Ultima Collection - PC

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Ultima Collection is a history of the role-playing genre, all on one CD. Included are 10 games from the Ultima series and commentary by game creator Richard Garriott on the genre and the history of the Ultima series.

Review

At last, by popular demand, Origin's venerable role-playing series is available all on one CD-ROM. Most of it, anyway. The Ultima Collection is a praiseworthy historical document, an excellent value, and paradoxically, an unfortunate disappointment. For while this collection presents ten of the most important role-playing games ever designed on a single disc, its self-conscious omissions render the Ultima Collection hopelessly incomplete.

The Ultima Collection contains every game in the Ultima series as well as creator Richard Garriott's first published release, Akalabeth. Many of these remain timeless and incredible role-playing games, while some haven't aged as well. Don't expect much from Akalabeth - it's practically 20 years old. Ultima II and III also feel pretty ancient. With somber-looking CGA graphics chock-full of drab black, gray, cyan, and magenta, these two games are much more cumbersome to play than their descendants. The Ultima Collection includes the late '80s full-color remake of Ultima I (as opposed to the original release) whose visual improvements help make it a rather pleasant dungeon hack even today, though it lacks the depth and detail embodied in the later games in the series.

Ultima IV is the most tightly woven game in the series. With clearly defined goals, an epic plot, and a powerful game engine, Ultima IV is a classic. Even so, Ultima V is its hands-down superior, with a more streamlined engine, superb graphics that retain their charm to this day, and an awesome story worthy of the Ultima tradition. Ultima VI marks perhaps the greatest graphical leap the Ultima series has ever accomplished, with the introduction of 256-color MCGA graphics. The scale of the world is many times greater than even the vast Ultima V, and the story, centered around the seemingly malicious race of Gargoyles, is thought-provoking and exciting.

Ultima VII consists of two stand-alone parts. The original Ultima VII is the most gorgeous game of the series, with its vivid and full-scale world that truly feels alive with secrets and detail. Its plot, dealing with an enigmatic new religious society and the evil being called the Guardian, is unforgettable. A real-time combat engine and fully mouse-driven interface made Ultima VII feel somewhat simpler than its ancestors, but in retrospect the game remains a marvelous achievement. Serpent Isle, the continuation of Ultima VII, is often considered the best Ultima ever made. Though its look is mostly borrowed from Ultima VII, Serpent Isle offers a huge quest and some of the most fascinating characters and situations ever to be found in a role-playing game.

In light of Ultima VII and Serpent Isle, it's little wonder why most everyone hated Ultima VIII when it was published not so long ago in 1994. The frightfully simplistic game mechanics combined with action-oriented puzzles and a loathsome combat engine frustrated most long-time fans of the series. Nonetheless, the game is not without merit; a complex spell-casting system and an uncompromising, morally ambiguous plot make Ultima VIII a worthy quest for those willing to get acquainted with its elusive gameplay. But sadly, even the once-impressive 3D-rendered graphics look practically amateurish by current standards, making Ultima VIII an infinitely cumbersome game.

The Ultima Collection is missing the two spin-off series: the outstanding 3D first-person Ultima Underworlds and the artful Worlds of Ultima games. Ultima Underworld is sold separately in stores either on the discount bin or as part of Interplay's Ultimate RPG Archives. But the Worlds of Ultima games are casualties of the times, nowhere to be found and utterly forgotten by all but the most die-hard fans. Based on the Ultima VI game engine, the Worlds of Ultima games cast the Avatar in wondrous, new lands. Savage Empire, the first Worlds of Ultima game, pits the Avatar in a prehistoric setting filled with dinosaurs and Stone Age tribesmen. Among other things, the Avatar constructs rifles and gunpowder from natural items, sets a trap to kill an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex, and befriends an ancient reptilian race. Savage Empire, let alone any reference to its existence, is not included in the Ultima Collection. The second Worlds of Ultima game, Martian Dreams, is in several ways the most ambitious Ultima ever created. The Avatar is trapped on the planet Mars along with Earth's most important modern historical figures from Vladimir Lenin to Andrew Carnegie, and with their help he must find a way home. In doing so, he steps into his own dreams to uncover the fate of a Martian race on the brink of extinction. Martian Dreams is also entirely absent from the Ultima Collection.

Omissions notwithstanding, the Ultima Collection does a good job presenting the ten games it does contain. Akalabeth and the first six Ultimas are readily playable under Windows 95 (even in a window) and run fine even on fast machines with the help of the included speed reduction utility. Getting Ultima VII and VIII to work is more challenging because of their unorthodox DOS-based memory management, and unless you have DOS drivers installed on your computer you won't be able to play them at all. Also contained in the package is a complete atlas featuring reprints of the maps included in the Ultima games over the years. At the same time, each game's original manual may be found on the CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format, while copy protection and all important general information are also accessible in the Collection's printed documentation. And to sweeten the deal all the more, the Ultima Collection includes video interviews with the series' creator in which he discusses the origins of the series and where he wants it to go.

While the Ultima Collection does not necessarily promise to give you every Ultima ever made, its failure to include the Underworld and Worlds of Ultima games makes it feel painfully incomplete for the fan hoping to get his hands on a complete archive of Garriott's work. But it does contain several of the best role-playing games of all time. It's a package worth owning for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that half of these games are still perfectly worth playing for the first time, or playing all over again.--Greg Kasavin
--Copyright ©1998 GameSpot Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of GameSpot is prohibited. -- GameSpot Review


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ASIN B000028U20
Customer Reviews
3.9 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
Best Sellers Rank #32,624 in videogames
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Product Dimensions 9.5 x 7.2 x 1.6 inches
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By James Touton on November 13, 1999
Created by Richard Garriott (AKA Lord British), this collection spans fifteen years of roleplaying history. If you want to know how games progressed during the past twenty years, get this compilation. If you want to play good games, get this compilation. If you're looking for a good roleplaying experience, get this compilation. If you're looking for the latest in gaming greatness -- don't get it. The last game in the compilation was published in 1994, if I recall correctly. Don't let that stop you from playing, though. If you have the stamina to go through all of the games, you'll be happy you did.
Going through these games is time-consuming and often frustrating. Unlike other computer role-playing games, all of these are completely open-ended. You aren't specifically directed from point A to point B to point C; instead, you must figure out on your own what to do. To me, that makes these games much more enjoyable, and much more rewarding; they require you to think. To others, it might not be so fun.
Why four stars, then? Well, if you're like most of us, and running a PC with Windows 95 or 98 installed on it, you're going to have trouble getting some of these games running. Some will be too fast; others won't work at all unless you pull some technical wizardry (or have someone else do it for you). These games are designed to run under DOS, which these days is about as common as the Dodo. So: for all of you having trouble getting these games to run, contact me. I can help.
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I'll say it right out-- this package is a bargain and worth every cent just for Ultima VII alone. But more on that later-- first, a run-through of the games contained on this compilation:
Akalabeth (ultima prequel), U1, U2, U3 (Exodus):
Revolutionary in their time, but now you'll probably just want to check them out to see what games were like back then. The casual gamer will be turned-off immediately by the those horrid 3 color graphics, (which just happen to be the ugliest 3 colors you've ever laid your eyes on) and even only the most nostalgic of hardcore ultima fans will be able to play through them. But as i said, still worth a look.
U4, U5:
Slight improvement in graphics, and leaps & bounds in the story department. If you're a casual gamer-- these will be hard to get into, but you will be rewarded by an awesome story and true interaction. Ultima fans will of course have a great time with these.
U6:
Often bashed for its poor interface, (and sometime i'm inclined to agree), the game still contains a great story and for once, a musical score.
U7 (parts 1 and 2):
Now here's the gem: I personally think it's the -greatest- game of all time. of all the games i play, this is the only one i can keep replaying over and over. to tell the truth, i wasn't always into ultima or crpgs for that matter. I used to play final fantasy "rpgs" (really, they're actually horrid linear interactive anime movies that have no role-playing elements, boring fights, and cliched soap-opera stories), but then a friend let me borrow an old disk version of Ultima 7- the black gate, and i've been hooked ever since.
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This collection is a mixed bag, but for the price it's a great deal. My impressions on the games herein:
Ultima VII - Worth the cost of admission. Even now it is the best game in the series. The plot and the graphics totally immerse you in the world of britannia. Although the graphics are a little dated it still doesn't look too bad today. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ultima VII part 2 - This game could have been wonderful. However, there is an extremely violent and unnecessary plot twist near the end that pretty much killed my motivation for continuing to play. I thought the rest of the story was a bit thin as well. The game is also rather linear.
Ultima VIII - This game sucks, and the reason why has been adequately explained elsewhere. It does, however, have the best music featured in any Ultima, if you have a General MIDI-compatible sound card.
ULTIMA VI - I've just started playing this one. I prefer a point-and-click conversation system, rather than typing my words in, but i'm enjoying myself in any case, and the plot is very good. The world is very detailed, only superseded by Ultima VII.
Ultimas 0-5: The games I described previously I played when they came out (except VI). The rest of these depend on whether you're a fan or not; they are REALLY old, and somewhat simple by today's standards. But they represent some of the most important achievements in computer role-playing games. Have a look.
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I had played ULTIMA II, III and V when I was younger. I loved them! I bought the collection so that I could work my way through all of the games. It has been wonderful! I had no trouble installing and running the software. Some of the games need the speed adjusted, but the instruction manual tells you exactly how to use the enclosed program MOSLO to get the speed just right. I had no problems after that. It has been nothing but enjoyable. Sure the games are old, so if you aren't into ULTIMA or old computer games you may not like the collection as much. But if you are nostalgic about computer games, then go for it - you won't be sorry!
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