Ultima V


Title           Ultima V
Game Type       RPG
Publisher       Origin Systems
Players         1
Compatibility   OCS/AGA
HD Installable  No
Submission      Eric Haines

Review
	Ultima III, IV, V, and VI are the Ultima games that were made
available for the Amiga. Semi-coincidentally, those are the ones I've
played, although I played III and IV on the C-64. I'll say right off that
Ultima IV was my favorite of the bunch. In fact, it's still one of my
all-time favorite RPGs, with only Dungeon Master having the same level of
involvement.

	Now, Ultima III was really my first experience with computer RPGs,
and I was fairly impressed with it. I hadn't played Ultima I or II, but I
knew enough about them to know that Ultima III was a big step up. Ultima
IV, though, really took everything to the next level. Bigger: Larger map,
more towns, more dungeons, more monsters. Better: Better graphics, better
music, better character interaction, better story. So naturally Ultima V
had a lot to live up to.

	Alas, it didn't quite succeed. The Amiga version in particular had
failings, but I'll get to those later. The problem with Ultima V is that
it wasn't really "bigger and better" except in minor ways. One big
disappointment for me is that the world was the same as the world in
Ultima IV. To be sure, you were provided with a map of the land, so you
knew generally what was there anyway, but part of the fun was exploring.
With the same world, the exploration aspect was eliminated (a few new
villages here and there don't count for much). Perhaps to counter that
complaint, there is a whole underworld the size of the surface world, but
this too turns out to be a disappointment, since it consists mostly of
mountains. Pretty dull.

        The screen set-up is essentially identical to Ultima IV. That is,
a large tile-based overhead view of the area to the left, and some
character stats to the right. It retains the (unique to the early Ultima
series, as far as I know) feature of having solid objects block your view
as you move, by blacking out parts of the screen that your characters
can't see. Unlike later games, the landscape is still separate from the
towns, and the dungeons are still 3D (nowhere near Dungeon Master, but a
little better drawn than before).

	The gameplay mechanics are essentially identical to Ultima IV.
This is no bad thing, but again there is no sense of advancement. It's a
decently fun game, but more of a less-memorable repeat of Ultima IV than
anything else.

	The Amiga version is let down further by technical problems. First
is the non-standard disk format, which makes copying it a pain. And
copying it is necessary, since your game info is saved to this disk
regularly. Trust me--you don't want to play off the original. The
non-standard format seemed to be prone to failure, since my disk became
corrupted several times during the course of the game, making a second
backup necessary at times unless you want to lose hours of play-time.

	The Amiga's graphics certainly aren't taken advantage of in any
real way, though I wasn't expecting a total re-working of the game, so I
don't think this is really an issue. The graphics are essentially
identical to the C-64 version, with a bit of extra colour thrown in.

	For me, the worst part was the music. Ultima IV had brilliant
music, which I still remember to this day. I was expecting wonderful new
compositions in Ultima V...only to discover that there is *one* piece
throughout the entire game! It's not bad, but it's silly to have just one,
since it gets tiresome after a while. True, the C-64 version had no music
at all, but the C-128 version did, so there's no excuse.

	Overall, Ultima V is a side-step from Ultima IV, and especially
due to the let-down of the Amiga version, I'd recommend it only to
hard-core Ultima fans. Better for others to skip it and get Ultima VI
instead.




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