Ultima VIII: Pagan
|Ultima VIII: Pagan|
The game's box cover art by Denis R. Loubet
|Designer(s)||Andrew P. Morris, John Watson|
|Artist(s)||Bob Cook, Beverly Garland, Denis R. Loubet, Dicko Mather, Brent Poer, Steve Powers, Jonathan Price, Micael Priest, Matt Sheffield|
|Composer(s)||Nenad Vugrinec, Randy Buck, John Tipton, Kirk Winterrowd|
|Engine||Ultima VIII Engine|
|Release date(s)||March 15, 1994|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
|Distribution||3½" floppies, CD-ROM|
Ultima VIII: Pagan is a video game, the eighth part of the role-playing video game series Ultima. It was not as well-received as its predecessors, Ultima VII and Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle. Developed in 1994, it is a DOS-only title and is also the first game in the series to be rated M in North America.
Following the defeat of the charismatic religious leader Batlin on Serpent Isle, the Guardian banishes the Avatar to a world that he has already conquered: Pagan. Ultima VIII has a much darker tone and a very different premise, in comparison to most of the Ultima games. The world of Pagan is entirely different from that of Britannia: the Virtues were not part of Pagan's culture, and the magic systems and monsters were entirely different.
The world of Pagan is in eternal twilight as the result of an ancient battle between the Elemental Titans and the evil "Destroyer", which resulted in the victory of the Titans. However, the people of Pagan had to pay a high price: the Titans had to henceforth be worshiped as gods. The Titans bestow powers on their most ardent followers, but they are otherwise cruel and unloving rulers, and their followers terrorize the general population.
Ultima VIII sets off where Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle ended: The Guardian has grasped the Avatar from the Void, and now drops him into the sea of the world Pagan through a pentagram-shaped portal. In the introduction, the Guardian reveals his plot: "You have been a thorn in my side for far too long, Avatar. Your two worlds will be crushed. Britannia first, then Earth. I shall parade you before their conquered peoples as the fallen idol of a pathetic ideal. I banish you to the world of Pagan. No one here knows of the Avatar!"
The Avatar regains consciousness on the shore after being rescued from the sea by a fisherman (who turns out to be an important character later on in the plot). He soon witnesses the execution by beheading of a townsman, ordered by the tyrannic ruler of the region, Lady Mordea.
Later, visiting the wizard Mythran, he learns that there are four Titans on Pagan, each one having one of the Elements as his/her domain: Water (Hydros), Air (Stratos), Fire (Pyros) and Earth (Lithos). The more privileged followers of Lithos are identified as necromancers, the wizards that trap Pyros and tap him for their power as sorcerers, the followers of Stratos as theurgists and the (albeit highly selective) followers of Hydros as tempests. Apart from those, a fifth type of magic known as Thaumaturgy exists and is pioneered by Mythran. In order to escape Pagan, the Avatar has to overcome many obstacles and master the ways of all titans, finally becoming the Titan of Ether: the magical field and fifth element.
During his quests, the Avatar collects the four artifacts of the Titans, unleashing violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes and meteor showers by doing so. These artifacts allow him to enter the Ethereal Plane and defeat the Titans on their own turf. The Avatar then reconstructs the original blackrock gate that originally allowed the Guardian to enter Pagan. By entering the reconstructed gate, the Avatar is teleported back to Britannia, which is now ruled by the Guardian.
In this part of the series, Garriott delegated most of the work to others. Garriott later explained, "... I sacrificed everything to appease stockholders, which was a mistake. We probably shipped it three months unfinished."
A patch was released to correct the game's bugs as well as fix some plot holes, and eliminate most of the problems with jumping (the original release only allowed jumping over a fixed distance in eight directions while the patch enabled jump distance to be targeted; the original release also contained many moving platforms to be jumped across, the patch stopped their motion). Long-time Ultima fans jokingly referred to Ultima VIII by the nickname 'Super Avatar Brothers', in reference to the abundance of platform-jumping puzzles.
The Ultima VIII engine was later reused in the Crusader game series.
Being a DOS title, Ultima VIII has problems running on modern systems such as Windows 98 and later; however, it works reliably under the DOSBox environment. Unlike Ultima VII which used Intel's undocumented "Big real mode" which became known as Voodoo Memory at Origin, Ultima VIII used a more conventional DOS extender. An open-source project called Pentagram aims to create an engine capable of running Ultima VIII on modern operating systems, most notably Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
The Speech Pack add-on was released concurrently with the game. This pack adds spoken lines for certain key characters, such as the Guardian, the Titans and Khumash-Gor.
The Speech Pack did not sell very well as a separate add-on, mostly because the CD-ROM Gold version of Ultima VIII, which was released shortly afterward, also includes the speech files. The speech files are also included in the later budget releases and the Ultima Collection release.
The Lost Vale
This expansion to Ultima VIII was planned from the outset, and was highly anticipated, but never released; it was canceled when the main game did not sell as well as had been expected, despite being all but finished and ready for duplication. Hints from texts in the main game suggested that the expansion pack would have added a new story regarding resistance to the Pagan gods and followers of the old religion known as Zealans. A single Lost Vale game box surfaced in October 2005, and was confirmed to be genuine soon afterwards. It was auctioned in eBay for US$1923. Some low-resolution scans of the box are located on the web.
Ultima VIII: Pagan had a mixed reception. Dragon gave the game 3 out of 5 stars. In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 20th worst game of all time, stating "A once-great RPG series reduced to the level of Mario, but with hateful, virtue-less characters."
Common complaints include:
- The world is much smaller than in the preceding parts.
- There are far fewer NPCs to interact with.
- NPC portraits are no longer included.
- The game went back from the "party" concept to the "lone hero" of the first two Ultima games.
- Stepping into any water will instantly kill you by drowning, after a brief animation depicting The Avatar going under. This includes even a small puddle of water.
- Battle against enemy characters is hack and slash mouse clicking. There is some resemblance to the later game Diablo.
- Poor game balance. Among other problems, a spell that can be learned early in the game grants total invulnerability, rendering all further combat trivial.
- Platform game style running, climbing and jumping across moving platforms is introduced.
- Less interactivity with objects and items.
- Major holes in the plot.
- Frequent bugs/glitches.
- "The Tracks of His Games - Richard Garriott gets introspective on his past creations". Computer Games Magazine. 1999-09-21. Archived from the original on 2004-07-07. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- "Ultima VIII « Ultima Adventures". Sergorn.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- The Unofficial Ultima Dragons Internet Chapter Newbie FAQ retrieved 17 July 2011.
- The Pentagram project at SourceForge
- "Looking Back on 20 years – The Lost Vale « FEM IRL". Sherigranerray.com. 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- Imagination Overdrive, Inc. website (archived 2011)
- "Ultima VIII: Pagan". PCZone. 1994-06-01. Retrieved 2012-09-10. "78 Score - Without doubt a love/hate relationship for Ultima purists"
- Petersen, Sandy (August 1994). "Eye of the Monitor". Dragon (208): 61–66.
- CGW 148: 50 Worst Games of All Time
- Ultima VIII nitpicks from Hacki's Ultima Page