Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

A 1985 RPG where you travel the world of Britannia on a quest to be the Ultimate Good Guy. Now available for free.

Release Date

September 1985.

Pros

There is an interesting conversation system where you have to type in keywords to progress. Quite similar to text adveture games of old like Borrowed Time and Tass Times in Tone Town. Although the vocabulary in Ultima IV is not as much as text adveture games.

It is a very big world to explore. I am not sure whether it is bigger or smaller than games like Oblivion or Might and Magic VI, but it is still very big.

Even though the game’s presentation is old and clunky, there is a very strong story in the game. Your main quest is to be the Ultimate Good Guy, but how you get there is the challenge and the story of the game.

Replaying Ultima IV after games like Fallout and Arcanum made me realise that even so long ago, Ultima IV provided immense freedom in RPGs. You can go any where as long as you can survive and you can do pretty much anything. Of course since the main quest is to be the Ultimate Good Guy, doing nasty things will not lead to completion of the game.

Cons

The graphics are very old and it shows. Most of the game is represented by low resolution icons. After playing a while, you will learn what each icon represents, but it cannot hide the fact that it is a very old game.

Like a flight simulator, you have to memorise the whole keyboard. Until you remember it all, the reference card will come in very handy.

The game is quite difficult to learn to play, with no tutorials or help on how to play. You basically need to read the manual and the reference card to learn how to play.

Make sure to take your own notes for everything. There is no journal record of any kind.

The sounds are all old PC speaker beeps. There are games that sound good even with PC speaker(Xenon 2 Megablast), but Ultima IV is not one of them.

There are lots of random monster encounters which means lots of combat. Unfortunately the combat sequences are not that interesting and gets boring and repetitive.

Other Points

Screen shots have been taken with the unmodified version of the game and with the Ultima IV Upgrade patch.

Although the game is played in turn based mode, the moon phases shift in real time. The phases of the moon determine where quick travel moon gates appear and where the destination is.

Biases

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game with and without the graphics upgrade patch.

Ultima IV was the first RPG I played. Playing it again sure brings back memories. Not all of it is good since I like a lot of the improvements that come with modern RPGs.

I really liked Fallout, SWTOR, Might and Magic VI, Torchlight, Oblivion, and Baldur’s Gate 1, 2 plus expansions.

I also liked Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Lands of Lore 3, Might and Magic 3, 4 and 5.

I did not like Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura and Styrateg.

I have never completed Ultima IV. I have completed Ultima V and VI and played Ultima VII.

DRM

The game is available for free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1.8 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • 2GB HDD
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • Notes from myself – The game runs on DOSBox so I am unsure about the absolute requirements of the 3D graphics card. The game’s installer is 28 MB and the installed game takes up 23MB, so I do not understand what the 2GB HDD requirement is all about.

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

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