Lauded British: The Ultima 6 Project Beta

By Kieron Gillen on December 2nd, 2009 at 6:35 pm.

Someone should do a Dungeon Siege tribute in the Ultima 6 engine, sez I.

Brian RPGWatch brought news that The Ultima 6 Project has reached the public beta stage and is, by all accounts, pretty stable. The idea, much like the previous Ultima 5 Lazarus, is to reincarnate these seminal games in a more modern engine. In this case, Dungeon Siege. You can go and download the beta from here if you fancy a trip to Britannia. To see it in action… well, the only footage I could find is from Milestone 5. So bear in mind, the full Beta is 3 milestones along from this. Though, to be honest, this looks pretty nifty to me.

“Nifty”. There’s a word I don’t use nearly enough.

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26 Comments »

  1. AndrewC says:

    So is this the full game, but done up spangly? Or, at least, four-years-ago spangly? That’s a very big thing, if so.

    Also: Ultima was before my time. What modern games are most influenced by it?

    • Psychopomp says:

      RPGs

    • Thirith says:

      I’d say there’s no modern RPG that really does anything near what Ultima did at its best. Are there any open-world, party-based, relatively non-linear modern RPGs? Bioware doesn’t really do open-world, and most other 3D RPGs don’t have much in the way of a party, unless there are some that I completely missed.

    • AndrewC says:

      OK, so what is the combat like – Bioware’s RTS-ish tactics, or Diablo’s clicky-clicky or something more direct and arcadey? Or…something?

    • Wulf says:

      Gothic & Gothic II are the games which achieved almost exactly what the later Ultima games did. Gothic III is a true evolution of the concept if you use the community patch. Risen, however, was a step back to the period of Gothic I. So I recommend Gothic III with the community patch to understand what made the later Ultima games special.

      Here’s what you can expect that they both share:

      - Lots of long-winded NPCs to talk to.
      - A rather convoluted magic/combat system, if functional.
      - An absolutely amazing world to explore.
      - Properly scheduled AI, where each appears to have their own life to live.
      - Lots of secret nooks and crannies to poke around.
      - The ability to cook, play instruments, and do other pointless but fun things (the NPCs do them too).
      - Dark dungeons to poke around in, for fun and sometimes profit (sometimes they have Dragons).
      - People get wary of you if you steal things, and even question you about it and begin to distrust you.
      - A shapeshifting/polymorphing system where you can turn into various creatures.

      What Ultima does that Gothic III doesn’t:

      - Pretty average fantasy storyline centring around morality in a very Bioware-ish sort of way.
      - There are completely useless items which you can pick up and/or inspect, Shenmue-style.
      - There are extra skill sets like being able to use a loom to create clothes.
      - Incredibly stupid AI in combat scenarios, and boring, unrealistic animal behaviour.
      - A clumsy horse & cart/boat system, and a magic carpet, none of which I found much use for.
      - An unintuitive teleport system involving teleport gates that could kill you, or marking spots to recall to.
      - Unless it’s for a quest (such as the bank robbery one), things are rarely ever locked. Total free-for-all.
      - People merrily congratulate you for stealing their things by never noticing.
      - No one reacts to you pulling a blade out in front of them.
      - Half-hearted approach to crafting things which are actually useful.

      What Gothic III does that Ultima doesn’t:

      - Bonkers lore that only the German culture could come up with.
      - Bizarre quests that only the German culture could come up with.
      - A really unique approach to quests where you can complete them if you’re not on them, and they’re added to your journal then.
      - A complete eco-system for animals, Wolves hunt Deer in packs, they’re not retarded, they don’t try to combat you unless you really piss them off.
      - An amazingly beautiful World thanks to the progression of graphics power, which only adds to the sense of wonderment in the exploration.
      - A teleport system that revolved around finding/questing for hidden teleport runes.
      - Rather fun approach to picking locks, pickpocketing, and other ogue things which I really dug.
      - People react to things aside from theft, such as drawn weapons, spells, sneaking, failed pickpocket attempts and so on, it makes them feel that bit more intelligent.
      - Very complete crafting systems for alchemy, blacksmithing, and so on.
      - You can swim, and clamber upon ledges, levitate, and do all sorts of neat things like that.

      In all fairness, Gothic III is completely broken without the community patch, but with the community patch it’s a thing of love and beauty, it was broken because — like Bloodlines — it was just too damned ambitious for its own good. A dedicated community made it the perfect, polished gem of a thing that it always wanted to be though, and with the community patch it’s actually one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. It’s a true spiritual successor to the later Ultima games, much in the way that Torchlight is to Diablo. And there is so much to gain and what you lose is mostly annoyances. The only thing I was sad to see go in Gothic was the really pointless items/skills, they were a fun novelty.

      But generally, Gothic III is everything that the later Ultima games were, and so, so much more. I wish Risen had built upon Gothic III instead of just taking the coward’s way out.

      Oh well… there’s alwys Gothic IV, I can hope beyond hope that it’ll build upon everything that Gothic III was, because the late Ultima games, and later, the Gothic games were very singular in the kind of sandbox, open-ended RPGs they are. These games are kind of like MMOs, but filled with generally more intelligent, tolerable people who’re always roleplaying.

    • Wulf says:

      Oops, missed something.

      In Ultima games, people DO notice you stealing, but usually only if you don’t have your inventory screens open, there was a bug in VII and I believe VI too wherein if you paused the game by using your inventory, people would stop caring about theft, I meant to explain that in that point, but I forgot.

    • Trubka says:

      Gothic III isn’t a party-based rpg as far as I know.

  2. Thirith says:

    While I love the work that these guys and the Lazarus team have done, I haven’t found time yet to get my teeth stuck into Lazarus. Also, I hope that one day some talented team will create a huge 3D Britannia in Oblivion – I’d love to return to the stomping grounds of my nerdy teenage years in three dimensions, to a Britannia that isn’t half as big as a shoebox (cf. Ultima IX).

    • Gotem says:

      Ultima IX? there was no such thing as Ultima IX: Ascension
      hmm. how do I know the game you ask? hmmm… Look over there? is that Lord British?

  3. Railick says:

    Every modern game is influenced by Ultima AndrewC :P There were even FPS like Ultima Underworld games which allow you to look around when most other 3 games of that time were locked into one view.
    Has anyone done anything to remake Ultima 4 with any success, that is my favorite.
    T

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Ultima Underworld was not an FPS, although it did have a fully textured real 3D first-person view (and came out a little before Wolfenstein 3D!).

  4. Twiccan says:

    “Are there any open-world, party-based, relatively non-linear modern RPGs?”

    There is a game out there called Prelude to Darkness. The graphics look dated, but I would still call it “modern”. It’s a 3d, party-based, open ended non-linear RPG, and is turn-based to boot.

    http://www.zero-sum.com/index.html

  5. Vinraith says:

    Despite being the right age to have played them, I completely missed Ultima outside of the Underworld games (which were, of course, completely amazing). I do wish the entire series would turn up on GOG, I have a feeling I’d be retro RPGing for years on that purchase.

    • Carra says:

      A good reason for them not to sell it. Years gog.com not getting any more money from Vinraith.

  6. Matthew says:

    Oh, I am so looking forward to having a go on this one. UVI was my first Ultima and therefore the one I hold most dear.

  7. Subject 706 says:

    Ah, Ultima VII + Serpent Isle. One of the best rpgs ever. Haven’t played the earlier ones, so I might just check this out.

  8. Magnus says:

    The ultima games are fantastic.

    Where does one find Dungeon Siege in order to play these new ones though?

    Also, what’s the dungeon siege engine like? Having never experienced it, I wonder how it emulates U5 and now U6 (especially since both games were wildly different in style and interface).

  9. KOuri says:

    I hope they get to the Ultima 7s, those were the finest RPGs in decades IMO. I still haven’t played and re-played a game so many times as U7 : SI, and can’t really think of a better RPG, except for maybe Planescape : Torment.

    • Thirith says:

      I doubt they’ll redo Ultima VII: it works perfectly and still looks nice (with the bonus of nostalgic hindsight) if run on Exult. Definitely check out http:/exult.sourceforge.net.

  10. Railick says:

    I never said it was an FPS, I said it was FPS like ;) (technically speaking it is FPS to some degree since you can shoot a bow and shoots spells :P)

  11. SofS says:

    AndrewC: it varied from game to game, but most of them had some sort of take on turn-based overhead tactical maps during the fights.

  12. Carra says:

    I played through the Dungeon Siege expansion this year and got to say: the game still looked good.

  13. malkav11 says:

    I could see the Dungeon Siege engine improving U5, which is very old and very primitive in some respects. U6 looks and plays much better and Dungeon Siege was not, imho, an ideal vehicle for the game it wanted to be, much less something enormously more complex such as late-series Ultima.

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      @ Malkav11

      Just downloaded the milestone installer, went exploring. Epic scale going on, awesome dungeons, they’ve coded in a new journal system which rocks. Highly recommend it to any RPG fan. Way fun in the beautiful ultima (mostly) non-linear huge open worldy explore your arse off kind of way. Oh, and the writing’s good too :)

  14. jsutcliffe says:

    That looks rather nice, but I’d prefer to have Ultima 7 in lovely 3D-o-vision. That was far and away my favourite (though I didn’t play all of them).

  15. disperse says:

    Ahh, Stones. Brings back memories.