Retro Feature: Ultima Underworld

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Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss


Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss came out before Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and featured physics, first person controls including look up and down, swim, and had an eat/sleep system. It was developed by Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Studios) and published by Origin Systems.

Ultima Underworld has been cited as the first first-person perspective role-playing game with 3D graphics (1ST 3D FPS RPG FTW!). Its design combines simulation elements with concepts from earlier RPGs, including Wizardry and Dungeon Master; this led the game’s designers to label it as a dungeon simulation.

Ultima Underworld received widespread critical acclaim and sold nearly 500,000 copies. The game was later placed on numerous hall of fame lists. It influenced game developers such as Bethesda Softworks and Valve Corporation, and it was an inspiration behind the games Deus Ex and BioShock.

Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds


The storyline of Ultima Underworld II takes place one year after the Black Gate incident of Ultima VII. You are invited to a feast by Lord British to celebrate the year of rebuilding in Britannia. In the early morning afterwards, a great dome of blackrock crystal forms over the castle trapping everyone, including you, inside.

The blackrock was created by Mayor Patterson for the Guardian who intends to invade Britannia, which has now been cut off from its greatest defender (you). Searching down through the sewers under the castle you find a smaller crystal, a ‘reverberation’ created by the sheer power of the Guardian’s spell. The crystal allows you to travel to other worlds under the Guardian’s control in order to free the castle from the spell.