The Ultima series of computer games hold a special place in my heart – my love of computer games is strongly tied to the evolution of the series, from the precursor (Akalabeth, which I played obsessively on my friend Terry’s Apple II in Junior High), to Ultima III which I played all through high school, to Ultima IV which I played for several years on my commodore 64, these games along with the Wizardry series played a huge role in my development as a games player.
I mention all of this because over the past week or so I’ve stumbled on not one but three distinct approaches to playing an Ultima game on modern computers. One, Lazarus, uses the Dungeon Siege engine and is a re-envisioning of Ultima V with somewhat modern graphics and a radically different combat engine. Another, Nazghul, endeavors to become a toolkit that will allow anyone to develop their own ‘Ultima 5-like’ games, and features graphics and gameplay systems that are very true to the original Ultima 5. The third, Ultima 6 online, turns the gameplay of Ultima 6 into an online mmorpg.
Lazarus is the most approachable for folks looking for a quality modern RPG. It requires a copy of the original Dungeon Siege game, which you can find for under $10 these days. Even if you’ve never played an Ultima before it’s a pretty fun game with decent graphics, and it works with both Macs and PCs. If you’re looking to play online than Ultima 6 online is obviously the way to go. It’s pc only, and the server has a tendency to come and go, but really it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, this came out of nowhere for me. Nazghul is the most interesting though, in that it’s really a toolkit (though it comes with a developed adventure to demo the system) that will hopefully gain some interest and lead to some fun modules shipping. It’s open source and cross platform and a tiny download. It’s also developed in Scheme, which is something of a novelty, at least to me.
All are worth checking out if you’re a fan of the old Ultima series of games, and Lazarus is worth checking out even if you weren’t.