I Played That! #19: Worlds of Ultima (PC)

By 1990, Origin was a powerhouse of a game studio. By this time I would buy pretty much anything they put out. They also realized they had a good thing going with this Ultima series, and started working on ways to branch it out. The first attempt was the Worlds of Ultima series.

The idea behind these was that the Avatar, the heroic figure the player represented in the Ultima games, could use the dimension-hopping moonstones to travel to other times and places, particularly ones that weren’t medieval high fantasy. It was an interesting way to get away from the setting while still tying into the main storyline.

The first of these games was The Savage Empire, set in a “Lost World” environment with dinosaurs and with prehistoric cultures from all over the world. They had all been brought to this world (actually supposedly still on Earth but bidden away) through a malfunction of alien technology. The player had to unite the different tribes against the malevolent aliens.

In addition to being tied to the main Ultima story through plot, the player would also find echoes of recurring Ultima characters in these worlds. You became allied with natives named Shamuru, Triolo, and Dokray, alternate versions of the characters Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre from the original games. It was a neat touch.

Origin games usually came packed with neat stuff, and Savage Empire came with a “magazine” talking about how the game was being developed into a movie. It wasn’t real, of course, but it was so convincing and I was so gullible I actually thought it might be true.

The second game in the series was Martian Dreams, which was good old-fashioned Welles-and-Verne Victorian science fiction. A bunch of luminaries of the time land on the verdant world of Mars, where things begin to go awry. Your job as the Avatar is to bring these famous people back to their senses and figure out what happened to the original Martian inhabitants. Along the way you meet Sherman, Yellin, and Duprey. There are also nice touches like the fact that the quiz you’re given at the beginning to determine your stats is administered by Sigmund Freud.

Both games used the same engine as Ultima VI, and both, like their parent series, involved solving puzzles and completing tasks over combat (though there is combat). Once again, finishing both games didn’t involve any kind of “boss battle”.

These were both good games in their own right, but this was a busy time for me and while I finished them both, I didn’t really go back to them afterwards as I did with other Ultima games. That also wasn’t helped by what would happen next in the series.

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