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Ultima Underworld II (DOS)

Ultima Underworld 2 DOS
Genre: Action, Role-playing (RPG)
Perspective: 1st-person
Setting: Fantasy
Published by: ORIGIN Systems
Developed by: Looking Glass Technologies
Released: 1993
Platform: DOS

The events of this part take place one year after Ultima 7: The Black Gate. Lord British celebrates his victory over the Guardian in his castle and invites the Avatar and his friends to a noble feast. The next morning after the celebration, an impenetrable wall of black marble suddenly grows under the castle, like a web, and surrounds it from all sides like a giant shell. Waking up, everyone who was in the castle will find out the terrible news that they are locked, the black marble is indestructible and there is no way out. Then the Lord British calls everyone to a meeting, and it becomes known that these are the next tricks of the Guardian, who used powerful magic to imprison his enemies, as a result of which they could not interfere with his plans to conquer Britannia. But there is hope for release - in the deep dungeons of the castle, now filled with various monsters, a massive gem appears, which is a by-product of the Guardian's spell: thanks to it, the effect of an ominous spell can be removed. This stone is also a portal to alternate worlds controlled by the Guardian. The Avatar will have to get to the stone, travel through these worlds and, finally, free the castle of Lord British from the evil spells of the Guardian.

This game is a technical sequel to Ultima Underworld I: Stygan Abyss. The gameplay here is almost the same as in the first part: advanced 3D engine that served as the basis for System Shock, first-person view, good physics and damage system, action-oriented combat system, runic spell system, multiple choice dialogues and barter trade.

By tradition, the game begins with the generation of a character, which will become your Avatar. Here the player can choose gender, class, skills and even appearance among several options. There is a choice of skills from combat, magic to social, although the social component in such an action role-playing game is largely secondary. Having gained enough experience, the character will increase his level, health, mana and receive additional training points that can be spent on skills. Unlike the first part of UUW, where you had to walk to the altars and say something, now you have to visit different teachers, each of which teaches the hero some skills to choose from.

In terms of the interface, this part has also changed - the player's action icons have been moved to the lower right area, freeing up a little more space on the left under the field of view. Graphically, the game is well developed in VGA 320x200 mode. Stylishly and colorfully decorated drawings and textures, creating the effect of being in a gloomy dungeon of the Middle Ages. Almost all objects and characters are represented as sprites, except for stones, barrels and chests, which are low-poly 3D objects without textures. As in the previous part, the advanced game engine provides good item physics, it is possible to move most objects, monsters and even characters.

I would like to say a lot of positive things about the inventory and containers system. There are several types of the latter: backpacks, boxes, bags, each of which can hold an unlimited number of items, but within a certain limit of their total weight. Each item has its own weight, and the player can place them in the inventory within their strength, so extra items have to be stored or simply thrown out on the ground.
The player has 8 base inventory slots where items or containers can be placed, 2 arm slots where weapons and a shield can be placed to activate them, and 2 shoulder slots where lit torches, lamps or a quiver for arrows and stones are usually placed to slings. For armor parts, the player has as many as 5 slots located on the hero image on the right: head, body, arms, knees and legs.

Almost all items have their own margin of safety: for example, if you hit glass bottles, scrolls or magic wands several times against the wall, they will shatter into small pieces (although this also creates an interesting bug - in the form of fragments they can be used an unlimited number of times). Armor and weapons have their own margin of safety, but they are gradually damaged during the battle only if the item's damage status has triggered.

The game map of the area is conveniently implemented - it is presented as a separate item, which is only at the beginning of the game in a single copy. As you explore the area, the map fills up with details: you can see where we are and which way we are looking, which floor we are on, and even switch between floor maps. A particularly useful element is the ability to make your own text marks on the map when, for example, you need to mark important key places or put your own marks.

The spell system here works similarly to the previous part of Underworld. To begin with, the player will have to find a special bag for runes (it lies right behind the secret door in the hero's personal room) and then carefully collect all the necessary runes throughout the game. After collecting the runes for a spell, they can be combined in a bag to get the corresponding spell and cast it. If the level of magic skill, the level of this spell and the mana pool of your hero allow, then he will be able to successfully cast the spell. The level of access to spell circles increases as the hero gains access to new worlds. Accordingly, having opened the last, 8th world, the access level will become maximum, and it will be possible to cast spells of all circles from the first to the 8th.

The musical arrangement is beyond praise: the atmosphere of the gloomy Middle Ages, desperate wanderings in dungeons, epic marches and crystal magical melodies are very strongly conveyed. The game has 16 tracks in midi format, each of which changes depending on the situation: for example, when the hero takes out a weapon or meets a monster and starts to defeat him, the corresponding melody will be played. This technique of changing the melody according to the situation was later also more tightly implemented in System Shock, and in the future other developers began to actively use it in their games. Historically, this technology is believed to have first appeared in Ultima Underworld. The soundtrack of the game has also been significantly enriched with effects that seamlessly and seamlessly blend into the atmosphere of the game.

Riddles and plot twists have become much richer and more diverse. Since we will have to travel through colorful worlds and unusual places, their design also differs from the traditional underground atmosphere of the Middle Ages. For example, the world of Talorus is filled with alien technology, mechanical mysteries; it's basically an organic spaceship from Star Trek. The Ice World is colorfully decorated, in which yetis run and throw snowballs, and since the terrain there is predominantly icy, movement is noticeably complicated by the fact that you have to slide to snow-covered islands. But the Ethereal Void may seem completely alien - a black insane dimension, in which you can only walk along colored paths and meet many reflections of reality.

Significantly more attention is paid to the characters. At the very beginning, a whole floor full of key characters awaits us, and in case the player angers someone, starts stealing their things right under their noses and starts fighting with them, he will certainly be defeated, because they are all immortal, and the hero wakes up in a prison cell, where he will have to ask for forgiveness personally from Lord British. It is logical that after many such antics, asking for forgiveness will already be useless and the hero will forever remain in prison.

As for the set of monsters in the dungeon, here it is very rich, although at first we meet only weak opponents: rats, slugs and snakes. In open areas, you can encounter bats, in muddy waters - with dangerous octopuses. Moving deeper into the dungeons, we will meet much more dangerous enemies: headless ones, which will be difficult to damage with conventional weapons - usually the weapon itself will be damaged; beholders that shoot deadly magic bolts. Each dimension will have its own unique set of monsters: sometimes we will have to fight with thinking humanoid creatures - goblins or people, in case we fail to agree.

This game can be called the second illegitimate son of the legendary Ultima. It also includes the historical events of the Ultima series, but with a somewhat unconventional approach for it - the events are transferred to the closed space of gloomy dungeons, the hero is always alone here, without a party of his faithful companions, a powerful three-dimensional first-person engine is used.
Both parts of Ultima Underworld were perceived extremely ambiguously by the fans of the series: someone immediately branded them because of the many small inconsistencies, although many players appreciated it for its atmosphere, graphics and richness of features. The game was created by Looking Glass Technologies, which gave rise to no less legendary games - System Shock 1-2 and Thief 1-2...

This game can be recommended to fans of the Ultima series, but first of all - to fans of corridor role-playing games with wandering through dark dungeons and, of course, agoraphobes, since there are no unnecessarily open spaces in the game.