“Ultima 1: A legend is reborn” is the well-known remake of the game that started everything. The project is progressing nicely, and the team has already released techdemo 2.5. In that demo, you can explore a small part of Sosaria and solve a miniquest.
The first impression: fantastic! Graphics aren’t worse than in commercial products, music is beautiful, and voice acting sounds quite good. The world is really big. Unlike in Ultima Ascension, you can wander along large hills and fields, and travel on endless streets. Due to the site, a town feels like a town, not like a bunch of houses. At night, the moons Trammel and Felucca are shining from the sky, and the lights in the houses turn on. The technical part is top-notch. The demo, by the way, ran fine on my P800 with 128MB RAM and a TNT2.
Of course, there are some limitations in this pre-version, which won’t be there is the final game, according to the developers. For example, you can’t enter many houses, and those who can be entered mostly don’t have any furniture. Likewise, it’s not possible to pick up, move, or use items. Combat, magic, and NPC schedules have not been implemented yet as well. But then again, it’s just a tech demo.
On to the most important things: The dialogue system and the plot. Again we have to keep in mind that it’s just a tech demo yet, but you do already notice some tendencies:
- Keywords instead of full sentences. Just like in Ultima 7, you choose keywords in dialogues, not full sentences. This dialogue system ensures that no words are put in the player’s mouth, and no personality he doesn’t like is forced upon him. That’s how a RPG should handle it. Though there are still too many full sentences of the Stranger (the “Stranger” is the player), it really looks like U1R is heading towards an Ultima 7 system with more full sentences.
- No elements from later Ultimas. While Ultima vets were surprised to see ankhs in ancient Sosaria and blacksmiths trading with Blackrock (a material discovered in Ultima 7) in techdemo 2.0, all of these inconsistencies have been eliminiated in the new version. It can be concluded that the finished game will much better fit into the Ultima storyline, and it sheds much a better light on the story designers not to “steal” from later Ultimas.
- More NPCs. The number of NPCs in the world (relatively speaking) lives up to Ultima 5, Ultima 8, or Underworld 2. In the finished game, the population will most likely grow even bigger.
Conclusion: An admirable project is on the right way again. Ultima vets, too, are allowed to be looking forward to “Ultima 1: A legend is reborn”.