, right now, from your browser! I may need to dabble once again wit this game. I know I have my original notes from the 1980s from when I played this game (yes, you needed to take notes when you played an RPG back in the day), I could use them to help me along. Failing that I linked off to a resource for Ultima IV to get you started along this fantastic RPG. Enjoy your trip to Britannia!