Most people who know me know that I am probably one of the greatest fans of the Ultima franchise ever. There probably isn’t a title in the series that I don’t remember with great fondness, including some of the more obscure entries in the series. I was probably one of those rare individuals who was devastated when Richard Garriott decided to part ways with Origin (the company that was bought by Electronic Arts and then gutted by that same company). As long as he was part of the franchise, there was always the hope that he would create yet another installment in such a great universe.
Well, he left and he is supposedly working on Shroud of the Avatar, which is kind of a follow up to the series, but time passed on, and people aren’t that into the whole franchise any more, mainly because it spawned Ultima Online, and that game was allowed to whither and die (well, it’s still around, but it’s still spiraling out of control and trying to die).
This week, EA, through its Origin online service, has decided to give away Ultima VIII to anyone who wants it, for free. Unfortunately, for anyone who wants to explore the Ultima universe for the first time, this is somewhat of a strange way to do so as Ultima VIII was never about the Ultima universe but about some alternative location that the avatar ended up going during the adventure. None of the companions are in the game, and to be honest, I’m not even sure the virtues have anything to do with it. Sadly enough, after Ultima VIII, we had Ultima Online as the only entry in the universe and then one last attempt to recapture the magic, a more first person perspective in Ultima IX, which was plagued with so many problems.
It’s probably important to point out that there is still a huge audience that desires anything Ultima that might ever rear its head again. Unfortunately, because of corporate crap and creative licenses, we’re probably going to see very little brilliance in this universe again. So at least with Ultima VIII, there’s the opportunity to live in that mindset again, as it was as close to Ultima as we were probably ever going to get after the wonderful world that was Ultima VII, which I argue is probably the greatest Ultima world that we will ever come to know.
There’s really never been another world quite like it, and I know I speak for a lot of people when I say how much I wish we could somehow go back to that world with the computer technology we have today. So, at least until then, if ever, we can at least pretend we’ve found something close by revisiting those worlds that brought us closer, even if they didn’t bring us exactly there.