Ultima IX: Ascension
Ultima IX: Ascension is the tenth (and most likely final) installment of the main series and the fourteenth in the entire series (counting the Worlds of Ultima and Ultima Underworld I and II). It was released and published by Electronic Arts for the IBM-PC in 1999. It is the final part of the "Age of Armageddon" saga.
Ultima IX is one of the most controversial Origin Ultima games released. At the time of its release, the game was buggy, unpolished, and incompatible with most video cards often resulting in poor performance, corrupt savegames, and numerous crashes. After several patches, the most significant bugs, memory leaks, graphical incompatibilities, and crashes were corrected; however, performance still varied depending on PC specifications. The game's graphics and music were often praised, but many other aspects were harshly criticized by some fans of the series. These aspects included the lack of a party, action gameplay elements, and the size of world and towns. The game was also criticized by some for its limited plot, simple dialogue, and allegedly poor voice acting. While many elements of the previous Ultima games were brought back, many details of the continuity were completely ignored, wrongly interpreted or simply retconned leading to the disappointment of many fans, who accused the development team of having little experience with previous Ultima games. In short, most fans were disappointed to varying degree.
The Guardian created eight "giant, evil columns" that ripped Britannia apart and corrupted many people leading them to comment acts contrary to the virtues. Simultaneously, the columns were drawing the Moons toward Britannia to cause the end of all life upon the world. The Avatar who had returned to Earth following Ultima VIII, is called to Britannia by Hawkwind, the Time Lord, for a final time to prevent the impending disaster and defeat the Guardian. The Avatar cleansed the eight shrines and demonstrated to the people of Britannia the meaning of the virtues. In the end, while the Avatar's companions reversed the effects of the columns on the Moons, the Avatar performed the ritual of Armageddon from within the Barrier of Life resulting in both himself and the Guardian being consumed by the power of the ritual. The resulting destructive energy fused their essences together, sucked the columns from the ground, and the Avatar/Guardian ascended to a higher plane of existence. The Avatar had saved Britannia for a final time, and the role of saving Britannia has fallen to Lord British who admits to needing to take a larger role in protecting his kingdom.
Ultima IX was exclusively produced for the PC, so no other official ports exist.
Ultima IX was originally designed to use a perspective similar to Ultima VIII with the ability to zoom in, zoom out and rotate the view a full 360 degrees. The story was significantly rewritten several times. Remnants of the older versions can be found re-purposed in the final version or left unused within the game's files. Most of these remnants belong to the version commonly referred to as the Bob White Plot.
At some point during production, Electronics Arts and Origin made the decision to shift most of the development team of Ultima IX to Ultima Online following the success of the Beta, effectively killing the development of Ultima IX up to that point. When the team returned to Ultima IX, the work completed thus far was dated and many of the members left the company. Due to efforts by one of the programmers, the engine was upgraded to full 3D and the development team continued work on the game. After several rewrites and lead designer changes, Richard Garriott took control and project, rewrite and downsized the plot, and ultimately saw that the game was released by or before the deadline posed by EA.
Following the release, some of the development team continued work on the game to correct numerous bugs with the engine and scripting. The final official patch came in February with the option for gamers to registration their older version, send it into Origin, and receive the final release version of the game complete with the install disc to Ultima Online Renaissance. A subsequent unofficial patch was released to public through fansites by one of the developers who still had access to the source code. To this day, it remains unknown who this developer is, though they were almost certainly a programmer.
More about the rather long development of Ultima IX can be found here: Development History of Ultima IX.
The music of Ultima IX was composed by George Oldziey, who was probably best known at the time for his work on the live-action Wing Commander games. It represented a drastic evolution in terms of Ultima soundtracks since it was the first Ultima to have music recorded by a live orchestra (with 40-pieces).
While the game offered renditions of the two emblematic Ultima pieces, "Stones" and "Rule Britannia," it otherwise featured completely original music. Since the Britannian Virtues were the main focus of the plot, Oldziey chose to use a thematic approach based around them. He composed a leitmotif for each of the three Principles: Truth, Love and Courage; and their opposites: Falsehood, Hatred and Cowardice. As such, each town was given two themes: one based on the Principles of its respective Virtue, and another conceived from its "anti-Principles" while it was under the influence of the Columns. For instance, the negative music of Trinsic wove the Falsehood and Cowardice themes together, while its positive counterpart used Truth and Courage. To make each city feel more unique, each of them also used a specific set of instruments and orchestration, thus making it recognizable in both its positive and negative forms.
In addition, specific themes were written for other cities not related to any of the Virtues. Multiple combat themes (with a fast and slow-paced version of each) also featured with the score varying depending on the kind of enemy faced in battle.
The music remained mostly constant throughout the game, looping whenever in a town or during combat. The wilderness, however, offered some quieter moments.
Unfortunately, some bugs still remaining in Ultima IX make it impossible to listen to some of these pieces without first extracting them from the game files, as they are unable to trigger properly within the game. A recent fan patch has corrected most of the issues with the town music themes.
Ultima IX was translated to several languages, including German, French and Spanish. For more details, see Translations of Ultima IX.
Included with the game
The release of Ultima IX included these things with the game:
- The book Journal.
- The book Spellbook.
- A cloth map of Britannia in Ultima IX
- The eight Cards of Virtue (same as in the game)
Ultima IX was also released in a so-called "Dragon Edition" (to honor the UDIC). This edition had numerous extras to boast with; see its article for details.
Due to a rushed release, Ultima IX received a more or less official patch to version 1.18f for improved Direct3D performance. An "unofficial" patch to 1.19f exists (rumored to have been written by one of the original developers in an act of frustration) that provides increased performance, bug fixes, and removes the SafeDisc copy protection from the game.
Fan-made economy, dialogue, and monster patches are also available as a fan-made combined patch. These address economy issues, and re-work dialogue and plot elements to make Ultima IX more cognizant of previous Ultimas, as well as tweak monster settings. See the external links for downloads.
Currently the Forgotten World team is developing fixes for various bugs still present in the game. So far they have released a patch to fix the music bugs in Minoc and Valoria and implement Mariah and Jaana in their respective towns.
- For bugs in this game, see Ultima IX Bugs.
- For cheating in this game, see Cheating in Ultima IX.
- For easter eggs and real-life references in this game, see Ultima IX Real-life references and easter eggs.
- For a walkthrough, see Ultima IX Walkthrough.
- For information on the magic system, see Ultima IX Magic.
- For technical details, see Ultima IX Internal Formats.
- For the text of all books, see Ultima IX Book List.
- For monster data, see Ultima IX Monster Data.
- For backstory featured on the original Ultima IX website, see Parables of Virtue.
- How some of the lost cutscenes looked like can be seen at Removed Ultima IX Cutscenes.
- Several Trailers were made public, which contain unused footage.
- Weaknesses in the Ultima IX Physics describes the various bugs that up to this day plague the physics engine of the game.
- At the time of Ultima IX's release, Richard Garriott expressed his intention to release remakes of the entire Ultima series that would be made with the Ultima IX engine and released online in a episodic format. With his departure from Origin a few months later, however, this never saw the light of day.
- During the title's earlier stages, Garriott was quoted as planning to ship Ascension in a sky blue box, intended as a thematic conclusion to the arc established by the stark black packaging of Ultima VII and progressed by the cover art for Ultima VIII, predominantly awash with orange flames. However, these plans did not come to fruition.
- Ultima Aiera Ultima IX resources
- www.ultima-ascension.com official Origin Website for Ultima IX (archived 2001-03-22)
- Nitpicks for Ultima IX
- YouTube - Richard Garriott talks about Ultima IX