Nitpicks in the whole Ultima series

“Lord British was a monarch who was haughty and vain
And especially proud of his despotic reign.”

Certain inaccuracies aren’t restricted to one single Ultima. They appear again and again, resurface in later Ultimas, and eventually establish themselves as being normal. The following flaws are a central thread in the entire Ultima series. Strange enough, Ultima IX has its part in almost all of them... but let’s leave it at that.

The following 3 nitpicks are new:

Ignorance of predecessors

  • Beginning with Ultima V, the companions of the Avatar seem to lose their magical powers. In Ultima IV, Iolo, Shamino and Dupre can all cast spells. In Ultima V, Dupre and Shamino are fighters and can’t cast any spells. In Ultima VI, Shamino has relearned the art of magic. But in Ultima VII, all of them lose all their magic abilities again (an effect of the Guardian’s generator?).
    (by Tribun Dragon)
  • Ultima IV and V make pretty clear that The Quest of the Avatar was your first journey to Britannia. Ultima IV even implies that the strangers in Ultima I-II-III were different people each time. Yet since Ultima VI, suddenly the Avatar also becomes the Stranger who saved the day in the Age of Darkness.

    (Perhaps both “The History of Britannia” and the Book of Lore are wrong because they are public, while the Compendium in Ultima VI was written by Lord British himself and is directly addressed to the Avatar... In Ultima VII, Batlin writes about public discussions regarding this topic in the Book of Fellowship.)

    (by Sergorn Dragon)
  • The makers of the Ultima series could not agree on a consistent use for the Silver Horn.
    • In Ultima IV, its purpose was to drive daemons away.
    • In Ultima V, it does not appear at all.
    • In Ultima VI, it’s suddenly in the gargoyle town, and it can summon Silver Serpents.
    • In Ultima VII and IX, it’s kept in the museum and hast lost its ability to summon Silver Serpents.

    (by Tribun Dragon)
  • In Ultima V, you learn from a warrior in Cove that the Abyss was destroyed following the rise of the Codex. When Cabirus establishes his colony (as told in the manual of Underworld I) a few years after Ultima VI, it seems the Abyss has always been there. Hmmm. And of course the end of Underworld I implies that the Abyss is totally destroyed this time; yet it’s back in Ultima IX.
    All things considered, the Abyss is one of the biggest inconsistencies in the Ultima series.
    (by Sergorn Dragon)
  • All the cool inventory items you collect in your adventures keep disappearing between the various installments of the series. You can have every companion carry ten Glass Swords in their backpacks in Ultima V only to have to fight monsters with plain old slings in Ultima VI...
    (Yes, I know. It’s pedantic, impossible to avoid, and a design problem that goes far beyond Ultima, and I apologize for bitching about it.)
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • New nitpick:

    In Ultima I the hero’s quest is to defeat Mondain. Unfortunately, Mondain’s Gem of Immortality makes him immortal, so the hero activates a time machine and goes back in time 1000 years to the time when Mondain is still vulnerable. The hero then defeats Mondain and shatters the Gem of Immortality. The question that arises from this is when did the other Ultima games occur? Did Ultima II and its successors take place only a few years after the hero shattered the gem or a thousand and a few years? The Ultima II manual seems to suggest that only a few years passed, “So it was for several years, long enough for a child to grow to adulthood”. That means that the majority of Ultima I took place after all the other Ultimas. For one thing that means the Stranger who defeated Mondain is likely not the Avatar. This might also explain why the two cities Tune & Grey on “the Lands of Lord British” and all towns except Gorlab in “the Lands of Danger & Despair” are never mentioned since they might not have been built. This also explains why “the Lands of Lord British” and the lands in Ultima III look different since a lot can change when a uber-powerful evil wizard is around.

    Though this theory does answer some questions, it does lead to some inconsistencies. The biggest one would have to be why didn’t the Guardian invade Sosaria? In the Ultima chronology it seems that no Ultima takes place more than 200 years after the first so it is likely that 1000 years have not passed since the gem’s destruction and the events of Ultima VII. Therefore, the Guardian should have tried to invade by then.

    Oh, those time travel stories...

    (by Elzair)

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Technical shortcomings

  • With the exception of Ultima VI, they obviously want to make us believe Britannia was a sphere. But that’s entirely impossible. The geometric shape closest to the three-dimensional appearance of Britannia would be a Torus (a donut).

    Think about it: In all Ultimas except of VI, you can sail off the top of the map and end up at the bottom, still sailing north. On a spherical world like Earth, that would be impossible. When you continue sailing northwards on Earth ad infinitum (assuming there were no poles, as is the case on Britannia), you eventually find yourself sailing southwards at the opposite side of the world. In other words: You can’t infinitely sail northwards or southwards on a spherical world.

    However, the Torus theory can’t be right either. Not to mention that you should see the other side of the world when looking into the sky on the inner side of the Torus, and that a Torus-shaped world would be hilarious anyway due to the laws of gravity, there’s also a geometrical problem. The innermost circle of a Torus is smaller than the outermost one, yet the distance between the westernmost and easternmost (or the northernmost and southernmost) spots on Britannia is always the same. If you spread the surface of a tours on a plain area, the result won’t be a rectangle.

    It’s the same with 2D maps of a spherical world like Earth. Looking at such a world map, you are faked into believing that the distance between Alaska and East Siberia is about the same as that between Central America and the Philippines. Yet when you look at a map of the Arctic Ocean, you’ll notice it’s actually just a stone’s throw from Alaska to Siberia. In Ultima, though, the distance between Empath Abbey and Deceit is in fact the same as that between Skara Brae and the southernmost tip of Verity Isle.

    (by Evil_Freak Dragon)
  • The way the moongates work changes in every Ultima:
    • In Ultima IV, there is no day/night cycle yet, which is why the gates are open during day, too.
    • In Ultima VII (where you can possibly explain it with the Guardian’s generator, although the game doesn’t really try to explain it at all), they don’t care at all for the moonphases anymore, which is probably the reason why the gates are open all the time now and always take you to a specific location each (Britain to Jhelom, Jhelom to Yew, etc.).
    In Ultima IX, though, the designers have smashed all imaginations of the moongates.
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • The circle of stones on Earth keeps changing its location.
    • In Ultima IV, it’s on a huge field next to a stream.
    • In Ultima V, it’s on a clearing in the forest.
    • In Ultima VI, it’s right behind the Avatar’s house.
    • In Ultima VII, it’s also behind the Avatar’s house, yet surrounded by bushes and trees this time.
    • In Ultima IX, it’s on a hill next to a lake in a park.

    (by Tribun Dragon)
  • The magic system of the series is really very inconsistent. Although there are the same rules in Ultima V, VI, and VII, the details keep changing. Circles swap their spells, some spells disappear, new ones emerge, reagent formulas are modified, etc.
    In Ultima IX, several further inaccuracies make things even worse, of course.
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • In Ultima VII, Alagner writes that he keeps confusing Destard and Despise. I wonder if that was kind of an insider gag. The worlbuilders never really got the dungeon locations right in the series:
    • In Ultima VII, they confuse Shame and Despise.
    • In Ultima IX, they confuse Destard and Shame.
    (In the case of Ultima IX, I am fairly sure it was a deliberate mistake, in order to have Shame on the same island as Trinsic, so that certain players would not get confused.)
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • The topography of the Isle of the Avatar keeps changing all the time. Just compare the maps of the games:
    • In Ultima IV, you get to to the Abyss by sailing through a bay from the west. The Shrine of Humility is accessed from north.
    • In Ultima V, you have to land by the bay and walk northwards to get to the Shrine of Humility, and the Shrine of Codex is accessed from the southern side of the island.
    • In Ultima VI, they’ve swapped Shrine of Codex and Shrine of Humility.
    • On the map shown in Underworld I, you get to the Shrine of Humility by walking southwards from the bay.
    • On the Ultima VII map, the bay isn’t connected to the sea anymore (though it is in the game). The Shrine of Humility is accessed from north, the Shrine of Codex from south.
    • In Ultima IX, the bay is once again connected to the sea, but it’s on the northern side. The Shrine of Humility has entirely gone! (You could also say the southern part of the isle was cut off, and everything previously located in the south has been moved to the north.)

    (by Charles Frederick)
  • The evolution of Stonegate throughout the series is really interesting. In Ultima V, it is a fortress with three towers. In Ultima VI, the building is completely redesigned. In Ultima VII, all that is left is some ruins in the middle of a swamp. In Ultima IX, the tower is back and has literally grown into a skyscraper.
    (by JBO Dragon)
  • Lord British’s Castle looks different in literally every part of the Ultima series. What’s up with the king? Does he dump his subjects’ money this way? Are there many unemployed architects in Britannia? It’s especially absurd in Underworld II. What about the Reconstruction? Well, I suppose Lord British just used the propagandistic word “Reconstruction” to have his poor people rebuild his castle... (“Hence, the Reconstruction of Britannia shall take place; first of all, we will redesign my castle, as it is a symbol for the united power and great spirit of our kingdom...!”)
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • The streets in Britannian towns give you a headache: In Ultima V, all towns except of Skara Brae and New Magincia have paved streets. Yet there are no paved streets anywhere in Britannia in Ultima VI! In Ultima VII, paved streets return only in Britain and Trinsic.
    (by Tribun Dragon)
  • If you retreat from a monster into a city the guards don’t lift a finger to help you. What the hell are they getting paid for? It’s the same in all Ultimas. Their job is just to annoy you.
    (by Corwin)
  • Did you ever watch closely at your companions starting stats in the various installments of the series? Have a look at this list, which compares starting stats of the more longtime companions through Ultimas V-VII. Makes you wonder what some of them are up to when the Avatar isn’t around.

    Ultima VUltima VIUltima VII
    Strength: 19 20 18
    Dexterity: 17 26 19
    Intelligence: 21 17 20
    Strength: 22 26 21
    Dexterity: 16 20 20
    Intelligence: 18 17 18
    Strength: 20 21 18
    Dexterity: 16 23 21
    Intelligence: 22 18 19
    Strength: 15 16 13
    Dexterity: 21 21 16
    Intelligence: 17 19 18
    Strength: 21 21 12
    Dexterity: 18 18 14
    Intelligence: 19 17 18
    Strength: 22 19 11
    Dexterity: 18 16 15
    Intelligence: 21 16 18
    Strength: 23 26 18
    Dexterity: 19 18 20
    Intelligence: 20 16 18

    (by Crowley)
  • New nitpick:

    Just a thought... what are the guards for, in fact? We’ve already noted they do not protect the Avatar if he runs into a town with a horde of trolls in hot pursuit... and their main task seems to be to run in to beat up the Avatar and Companions if anyone sees them as much as littering, let alone stealing.

    And they do this very efficiently. The guards in Ultima I are big brutes who take a dozen blaster shots each to go down. Ultima II and Ultima III probably follow suit. In Ultima IV the guards are refreshingly weak; even a 2nd level shepherd with a sling and Iolo with a bow for an accomplice can defeat a dozen guards in small packs - they seem about as threatening as the common Orc.

    Blackthorn obviously wouldn’t have this and set up a new training program. In Ultima V the guards are absolute Terminators, armed with super-powered crossbows with auto-targeting and homing capabilities, and a party of them could probably bring a Shadowlord down.

    Ultima VI continues in the same direction, as average statistics for guards are around Level 3 - 90 HP, 30 STR, 31 DEX and INT 8... many are still armed with crossbows. Less well known is the steroid diet the government perceived an efficient way of getting higher stats on average than normal people are ever able to achieve.

    By the time of the next Age, funds were diverted from the guard training program into civil projects, such as renovating Castle Britannia, expanding Britain, renovating the castle again, paving streets, rebuilding the whole castle, giving a well-earned pay raise to Council members, and renovating the castle some more. This reflects in the guards of Ultima VII being armed with mere swords, and being about as strong each as an average adventurer. Of course, by UA the guards are weaker still, but now have pretty shields and have been taught some simple phrases to get closer to the populace, like “Good day.”

    What is wrong with this?

    The Avatar (or Stranger) starts out really weak all the time. Why couldn’t he get some guards in the party to help? If you gave him even one guard to start with in Ultima V, very few enemies would pose danger of any kind to him. Surely there’s at least one right-minded guard somewhere willing to join the Avatar and gain great fame and glory... or, if Geoffrey was willing to assign four guards from Britain’s infinitely respawning stock in your party, you could easily liberate half the shrines from gargoyle oppression in Ultima VI. Even in Ultima VII where the guards are roughly as strong as you, they could make themselves useful in trips to dangerous dungeons and stuff...

    But no, the only time they run in to help is to help the Avatar’s enemies.

    (by Mimu)

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General problems

  • One of the greatest mysteries in Ultima is the age rate of certain people. We know that the Avatar, Lord British, Iolo, Dupre, Mariah, Jaana, Geoffrey, Katrina, Julia, Sentri, and Gwenno are from Earth, which is why they age much slower than native Britannians. But what about Nystul, King Draxinusom, Chuckles, Sherry, Nicodemus, Rudyom, and, most of all, Shamino? The story in the Book of Lore in Ultima V reveals that he is a native Sosarian. So why the heck does he live for centuries without seemingly aging at all? Is there an unwritten law in Britannia that requires important people to live longer?
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • The moongate that takes the Avatar from Earth to Britannia has developed a strange behaviour in the course of the series. In Ultima V, the Avatar still puts on some other clothes before he enters it, so that he won’t appear with his clothes from Earth in the fantasy world. In Ultima VII, things are entirely different. We may assume that the Avatar doesn’t hang around with a red cape on Earth all the time, yet he wears one when he arrives in Trinsic. Did the moongate automatically undress and dress him? (There was a similar problem in Ultima VI, but then the Avatar’s clothes weren’t automatically changed until the hero was rescued by his companions.) In Ultima IX, it’s even more mysterious: When the Avatar steps through the moongate, all his possessions disappear and are replaced with a pretty Avatar armour. The only exception is his underwear. Very strange.
    (by Dino the Dark Dragon)
  • As you know, Lord British can heal people with but a wave of his hand. Doesn’t this drive all healers out of business? On the other hand, nobody except of the Avatar and his party ever call on the king’s services in the series... Does Lord British heal only his friends?
    (by Hacki Dragon)
  • It’s longstanding Ultima tradition that you can escape from prison every time. Yet you have to wonder why none of the guards react when the prisoner suddenly walks through the entrance.

    “Thou shalt serve a life sentence in prison for thy crimes!”

    “Oh, yeah?”

    (by Tailrace Dragon)
  • After Ultima IV, the Great Council was introduced in order to establish democracy in Britannia. It was a nice idea of Lord British:
    • In Ultima V, the Council was easily broken up by Blackthorn, and a dictatorship was installed.
    • In Ultima VI, the Council disappears once again, presumably due to proclamation of martial law.
    • In Ultima VII, the members sit back and watch a dangerous sect taking control of political offices.
    • Let’s not talk about Ultima IX, please.

    Well, it seems the phrase “democratic monarchy” is a bit far-fetched. You have to wonder if Lord British appreciates a Great Council that powerless.

    (by Tribun Dragon)
  • New nitpick:

    Why would Britannia have the same months as Earth? I mean, at least - weren’t July and August created and named after two certain Roman emperors?

    One could argue that LB adopted the Earth calendar but still...I’d think he’d make up a new one, he seems like the creative sort.

    (by Green Bamboo Mystery Peanut)

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You discovered a nitpick not yet listed on this site? Send it to me! You are also welcome to use the message board for discussions about nitpicks.

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Name des Betreibers: Christian Hackl
Wohnort: Kapfenberg

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