When I went to Best Buy Wednesday, I was, strange to say, actually pleased to see the huge stacks of Ultima 9s going on the shelf. Hey, the more folks that buy this, the more that might move into playing these games full time.
I’ve half a mind to swing by Monday and see if they’re still there. According to folks on Usenet as well as Jinx, they aren’t. The last time I can recall that happening was with the first-person shooter SiN, another well-meaning “ground breaking” title that was kicked out the door about six months too soon.
I don’t know if the rumors are true about Origin being ordered to release this title too early, that the QA team gave it a “Fail” and that it was shoved into release anyway. I do know that, as I struggle to get further into the game, in its current state it is unplayable. I finally gave up in Hythloth (the second dungeon in the game); the interface was just too counter-intuitive, the engine too slow. I finally cut on the cheat codes (an Ultima with cheat codes, gotta love it) and flew around in no-clip mode looking for the Red Key to get me into the room to push the Blue Button.
Origin made an attempt at salvaging a decent game out of this – the story itself is pretty good, although hamfisted in parts and not at all subtle (Methinks Garriot is not fond of lawsuits, for example). However, to call it a roleplaying game is a misnomer, unless your version of roleplaying is running around looking like Woody Harrelson and being called the Avatar (after about the fiftieth “Good day, Avatar” I felt like screaming “I HAVE A NAME, DAMN YOU!”). It’s an adventure game, sort of like Kings Quest but with moral lessons and swordswinging. Which isn’t bad, but it’s a far cry from other, better games.
So is Ultima 9 worth buying? Only if you have a Voodoo card. The fact that U9 crashes TNT2/GeForce 3D cards is utterly unfathomable. You know, this is why Origin has a goddamned QA team. Or had. Hell, if they did pass on this one, they deserved to be axed. I mean, did anyone even BOTHER to run this thing in D3D mode? “Hey, guys, um, it won’t run on this card.” “Aw, ship it anyway, we’ll work on a patch after the holidays.” Maybe I should forward Lord British Derek Smart’s email address, I hear he’s got some experience in post-release patches.
So Ultima 9 is a bomb. The obvious question, then, what about Ultima Online 2? And will its engine actually run on most people’s systems?