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The 1987 sequel to the CRPG classic, Ultima IV. Ultima V was a great game in its own right, and as it was the first of the two that I played, at age 11, it has stuck in my mind as the computer game to measure all other computer games against.

Ultima IV and Ultima V are fairly similar. They take place in roughly the same game-world, and use the similar mechanisms for combat, dungeon adventuring, and outdoor adventuring. Ultima V was larger, however, spanning twice as many disks (4 vs 2), using that space for a larger world to be explored, and much better graphics. In addition, it allowed Ultima V to be much more detailed, giving a more fully immersive play experience. Characters had more dialog, and towns were filled with a greater variety of objects. There were fireplaces concealing hidden areas, ticking and chiming grandfather clocks you could read the time off of, and harpsichords you could sit down and play. While Ultima IV introduced many of the exceptional concepts found in the next game, Ultima V presented them in a much deeper and more involved manner.

Ultima V used a unique character creation system. Before beginning a new game, the player would be presented with a series of moral dilemmas in which she must choose one of two of the virtues of Britannia. Example:

During battle thou art ordered to guard thy commander's empty tent. The battle goes poorly and thou dost yearn to aid thy fellows. Dost thou A) Valiantly enter the battle to aid thy companions; or B) Honor thy post as guard?
Each virtue (except Humility) corresponds to one or more of the three principles of Britannia: Truth, Love, and Courage. For example, Sacrifice is having the Courage to give of oneself out of Love. As the player selects virtues, they are showing their relative preferences towards each of the Principles. Each of the Principles corresponds to one of the three character attributes. Courage <-> Strength, Truth <-> Intelligence, and Love <-> Dexterity. The more you tended towards a Principle, the higher that stat on your character would be.

Your character arrives in Britannia to find things have taken a turn for the worse. Lord British, wise protector of Britannia, is missing! Three dread shadowlords, each the embodiment of an anti-principle, Falsehood, Hatred, and Cowardice have appeared, and corrupted the current ruler, Lord Blackthorn. Lord Blackthorn is perverting the intent of the virtues, imposing harsh penalties on the unvirtuous. You must find a way to banish the shadowlords and find and return Lord British to his throne.

You begin in Iolo's humble home in the Dark Forest. You have sought Iolo's help in the care of your friend Shamino, who has just been near-fatally wounded by a shadowlord. Now the three of you must set off on a perilous quest to find Lord British, and restore peace to Britannia.

Bringing Lord British back to the throne is a long and involved quest. British has been imprisoned on the bottom level of the dungeon Doom, itself secreted away in the depths of the underworld. You need to assemble Lord British's artifacts: his crown, scepter, and amulet. You must destroy the shadowlords. You must acquire the mysterious sandalwood box. Finally, you must learn the word of power that will open up Doom, and go there, descending through the dungeon Shame, teleporting a few short hops through the underworld to where its blocked up maw awaits you. If you survive the journey through Doom, avoids traps and uncover secret doors, you will at last reach the bottom: a room with a solitary full length mirror. In the mirror you will see the object of your quest. Your character will then use the magical stone contained in the sandalwood box to free Lord British, and thus your quest will end.

Other cool things about Ultima V:

· When your characters got enough experience to level up, they didn't do so automatically. Sometime later, when your party was resting for the night, the apparition of Lord British would appear, granting your character the extra hit points and stats they had earned.

· In a barn behind Iolo's house lived Smith the Talking Horse. When you talked to him, Smith would say "Oh! I forget to tell you... The answer was infinity." This was the solution to one of the riddles you had to answer at the end of Ultima IV

· The wishing well in the stable in the village of Paws was magic. If you wished for a horse, then *poof* one would appear!

· If you didn't have a skull key to get into the room at the top of Lord British's castle, (the one with the magic carpet and the hidden area with the sandalwood box) you could push the cannon on the ramparts so it was facing the door and open fire.

Ultima V introduced the vast Underworld to Britannia. Where in Ultima IV the game world consisted of the continent of Britannia, its nearby islands and dungeons, with Ultima V Origin Systems basically added a second world underneath Britannia that is comparable in size. This world was accessible by exits at the bottom of each of the dungeons, or through a couple of key locations topside.

The Underworld in Ultima V is particularly nasty; it's best described as a large outdoor dungeon. It's dark pretty much everywhere, requiring a steady supply of supplemental light. There are plenty of dangerous monsters down there, so you spend time getting beat up. A lot of the underworld is made up of this twisted maze of mountains that you need the grappling hook to traverse, during which you usually take a healthy amount of damage. There exists a plethora of one-way rivers and river-waterfall combinations making it near-impossible to remember how to get from one location to another, and removing the option of backtracking. There's nowhere to buy food or supplies and you're constantly getting beat up by either the landscape or the monsters; this is not a very fun place to be.

The underworld doesn't come with it's own cloth map, you have to figure it out yourself. The three shards you need to defeat the Shadowlords are located at various places in the underworld, as are several other objects you need to recover.

Ultima VI followed in this idea by introducing the Gargoyle world counterpart to Britannia, but you don't return to the Underworld.

I also believe that Ultima V was the first of the Ultimas to allow the user to fire weapons and spells in directions other than the usual up, down, left and right.

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