Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 72 / MAY 1986 / PAGE 62

Ultima IV:
Quest for The
Avatar For Apple
And 64

James V. Trunzo

Requirements: Apple II-series computer with at least 64K RAM (Mockingboard sound enhancer optional); or a Commodore 64 or 128 (in 64 mode). Disk only. The Apple version was reviewed.

Just when you thought it was safe to venture forth into the land of Britannia, along comes Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar. The sequel to Ultima III certainly appears to live up to its advance notice. I say appears because I've spent only a dozen or so hours adventuring in the world of Britannia, and therefore can't claim to be all-knowledgeable about the surprises lurking in this game. However, considering the tremendous scope of Ultima IV, if I waited until completely finishing the game before reviewing it, Ultima X would probably be on the market by then. The world of Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar is approximately 16 times larger than that of its predecessors.
    But map size is hardly the only difference between Ultima IV and the other Ultimas. It is a tribute to the designers' programming skills and creative genius that Ultima IV quickly establishes its own identity while continuing the by-now familiar play format employed in Ultima I through III.
    While Quest for the Avatar retains many of the standard features of the previous programs, it also has a heavy philosophical bent that comes very close to moralizing. At the least, it puts quite an emphasis on virtues that lead to a "good" life: honesty, valor, charity, etc. The player should never lose sight of this emphasis when making decisions throughout the game. Of course, philosophical contemplations are well and good, but they aren't tremendously useful against the aggressive monster-types that beset you during your quest.

Recipes For Magic
Combat and magic are still of major importance in Ultima IV. The procedure for combat is unchanged, but a new level of sophistication has been reached for the use of magic. No longer can you simply cast a spell. Instead, reagents (ingredients) must be purchased and properly mixed before using a spell-and woe on you if you're struggling to prepare your magic while five trolls are attacking your party. The Book of Spells lists the ingredients you need, but in many cases it's up to you to discover the proper portions of each ingredient. What does it take to make a fireball-two parts bloodmoss and one part sulfurous ash, or vice versa?
    There's more, of course. At the risk of revealing too much, be aware that in Ultima IV you do not pick your party of adventurers; they pick you. If you're unworthy of help from a powerful Paladin, for example, you'll have to gain more experience before receiving his aid. Even the creation of your player character is handled in a unique and fascinating way. You no longer simply state your preference for character type and race. I won't tell you what happens instead because it would rob you of one of the initial enjoyments when playing Ultima IV. After discovering this for yourself, you'll be glad I was discreet.
    The package is similar to previous versions of the Ultima series. It includes a cloth map, a Book of Magic, a History of Britannia, and two game disks. All the material is top quality, and the manuals are eminently readable. If you get hopelessly stuck, a hint book will be available containing maps and clues. This makes it possible for less industrious adventurers (like me) to have a chance of completing the game in their lifetimes.
    For those who have never experienced any of the Ultima games, note that it isn't necessary to have played the forerunners in order to enjoy Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar. However, my bet is that once you play one, you'll want to play them all.

Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar
Developed by:
Origin Systems, Inc.
Distributed by:
Electronic Arts
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403