Ultima Underworld, by ZIO
Reviewed May 2002
As if you didn't kill enough of the monsters
in Ultima Underworld years ago in those incredible UU series,
ZIO Interactive is resurrecting Ultima Underworld yet again,
this time on Pocket PC. For your veteran UU addicts this
Pocket PC port won't be a stranger at all. But for the rest
of you, I think this game will be a very interesting journey
to the dark underworld and its monsters.
The game starts with a cut scene, which
was pretty to watch. The dialogue sounds like something straight
out of a Shakespearian play. But you should be able to make
out what Lord Baron Almric wants you to do, which is to go
down to the Stygian Abyss and rescue his daughter whom has
just been kidnapped. You'll be escorted to the dungeon by
the Lord's guards and securely locked inside of the Stygian
Abyss. The game starts where the cut scene movie ends. You
are in the first level of the dungeon with writings on the
wall that reads: "We attacked the entrance with all
manner of tools, but it gave not a hair. It simply cannot
be breached. Hence we have resigned ourselves to die in this
hellish pit." Lovely, isn't it? From here on, you will
be roaming around in this dark and creepy place all by yourself.
In addition to rescuing the girl, you have to find eight
rune stones that Sir Cabirus had collected and planned to
present each of these artifacts to a different group or faction
within his community to cement the harmony.
When you start the game for the first time,
you can create your character by giving him or her a Class
(Fighter, Mage, Bard, Tinker, Druid, Paladin, Ranger and
Shepherd), Gender, Handedness (leftie or rightie), Difficulty
level, Portrait (five pictures to choose from) and name.
For RPG veteran gamers, this isn't much different from other
RPGs. As far as how much magic or fight power each character
has, you have to play them to find out. There are 8 levels
of dungeons you can explore, each one is a pretty long journey
with many twists and turns, which gives the game great depth.
The game screen gives you all the information
about your character. On the left hand side there is a panel
of icons to give you access to the in-game menu (save game,
sound and music on/off, detailed level setting, exit, etc.)
as well as action icons such as Talk, Pick-up, Look, Fight,
Open. On the right hand side, there is a character panel
that shows your inventory and collection of rune stones.
There is a pull chain underneath the character panel for
flipping to the stats screen that shows your Strength Dex
Vital, Mana, Experience levels, as well as weapon stats.
Under the game window, you will find a compass, Mana Flask,
HP Flask, Power Gem, Current Spells and Runes. Under these
is the display window that shows game information such as
writings on the walls or scrolls or item info. At the very
bottom of the screen is the in-game keyboard that you will
use from time to time.
The game screen has a lot of information,
but the actual 3D view of game play is about 1/3 size of a
Pocket PC window. I think this is a style carried over from
the PC, nonetheless you will hold your Pocket PC very close
to your face to play this game. When you meet a character,
you can talk to them, then a conversation screen will show
you the dialogue and a barter window shows what everyone has,
which is a very nice touch. You will find this is a huge plus
when you really need something or have too much to carry. There
are ton of goodies to pick up in the dungeon, but not a lot
you can carry.
The actual movements of characters are pretty
smooth, can be compared to Doom. Both button control and stylus
control are very smooth, especially the stylus movement control
which was surprisingly good. You can lead the characters by
using the stylus, which will lead them not only in straight
lines but turns as well. Fighting is also controlled by stylus.
Depending on where you point the stylus and how long you hold
it on the screen, your weapons will perform different kind
of attacking moves. There are over 20 skills to choose from
and to master depending on the class and experience of your
character. The skills include Attack, Axe, Casting, Charm,
Picklock, Repair, Search, Sneak, Swimming and Track, etc. There
are over 20 rune stones you can use for casting 40 spells.
You must have enough spell skill points, Mana potions as well
as the runes on the shelf to cast spells.
Music tracks are dramatic and engaging, spooky
at times. Sound effects are minimal. The in-game menu allows
you to turn them off. The game takes up 14MB memory, supports
ARM and MIPS.
All in all, Ultima Underworld is a faithful
port of the classic and a worthy RPG game for Pocket PC. If
ZIO is betting on as many returned Ultima Underworld veterans
as the newcomers to try this game, they might just get their
wish. Can this game turn UU into a cult once more? We'll see.
Playing Hints and Tips:
1) Pick up Rune bags and goodie bags so that you can take more rune stones and
items by putting them into the bags.
2) Look for levers, unusual patterns on the walls. They might open doors or lead
you to secret doors.
3) There are 4 slots for saving a game. Before a major fight, or going into dangerous
grounds, make sure you save the game.
4) Don't randomly kill anyone who is mean to you. Talk to them, you just might
find that you need these characters alive.
5) If anyone wants to give you a quest, take it. You will be rewarded well.
6 )Pick up anything you come across, even if it's just a piece of wood. Because
you might just find an oil flask and bingo, you've got a torch!
7) When you run into characters who can summon monsters to attack you, don't
kill them right away. Wait while they summon and keep out of the way. Then kill
the monsters they summoned for more points and loot.
8) Know your 8 circles of spells. You will need them not only to fight, but also
to get around some really tough environments.
9) I've made a list of some secret doors here (spoiler).