Ultima VI: The False Prophet

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Cover Box Art
Title Screen (PC-VGA)
Introduction (PC-VGA)
In Yew (PC-VGA)
Castle British (C64)
Britain (SNES)

Ultima VI: The False Prophet is the sixth game in the series and the last part of the "Age of Enlightenment" trilogy. It was published and released in 1990 by Origin for the IBM-PC. Ports for the Atari ST and C64 followed in 1991. A port for the Amiga was released in 1992. Ports for the FM-Towns in 1992 and SNES in 1993 were next.

Gameplay[edit]

There are big changes in the graphics and gameplay of Ultima VI when compared to previous games. Gone are the notorious tiled graphics, different scales, and 3D-dungeons from all previous Ultimas; Everything is now shown from a isometric perspective with attention to detail in a seamless world, making Britannia look much more realistic. Though the graphics are tile based, the tiles are integrated in a way that doesn't make them so independent from each other, but only as parts of the bigger world. Castles, towns and dungeons are in the same scale as the overworld, unlike previous Ultimas, where entering any of these places would move the player to a separate, different scale map.

Every character now has a portrait when spoken to, the inventory is now graphical, the game is mouse driven, and the characters and story have become more complex and mature than they were in Ultima V. Music support is available for the first time in the PC version.

The Story[edit]


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.



After the rescue of Lord British and the mostly-complete collapse of the Underworld, Britannia seems to have found peace again, but it doesn't last for long. From what remains of the Underworld, strange creatures called gargoyles arise, starting a war against the humans of Britannia. The war now lasts for some years and the gargoyles have captured the shrines, stealing the Moonstones.

In this situation, the Avatar is lured to Britannia by a red Moongate and nearly sacrificed by the gargoyles. Freed at the last minute, the hero starts to fight back and frees the shrines and Moonstones from the gargoyles, effectively chasing them off Britannia. But a strange book from the sacrifice scene and a mysterious Translation Silver Tablet reveal a horrible secret: The gargoyles aren't really evil, they are desperate. They think the Avatar is their legendary "False Prophet," come to kill them all, as their homeland slowly collapses more with each day. Traveling to the Realm of the Gargoyles to set things straight, the Avatar realizes that the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom is both the biggest point of bitterness between the two races and the only voice of reason they will listen to.

The Avatar sends the Codex back into the Void, where no one can claim it, but leaving two special lenses both Kings can view it with, to continue to read its wisdom and learn the truth. And so, peace is again restored to the troubled land.


Spoilers end here.



Development[edit]

This is the first time an Ultima was developed on a 16-bit computer (namely the IBM-PC) and not the Apple II.

Differences between platforms[edit]

The 16-bit ports for the Atari ST and the Amiga were basically the same, but had far fewer colors, different music and used a large number of floppy disks. Additionally, a port for the Japanese PC-98 was created, with simplified graphics. Also see Computer Ports of Ultima VI.

The only 8-bit port is for the C64. Origin was able to squeeze this game, without major changes in the game engine, onto three double-sided disks. However, this version had a complicated way to control the game (as computer mice were uncommon on the C64 the control was by joystick and keyboard instead), reduced graphical quality, threw out the character portraits, eliminated horse riding, shortened conversations, had almost no music and sound (apart from the beginning and endgame) and had several cuts (fewer spells and items, more items that are unusable). More about the conversion here: C64-Port of Ultima VI.

The port for the SNES looks graphically much like the PC-port, but has a much more complicated control scheme, no character portraits and has a simplified talk system combined with some censorship due to Nintendo's policies. It's display is fullscreen. For more information, see SNES-Port of Ultima VI.

There also exists a port for the FM-Towns (a Japanese computer) with full speech in both Japanese and English. Many of the characters are voiced by their real-life counterparts in the English speech. Lord British is, for example, voiced by Richard Garriott. Not all of Origin's staff was available at the time of the recording, however, so a few substitutes were needed. Otherwise, the FM-Towns version is, for the most part, the same as the original PC version. It's very hard to find, but because of its full speech, it has become sought after by many Ultima fans. It also includes a full-colour poster not found with other releases of the game.

Soundtrack[edit]

Composition duties for Ultima VI initially fell to programmer and writer Herman Miller, who commenced work on the soundtrack after Thanksgiving in 1989. At the eleventh hour, however, his work was largely supplanted by a range of pieces written throughout the 1970s and 80s by colleague Todd Porter, nephew of country guitarist Chet Atkins.[1] Porter's work is heard throughout the various introduction and character creation sequences, as well as the in-game wandering and dungeon themes.

Miller's only contributions to remain in the final release are his arrangement of the anthemic "Rule Britannia," as well as the composition of its derivative Gargish counterpart, "Audchar Gargl Zenmur." This would also mark the final credit for series mainstay Ken Arnold, who had a select few of his themes from Ultima V reprised in The False Prophet—notably including "The Ultima Theme"—while being credited for another two such pieces—"Halls of Doom" and "Worlds Below"—that do not appear in the game. Rounding out the collaborative soundtrack is the return appearance of David Watson and Kathleen Jones' wistful ballad, "Stones."[2]

Ultima VI brought with it a significant technical evolution in music for the series. Prior to the sixth chapter, support for music had been limited to hardware such as the Apple II series' Mockingboard and Commodore's SID chip. With the game developed natively on the PC, support came for a wider range of audio devices, including the AdLib Music Synthesizer Card, Creative Labs Sound Blaster, and notably the period's de facto industry standard, Roland MT-32. The latter module—with its combination of sample-based and subtractive synthesis—provided the highest fidelity audio performance yet heard in an Ultima and was used to record the Origin Soundtrack Series Volume 1 compilation album, which featured many tracks from the game. For a number of years thereafter, the MT-32 would continue to be the benchmark platform for Ultima music, as well as other Origin titles, until the eventual dominance of the CD-ROM medium brought with it the capacity to feature completely pre-recorded soundtracks.

Release[edit]

Ultima VI got very good reviews and sold quite well for Origin. It was voted best role-playing game by Computer Gaming Magazine in 1991.[3]

The game was included in several compilations:

Included with the game[edit]

The release of Ultima VI included these things with the game:

There was a "Special Limited Edition," which not only had a box signed by Richard Garriott and Denis Loubet, but also an audio tape.

Upgrades[edit]

Ultima VI is the first Ultima that doesn't need any kind of upgrades for sound or graphics to run in Windows XP. However, there are several projects in progress to allow it to run better on modern systems, or to remake it with other game engines.

The Ultima 6 Project[edit]

The Ultima 6 Project is a project to recreate Ultima VI with the Dungeon Siege game engine.

Nuvie[edit]

This is an open-source project designed to use the original data files for Ultima VI and make it playable on a number of different operating systems. See Nuvie for more information.

Ultima VI Online[edit]

Ultima VI Online is a multiplayer (MMORPG) version of Ultima VI. For more details, see Ultima VI Online.

Utilities[edit]

IT-HE Ultima 6 Editing Utilities[edit]

IT-HE Ultima 6 Editing Utilities are a suite of tools that allows a player to extensive modify Ultima VI.

More game related information[edit]

Trivia[edit]

  • Ultima VI had various working titles in contention preceding the finalization of Denis Loubet's cover art for printing, including Attack of the Blue Meanies, Beyond Britannia, The Evil One Returns, and The Book of Prophecy. The latter in particular was considered a serious candidate for the final subtitle before The False Prophet was ultimately decided upon.[4]
  • The Commodore 64 version marks the final appearance of Ultima on an 8-bit platform.
  • When the C64 port of Ultima VI was created, the limits of the system proved quite challenging to Origin, so they had to axe a few things. Along that, horses vanished to eliminate horseriding. They added the excuse that the gargoyles had eaten all the horses (with exception of Smith).
  • This installment is the first appearance of the Armageddon spell. With the possibility of players using the spell to destroy all life and then trying to finish the game, it was made impossible to win by returning the Codex to the void after casting Armageddon.
  • A completition certificate could originally be obtained after winning the game. This one also had text in Gargish printed on it.
  • As the story goes, Richard Garriott did decide to make Ultima VI mouse driven with action icons after looking at another Origin product, "Times of Lore", which did sport such an input scheme. Garriott was astounded that he didn't see earlier that mouse input would be the future after realizing how much easier it was for people to use.

Gallery[edit]

External Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Addams, Shay. "Final Modifications". The Official Book of Ultima. COMPUTE Publications: 1992. Page 134.
  2. Malone, Greg. Compendium (Ultima VI). Origin Systems: 1990.
  3. Computer Gaming World, Number 83. June 1991. Page 48.
  4. Addams, Shay. "Finding a Name". The Official Book of Ultima. COMPUTE Publications: 1992. Pages 132-133.

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