Ultima IV Is Free On GoG Right Now

By Jim Rossignol on September 1st, 2011 at 2:02 pm.

The view out of Wizardry's window.
Ultima IV, which is a game from the time when games really were games, and not transmedia double-dip marketing opportunities, is now free on GOG. Haha, games are really old. I am old. Oh dear.

(Thanks, Lewie!)

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118 Comments »

  1. Joe Duck says:

    “a game from the time when games really were games, and not transmedia double-dip marketing opportunities”
    So darn true. I am old too and proud of it!

  2. jon_hill987 says:

    Get off my lawn! Kids these days have no respect! In my day tuppence would feed a family for two weeks!

    Got to agree with the double-dip marketing opportunities though. Down with exclusive content for one retailer and DLC!

  3. AndrewC says:

    Oh stop playing up to the grumpy gallery.

  4. iGark says:

    I’m young. I’ve never played Ultima. I’ve never heard of it.

    Should I get it?

    • LionsPhil says:

      I was going to mention that I bet commenter Wizardry will be along any second to tell us all “YES”, but then I saw the tooltip text on the image. :D

    • zergrush says:

      I’ve recently played Ultima Underworld I & II and they’re quite awesome and still playable, strongly recommended.

      Never touched the main series tho.

    • iGark says:

      Apparently it’s the only free game I don’t have on GOG (I just made an account.) I’ll get it if solely for the sake of neatness.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      IT’S NOTHING COMPARED TO WIZARDRY II

    • Wizardry says:

      Yes. Ultima really started with IV. Everything before were prototypes and irrelevant in terms of lore and setting. If you want to experience the Ultima series start with IV and play from there.

    • Hematite says:

      *hugs Wizardry*

      Is Wizardry the first reader to be graced with mention in the sacred alt-text? This is quite the honour!

      The Sega Master System version of this was one of my first proper games – it’s a right classic. It had a nice 8-bit tileset and tile dungeons which were 2-d like the overworld rather than 3-d.

      Notable for its open world and the objective of becoming the Avatar of the eight virtues rather than killing the Big Bad. I don’t know how it’s aged, but I remember it being simplistic in a charming way. It was right on the transition from walk-walk fight-fight RPGs to talky-story RPGs.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Hematite: Probably not. But what’s kind of funny is that if we take Wizardry to mean the Wizardry series, the alt text makes quite a lot of sense. You see, the Wizardry series concentrated on dungeon crawling and combat while Richard Garriott focused the Ultima series on exploring whole continents, sailing the seas and talking to townsfolk in many different settlements. So it’s sort of like a Wizardry fan boy playing Wizardry while looking out of a window at what the Ultima fans were seeing. Countryside.

      :)

    • gritz says:

      No relevance for the rest of the series? Ultima I & III are both heavily referenced throughout Ultima 7 and Serpent Isle.

    • Wizardry says:

      @gritz: Yes. And you gain more of a clue about what you did in Ultima 1 through 3 in the manual of Ultima 4 and 5 than by playing them.

    • Kamos says:

      @OP

      If you want to play for ‘academic’ reasons, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, you’d better have balls of steel. It has a plot that is quite different from the ‘great evil needs to be destroyed by you’ trope, but it is kinda grindy. A lot of the time you’ll be running around trying to find someone who can give you some information you need.

      Heh, I suppose it has a lot of the things you see in RPG games today. Only at the time they were really pushing the edge.

    • Lowbrow says:

      I’ve only played Ultima VI all the way through (having a 386 lost me out on VII) and it was actually the first RPG I ever played. I think my cousin gave me the disks or something shortly after my dad brought home the computer, and it was amazing.

      @iGark I saw one of those youtube top 10 RPG videos which claimed that the NES version of Ultima IV was pretty close to the original, and recommended that version for people that have never played it. When I play through IV it’ll probably be that version (amongst other things like graphical issues, I find the control schemes of old games to be a pain in the ass when you do all your gaming on a laptop).

  5. Calneon says:

    Why don’t games do pixel art like that anymore. That’s fucking beautiful.

    • LionsPhil says:

      There were some crazy-good artists working in the days of properly limited resources. Space Quest III is another beautiful 16-colour 320×200 game. (And many an adventure was gorgious once moving up to 256 colours—Legend of Kyrandia 1 and 2 being good examples.)

      It’s what indie “pixel art” usually isn’t, because that’s optimizing for time and talent constraints by feigning a technical one, whereas real old pixel art was professionals pouring skill into excelling despite technology constraints.

      Some kind of mention of chiptunes and making the most of MIDI through an OPL2/3 (Sound Blaster/Adlib), too. Dat warm FM synthesis bass, mmm. Space Quest III scores well there again. (And, wow, if you feed it through an MT32…)

    • DeCi says:

      @LionsPhil, I totally agree with you!
      Back then Devs actually put their Love Blood and tears into games. They were passionate back then. I myself Noticed this by the means of pixelart, music and gameplay i got presented with.

      For your entertainment: Dune OST, on the Adlib Gold.

      Game Music doesn’t get better than that!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, some devs still put love, blood and tears into games (Valve being an easy example), but what is demanded of full-time professionals now by the audience (and perhaps by themselves) is HD HDR FSAA 3D. Professional pixel art is probably, sadly, over, because nobody wants to pay for it.

    • jonfitt says:

      Some people did pour themselves into games back then as some people do now, but let’s not gloss over the absolute broken tosh that was being released back in the day!

    • beavioso says:

      Well they’re releasing a bunch of old EA games right now. Dungeon Keeper 2, Wing Commander 1 & 2, Ultima 1-3, Ultima 4, and Populous so far. 3 more slots left. So they’ll probably release some more Ultima, but I’m really hoping for Syndicate.

    • Bhazor says:

      It would be a sin to leave the Bullfrog catalog unexhausted. Here’s hoping Theme Hospital is next.

  6. disperse says:

    My memory is that Ultima IV has been freeware for a while. I think they released it to promote Ultima Online? A quick Google search turns up an alternate download site: http://www.ultimaforever.com/

    • disperse says:

      Of course the GOG version probably comes preconfigured with DosBox. Can anyone confirm that the GOG version works with Windows 7 right “out of the box”?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well if it comes with DOSBox, then yes?
      This was worth pointing out since GOG is becoming a pretty useful repository of freebie releases previously missed. (Beneath a Steel Sky had been on ScummVM’s site for years before GOG came along with it, for example, but if it makes more people aware of Revolution being awesome and gets them to play a classic adventure game…)

    • IDtenT says:

      From that link it seems Bioware is now working on Ultima. O_O

      Will I be able to gay sex Lord British?

    • Hematite says:

      WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE GAME?

  7. Unaco says:

    I was all excited for a moment there… then went to the GoG page, and saw “Developer/Publisher: Origin Systems/Electronic Arts”. I’m holding off on the whole Origin thing, can’t be bothered setting up a whole new account, installing the client, making sure the EULA isn’t horrible, finding the right blood sacrifice, etc.

    • djbriandamage says:

      I hate EA so very very much for shitting all over this golden name of years past.

    • Unaco says:

      The Origin System, yes, I know… EA’s “new” Steam-a-like, digital download, game launching, egg poaching, all-singing-and-a-little-bad-dancing, social network, store front client thing. I don’t need no wikipedia page to tell me all about it. I have heard it plays your mp3′s at twice their bitrate, and if you watch a movie/video through it it can make hot ladies nipples show through their clothes, and as long as it’s installed on your machine you’ll never lose another sock in the washing machine… but still, I have heard disturbing rumours about it. Besides… if it’s been around since 1983, it should really be better than Steam these days, and I’ve heard it isn’t.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I first laughed at the confusion of Origin and the real Origin. Then I almost cried.

      Edit: Unaco, it seems you do need to read the wikipedia page about Origin Systems. It’s *not* the same as the new Origin.

      Edit edit: Or this is so much parody that my brain has come full cirlce and can’t comprehend it. I don’t know.

    • Joe Duck says:

      It has to be parody.

    • Unaco says:

      Origin? A parody? I don’t think so… Fairly sure that EA are quite serious about it. Though I guess we’ll see in the coming months.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m boycotting the PC until Microsoft make Games for Windows Live support DirectX 15.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Please, I can’t keep this straight. Are you serious or joking?

    • Telke says:

      seriously hoping UNACO is actually trolling, but if he’s actually not reading the links:

      Origin Systems was a game studio back in the 80s-90s. It closed many years ago, and bears no relation to Origin today, aside from the name (and being owned by EA).

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Nicely played, Unaco. That made my day. :)

      (If you still don’t get it yet HE IS JOKING.)

    • Unaco says:

      @telke…

      Since when did being comically obstinate become ‘Trolling’?

      I would have thought the comment about my inability to find the correct blood sacrifice would have been all the evidence required to tell I was being less than serious… Everyone (especially a Scotsman) knows the best sorts of sacrifice… Animals are fine, but their acceptability is limited. A little child is even better, but not nearly as effective as the right kind of adult.

    • Treymoney says:

      Unaco, you are awesome. Excellent work.

    • rayne117 says:

      By the Unaco’s last serious but really not serious comment I was almost foaming at the mouth and clawing at the screen.

      It was very odd and I don’t know how it happened since I usually never get that angry.

    • Veracity says:

      Well, I thought it was funny.

      Ultima IV is the best Ultima (possibly if you don’t count Underworlds, probably even then), not for polish or completeness but because it was unbelievably inventive. Unfortunately a bit of a cul-de-sac, though I suppose those awful morality sliders Bioware and all its mates keep putting in everything are kind of vaguely descended from its virtue tracking. Interface was never good and would certainly be an issue for a new player, but if you can play, say, System Shock, this is probably worth a look, too.

    • Wulf says:

      See, this is why I’m not touching Origin with a very long pole. Eventually it’s going to blow up horribly and the people who sunk money into it are going to feel very silly. What you have to consider is that the management of Origin decided that they’d launch a PC downloads service under a name that would piss off a non-trivial amount of PC gamers.

      That is a very unwise decision, and if my danger senses are right then it’s simply one unwise decision atop a mountain of incredibly unwise decisions, and all it’ll take is a gentle nudge for the whole thing to come tumbling down. The sort of people who don’t bother to research whether the name for their product is a good one or not probably aren’t the sort of people I want to entrust with my money.

  8. djbriandamage says:

    Is that a gorgeous screenshot or what?

  9. Bhazor says:

    Something which has always bugged me about GoG. They’re one of those stupid websites that host individual files (like the instruction manual or spell book) as .zip files.

    Why do they do that?

    • LionsPhil says:

      I wish the GOG downloader had a “grab ALL files for this game” feature.
      And probably a “download my entire library” button too.

      That said, the manual usually ends up installed with the game anyway. I guess the separate version is there for if you want to view it in advance or on a separate computer or something…? :/

    • Bhazor says:

      Actually i’m more annoyed about .zip files for individual files. I can’t be the only person who finds it annoying to unzip a file into a brand new folder just to copy that file and drop it back into the folder I originally downloaded the frickin file into and then having to delete this new folder and the original .zip file.

      All to have a file I could have downloaded in 20 seconds. Hell I had to do that with a 55kb .jpg yesterday.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Buh? Just double-click the ZIP and drag the file out, or copy it with Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V. Mostly-transparent support has been in Explorer since XP. You don’t need to do anything involving creating new folders.

      Sure, that’s more than zero work, and still pointless given most web browsers and servers can actually do transparent gzip compression over the connection, but it’s not quite as bad as you seem to be going through.

    • Megadyptes says:

      For most of the games the required manuals and whatnot are included in the main download of the actual game and extracted into the games folder.

  10. JFS says:

    Love the alt-text. I really do.

  11. Jimbo says:

    Eh, this isn’t a real RPG.

  12. db1331 says:

    The Witcher 2 will be better.

  13. Urthman says:

    Brainy Gamer had an interesting/depressing article about a teacher trying to get some students to play Ultima IV for a class about videogames:

    http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2010/09/unplayable.html

    “I’d say for gamers of our generation, an RPG like Ultima IV is boring and pretty much unplayable.”

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s not at all clear from the article what kind of students he’s working with, which makes the whole thing rather inscrutable.

      Digging through the site turned up this: I’m creating a syllabus for a college course on the history of role-playing games.

      Are you fucking kidding me? 18+ year olds taking a course on the subject can’t even be bothered to read the manuals? Pfft.

      Not willing to put the slightest bit of effort into understanding the game, just want instant gratification. Explains a lot about the modern video games industry. I’m going to clutch on to Football Manager as my definitive counter-example which demonstrates that even normal, non-nerd people are all too willing to spend time understanding a complex game. They’ve got the sales numbers to prove it.

    • Prime says:

      @TillEulenspiegel: I think football games are a bad example.

      I’ve said for many years that the people who can absorb all that historical trivia about decades worth of men kicking balls around a field ARE Nerds, just a type that for some reason – possibly because they have hundreds of thousands of very loud, very visible peers – gets to escape the worst of being called a Nerd. But that obsession to detail, the endless fantasising, the relentless criticism…that’s Nerd-ism, pure and simple, so in that light them buying computer games that let them embrace and use that knowledge isn’t so hard to understand.

  14. Metonymy says:

    All the early ultimas had something in common, which is that if you went looking, you were guaranteed to find something. In Ultima 4 you could find towns that weren’t on the map, weren’t in the documentation, and were mentioned only briefly by NPCs. You could find secrets in every area, and even important secrets right on the overworld map. An NPC or two might allude to their existence, but there was certainly no quest leading you to the shrines, the runes, the harder to collect reagents, the dungeons, the 4 castles, or any of the islands. Even the runegates had to be discovered just by looking around, and the best spells were either (intentionally) documented wrong, or just not explained. You had to guess the reagent composition, and this was before the internet. Any given NPC might have secret information that you could only acquire by typing in the right keyword. The final “boss” itself was piecing together an elaborate puzzle.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    This is an RPG? Its nothing like Mass Effect

    Hi Wizardry

  16. Gnoupi says:

    Well, I was only born the year after this game’s release.

  17. Yhamm says:

    this game is free for months now: http://www.ultimaforever.com/
    notice EA and Bioware at the bottom of the page

    • Megadyptes says:

      It’s been free or years. Years ago EA put Ultimate IV for free on a computer game magazine and gave permission to 4-5 websites to host the full game as well. I think only one of the sites is still around that were allowed to legally distribute the game for free, but still it has been quite some years since you could grab the game for nothing.

  18. Jesse L says:

    Someone who’s never played this before needs to dive in and blog their progress for our amusement. Preferably someone who was born after the game came out.

    • westyfield says:

      I might do just that. Is Tumblr an acceptable method of blogging?

    • Joe Deadman says:

      I would but i’ve already started and kinda stopped fumbling with everything already. Plus I actually came prepared with pen and paper!

      I can’t believe how proud I am that it only took me a few hours to get a companion (Lolo) and a rune as well as directions to three of the shrines and a hint on a mantra. It’s certainly a nice feeling figuring everything out on your own for once although I did feel rather lost to start with (and I still kinda do).

      It’s kind of a weird feeling keeping notes with pen and paper. I was born back in ’92 so it’s all a new experience for me :)

    • Wizardry says:

      It’s Iolo not Lolo. Keep at it, though. It’s an excellent game. Are you playing with the upgrade patch that adds a VGA tile set and the music that’s missing from the DOS release? You can get it here:

      http://www.moongates.com/u4/upgrade/Upgrade.htm

    • Joe Deadman says:

      @Wizardry Thanks for the link i’ll be sure to grab the patch before my next foray into this wonderful game :)

      Also damn thee Iolo and your silly name you spoony bard :P

    • Petrushka says:

      Also if you have the DOS data files, you can use xu4 to play Ultima IV on many modern operating systems (I understand an iPad port is in testing):

      http://xu4.sourceforge.net/

      No DOSbox needed. The Sourceforge site also hosts the DOS files so you don’t strictly speaking need to go to GOG at all. (And I second Wizardry’s approval of the upgrade version.)

    • Wizardry says:

      Yeah. One advantage of xu4 is that it contains better quality music than the standard Ultima IV upgrade patch provides. There is, however, a program called “The Ultima IV Music Machine” on the Ultima IV upgrade patch site that lets you specify midi files to patch into the game. This allows you to add the xu4 midi files into standard Ultima IV so that you get the better quality music without using xu4. I do, however, recommend using xu4 now that it’s been updated. A problem that it had up until quite recently was that it played the wrong music at the wrong times in castles. That seems to have been fixed, though.

      Another thing to note is that xu4 does not upgrade the tile graphics, unlike the upgrade patch. What xu4 does allow you to do, however, is to dump the upgrade patch archive into the xu4 directory. When you do that and load xu4 up it allows you to switch over to the graphics from the upgrade patch. It’s a pretty neat feature that makes xu4 the best way to play the game as it also upgrades the dungeon graphics.

    • Treymoney says:

      I can’t get the upgrade patch to work. After I unzip the files to the Ultima IV directory, it says to run setup.bat. When I do, it takes me to the MIDI driver selection menu. Which option do I choose? None of them work! IS THIS PART OF THE GAME

  19. Arona Daal says:

    Ultima 1 to 5 have aged pretty badly,so i would recommend trying one of the remakes:

    For Example this Ultima 5 Remake/Mod for Dungeon Siege 1:
    Lazarus Project:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cms74Vco08&feature=related
    Hp:
    http://www.u5lazarus.com/AboutLazarus.php

    • Wizardry says:

      No. The first three Ultima games have aged pretty badly. Ultima IV and Ultima V are perfectly fine with the upgrade patche that adds the music and improves the graphics (for IV) to VGA.

  20. Prime says:

    http://www.phipsisoftware.com/ultima4.html [EDIT; Hmm, cease-and-desisted by EA back in March of this year. Guess that's when they decided to put it out to GoG. A pity, some of the enhancements sounded great.]

    Ultima IV in browser, for those that don’t want to faff with Dosbox. The original game experience has been significantly enhanced by the author, apparently:

    “Ultima IV: Flash Version is a new and improved version of the classic role-playing game released in 1985. This new version widens the appeal of Richard Garriot’s original game and tells the story of The Quest of the Avatar to a younger generation of game players.”

  21. JackDandy says:

    I was born in 88′- Never played the Ultima games as a kid.
    I played Ultima Underworld a year ago and really enjoyed it. But I couldn’t finish it, since I lost my notes and am too far in at the moment. Might try UW 2 instead. I was surprised, they’re both really advanced for their time.

    I guess I should try the original Ultima games, too. (But they’re all free on Abandonia anyway!)

    This time, I’ll have a dedicated notebook.

  22. Eclipse says:

    remember this article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/30/ea-vs-ultima-iv/ ?

    I was calling it, at least it’s freeware but it’s a shame that the wonderful fan made browser based version is no longer available

  23. Fumarole says:

    Good Old Games people, not Good old Games. Now I’m going back to my rocker.

  24. Bishop99999999 says:

    Got it, tried it 5 min, into the trash it goes.

    It doesn’t even have Master Chief in it!

    • Jesse L says:

      I found the third person forced viewpoint sections very jarring and harmful to immersion.

    • Hematite says:

      Not sure it’s worth mentioning (again, actually) but the Sega Master System version had the improved tileset and no 3D sections (all top down like the overworld).

      I think I would recommend this as a netbook/train journey game even if you don’t want to throw an evening at it.

  25. Andy_Panthro says:

    A good read:

    http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2010/04/game-16-ultima-iv.html

    The cRPG addict blogs his way through all the PC cRPGs ever made! This entry is the start of game 16: Ultima IV. He’s currently playing Ultima V: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/

  26. RyuRanX says:

    Ultima IV: The Quest of the Avatar is one of – if not – the most important and influential RPGs ever made.

    It was the first one of it’s genre to bring a morality system and it wasn’t simple black and white, but eight different variables in forms of virtues. Also, this was the first RPG without a main villain and the usual “save the world” storyline.

    A must play for every “real” fan of the genre, as is the entire Ultima series.

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  28. wrathfirex says:

    It’s 4 in the morning where I am and was surfing GOG… I was shocked to see that Populous and Ultima 4 was being sold! Calm down I thought, I’ll buy it later… Surfing RPS… I find to my utter amazement that Ultima 4 is FREE!!! Woohoo! One of the first RPG I have ever played!!! Can’t wait for the rest of the trilogy and also spin-offs such as Martian Dreams. GOG is the ONE!!!

  29. Arnulf says:

    My first large gaming project! Shut in with my then-new C64 for a week in my room and mapping dungeons on graph paper. My first bought game also. The game that instilled the love for RPGs in me.

    Recommended to me by a friend who is now lost to me… this is getting depressing. :/

  30. Petrushka says:

    Wow, someone at GOG really gave this a thorough playtesting to judge from this screenshot.

    No one much has commented on the fact that Ultimas 1, 2, and 3 are also on GOG now (but cost $5.99 for the bundle) …. but maybe that’s fair.

    • Wizardry says:

      I hate that dungeon room. Took me a half an hour to get through. Looks like that GOG guy knew about the poison trick. ;)

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