Monday, July 4, 2016

Ultima IV Old School Mythology, meet Pre-Modern Day Gaming

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a boy who moved from England to America because his father got a job working for NASA. While it wasn't the beginning you'd expect for a computer game that is steeped in ancient mythology, the reflection back onto his homeland as a child gave Richard Garriot the vision and drive necessary to create a gaming experience that was unprecendented in the late eighties.

While most video games were focused on mythology to the extent that they were D&D based- especially computer games- very few explored it on the level of Ultima IV. A spiritual crisis is arising in Britannia with the banishment of the Dark Lords and the people need a leader to show them the way to enlightenment. It's very Jesus Christ, minus the crucifixion and plus a few ankhs and some mantras.

You tour the towns and dungeons of Britannia, learning the good and bad of the land and people and tutoring yourself in the eight virtues- Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility. The snake is a symbol of knowledge and the dungeons of vice. Each town holds on to one of the Virtues although some have fallen. Overall it's an immersive experience that would later open the doors for in realm exploration games- from Fallout to Skyrim.

As a flashback it gets two thumbs up for its nostalgic replayability. As a study of mythology it's also a win as it explores demons (found in Muslim mythology- Lillith, for instance, is portrayed as a demon- rather than a potential end for Jesus's final pilgrimage after his rise), the symbol of eternal life (as a gateway to enlightenment rather than a vice or desire) and shrines as peaceful places of contemplation.

Watch a trailer with Anne Jindra and the entire Ultima Cast Here!

Download it for free Here!

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