Ultima VIII: Pagan (Origin, 1994)
There are many similarities between Ultima VIII and Ultima VII: The Black Gate and Ultima VII, Part II: Serpent Isle in terms of overall style, though they are far outweighed by the differences--the game does not take place on Britannia, the player controls only the Avatar and no party, there is but one town, and the magic system is almost completely overhauled. Ultima VIII has many things going for it: Its complicated, unusual storyline, and graphics and sound are improvements over the previous games in the series, though it does seem, in places, more of a step back. The game is highly focused on arcade-type sequences, with precision jumping, timing, and patience emphasized more than puzzle solving, which often amounts to more tedium than enjoyment, and, despite the obvious amount of effort put into the graphics, the world of Pagan never really seems to come alive--there is a great sense of sameness with many of the games locales and situations, making even new discoveries seem like old news. Though the story helps bring the Avatar's character and his storyline more completely into focus, only fans of action-RPG hybrids are guaranteed to enjoy this--longtime Ultima fans might as well, but may feel betrayed by a game that seems a strange and unnecessary addition in one of computer gaming's finest and most important series.
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