During my quest to fill time between Ultimas, one of the RPGs I got was this one. It remains one of the oddest games I’ve ever played. A mixture of cell-based first-person and top down views, there are two things that distinguish it: it’s weird and brother, it was hard.
It was hard in every conceivable fashion. Combat could be brutal, healing was in short supply, saves were far apart, and resting was slow and dangerous. In addition, the puzzles were tough. There’s one point where you’re literally inside a crossword puzzle, and it’s not the one on the Denny’s placemat. In fact, it’s a British-style cryptic crossword (the creators were Brits.)
It was weird in that, like most RPGs, there was some kind of kooky backstory, but in this case it was not the usual faff. It’s weird and evocative. The dungeon you’re exploring isn’t random, but it often acts random, not being laid out in a way that makes it obvious where to go. Physically mapping with graph paper is a must. Magic was unpredictable and could be costly.
Basically, even though Uukrul is, at its core, not that much different from the usual RPGs (start at level 1, explore the dungeon, kill stuff and level up, gain equipment and power, solve puzzles, fight the ultimate bad guy) it presented it in a way that was challenging and disorienting.
I started The Dark Heart of Uukrul several times and never finished it. I’d kind of like to give it another whack.