Ultima VI: The False Prophet

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

Origin's Ultima VI continued the story that began in Ultima IV. In this installment, the Avatar (as performed by the player) encounters what at first seems to be a demonic species of winged humanoid, but eventually turns out to be another sentient race, who aren't out to harm but only to save their homeland from destruction. Of course, Ultima being the epic adventure it is, it then falls upon the player to save the Gargoyles' (as they're called) land, as well as that of the humans. (Though in Ultima VII the player learns that this didn't quite work, and that man and Gargoyle have to learn to live together.) The parallels to tensions among races was overt, but the game was not didactic.

Of course, what earned Ultima VI a place in these nostalgic pages (not to mention a place in Computer Gaming World's Hall of Fame) wasn't the game's message, but it's depth. Origin's slogan, "We create worlds", proved to be more than just talk. The continent of Ultima VI was filled with interesting places and people (only around 200 people, I think, but impressive nonetheless as the player could carry on a conversation with any of them.)

Conversation - the heart of the game, really - hadn't really changed from Ultima IV; the only major differences is that most keywords (words to which the character would respond with something meaningful) were highlighted, and a picture of the character's face would appear during the conversation. What was changed, though, was the level of interactivity with the fictional world. If you wanted to put off questing for a while and just hang out at a bar, you could. If you wanted to feed your character, you could do that too - either buy buying food at a tavern or baking your own bread.

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