Codex Gamicus

Ultima VI: The False Prophet marked a turning point in the Ultima series. From a marketing standpoint it saw the end of multi-platform support; after this game Origin (as a rule) only provided support for the home computer versions of their games. This was also the last Ultima to appear on a computer system other than the PC.

It also marked the tenth anniversary of the series. To celebrate this, ten boxes included metal runes rather than the Orb of the Moons trinket. The lucky recipients were to have their likenesses featured in the next game in the series, later revealed to be Ultima VII: The Black Gate. In addition, those who preordered the DOS and Commodore 64 versions were rewarded with the "Tenth Anniversary Edition". It included a 45-minute audio cassette recording of Richard Gariott on the subject of "Ten years of Ultima". This edition's box was also autographed by both Gariott and Denis Loubet.

As with past Ultimas most versions of the game included a cloth map and a short "book" written by an ingame person, as well as a trinket, this time the Orb of the Moons. Continuing the tradition of cheapened rereleases, only the earliest editions included the cloth map and trinket; later versions had a paper map and often no trinket.

The game itself is also a significant achievement; like the past games the player was free to explore a vast world, but for the first time they could take a party of companions along with them. The graphical quality and gameplay mechanics were also vastly improved, and it was all brought together with a strong storyline. The characters had far more depth than in the previous games, and they actually walked about doing their daily chores instead of standing in a fixed spot with the sole purpose of conversing with the player.

The SNES conversion was Origin's fledgling effort for the system. Because of the lack of a mouse and keyboard all commands were activated from a menu that opened with a button press, rather than by hitting shortcut keys directly. This made a usually simple task like taking an item require one extra step. On the plus side, characters moved smoothly between tiles, rather than stiffly jerking from square to square like in the DOS original. Since the interaction and conversation options now popped up rather than being permanent onscreen features the player was left with an unobstructed fullscreen view of the game world, much like the later Ultima VII: The Black Gate.

The conversation system was also streamlined; rather than the player having to watch for coloured words in the dialogue and then type in that keyword to ask about it, any keywords mentioned were automatically appended to the choice of topics ala Ultima VII: The Black Gate. This meant that the popular "spam spam spam humbug" cheat could not be implemented, and also prevented those replaying the game from skipping ahead by asking a character a keyword they shouldn't know at that stage. Due to Nintendo's censorship policies, certain details (such as the gargoyle leader's bloody death in the opening cutscene) were reworded or simply left out. This also lead to a small number of spells and items (such as Mass Death) being altered or removed.

Japanese consumers were offered yet another version of the game. The FM-Towns was a Japanese computer based on the IBM PC and running a DOS-like operating system. This was Origin's first-ever CD product, and the designers made good use of the extra space available by including full speech, a first for the Ultima series. Unfortunately it has never been ported, although there are signs that Nuvie, an Ultima VI engine rewrite, will support it for those lucky enough to own this version.

Due to its open-endedness and innovative storyline many fans deem Ultima VI to be the best of the series. Whenever fans gather to discuss the best game in the series it easily holds its own against its technologically superior sequel Ultima VII: The Black Gate. Richard Gariott himself, however, has singled out Ultima IV as his favourite, with Ultima VII a close second.


External Links[]

Ultima series
Ultima: The First Age of Darkness | Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress | Ultima III: Exodus | Ultima IV: The Quest of the Avatar | Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny | Ultima VI: The False Prophet | Ultima VII: The Black Gate | Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle | Ultima VIII: Pagan | Ultima IX: Ascension
Other games
Akalabeth: World of Doom | Ultima Online