The following is a timeline of the Ultima series prior to Ultima Forever, starting in 1981. Ultima Forever takes places in an alternative Britannia, approximately 20 years after the events of Ultima 4. For more information, see The Codex of Ultima Wisdom.
- Ultima 1 (which, at its release, was simply entitled Ultima). First released in 1981, Ultima 1: The First Age of Darkness told the story of the Stranger from Another World, who was summoned to the land of Sosaria by Lord British to confront and defeat the evil and immortal wizard Mondain.
- Ultima 2: Revenge of the Enchantress, released in 1982, picked up where Ultima 1 left off. Following Mondain’s death, his protoge and young lover Minax vowed revenge, and launched an assault on the Stranger from Another World’s homeworld: Earth. Her attack ushered in a nuclear holocaust there, but also had the side effect of opening numerous doorways through time and space. The game took place in several different eras and epochs of time, from prehistoric Earth to a devastated future. At the game’s end, armed with Enilno the Quicksword, the player traveled through time to Minax’s castle to do battle with her, putting an end to her reign of terror once and for all.
- Ultima 3: Exodus, released in 1983, picked up where Ultima 2 left off. Following Minax’s death, the child/spawn of Mondain and Minax surfaced on the Isle of Fire to lay siege to Sosaria and claim revenge for the death of its parents. The Stranger from Another World returned to battle legions of monsters, and even the Great Earth Serpent, in a desperate effort to defeat the “neither human, nor machine” creature known as Exodus.
- Ultima 4: The Quest of the Avatar was released in 1985, and its graphics showed a marked improvement over those of the previous Ultimas. This was the first Ultima, from a strictly canonical perspective, that featured the recurring character known as the Avatar. In Ultima 4, the player worked to master the Eight Virtues and achieve the title of “Avatar”. Along the way, he or she was required to journey into the heart of the Underworld and discover the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom.
- This Ultima was produced in part as a response to complaints about the violent tone of the first three games, and in part because of a desire to take RPG gaming in a different direction, eschewing the hack-and-slash roots of the genre in favour of a deeper story about personal discovery and enrichment.
It is 20 years after the events of this game that Ultima Forever takes place
- Ultima 5: Warriors of Destiny was released in 1988, and again featured an improvement over the graphics of its predecessors. Ultima 5 brought the Avatar back to a darker, corrupted Britannia, in which Lord British had been imprisoned and the land had been caught up in the oppressive rule of the treacherous Lord Blackthorn, himself a puppet of the evil Shadowlords — three beings of great evil spawned from the shards of the shattered Gem of Mondain.
- Ultima 6: The False Prophet was released in 1990, and featured the first of the isometric Ultima engines, which eliminated the need for “dual-scale” world maps and allowed a greater level of immersion into the world of Britannia. Ultima 6 told the story of the invasion of Britannia by the Gargoyles, and the racial prejudice that marred both sides of the conflict. Force of arms was not the way to resolve this conflict — a dispute over the ownership of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom — and so the Avatar had to find a peaceful solution. Indeed, approaching the game with a combat-focused mindset can quickly become counter-productive; killing the wrong gargoyle characters can render the game unpassable.
- Ultima 7: The Black Gate saw the Avatar mysteriously summoned to Britannia after being contacted by an apparently malevolent being called the Guardian. Arriving, the Avatar found Britannia and its people giving up on the Virtues, and witnessed a new group called the Fellowship spreading its philosophy throughout the land. Only a few people knew or suspected the Fellowship’s true purpose — to assassinate the Avatar and summon the Guardian to enslave Britannia. The game later included an expansion pack, entitled Forge of Virtue, which set the player on a short but deadly quest to banish the Dark Core of Exodus into the void.
- Ultima 7 Part Two: Serpent Isle was released in 1993, starting with the Avatar pursuit of Batlin, the fugitive leader of the Fellowship, to the titular continent, a land populated by people who had fled Lord British’s rule to preserve their cowardly and unjust ways, and who hated all things Britannian. Surrounded by this hostile culture, the Avatar nevertheless had to determine Batlin’s, and the Guardian’s, purpose in this strange land and bring the rogue Fellowship monk to justice.
- Ultima 8: Pagan, released in 1994, featured the Avatar abandoned on a strange world called Pagan. Far away from his allies and familiar equipment, the Avatar struggled to understand an oppressive and foreign place long dominated by the Guardian. Ultimately, to escape, the Avatar was required to defeat the four Titans of the Elements and take on the mantle of the Titan of Ether.
- Released in 1999, in Ultima 9: Ascension, the Avatar is sent to Britannia by the spirit of Hawkwind, only to find the land invaded by the Guardian and on the verge of being torn asunder by eight massive columns. The Virtues have been corrupted by these columns, and the people of the land have become cold and cruel. Assisted by the mysterious pirate lady Raven, the Avatar must solve the mystery of the Columns and defeat the Guardian once and for all, even if it costs him his life.