Ultima IX: Ascension (Origin Systems, 1999)

The final game in the Ultima Trilogy of Trilogies, Ultima IX: Ascension was at once a step forward and a step back for the venerable role-playing series. Ultima IX presented a never-before seen level of graphical elegance and beauty, with graphics rendered entirely in 3D. This required outlandish system requirements, even by Origin standards, and caused considerable performance problems and other bugs in its initial release. Though subsequent patches helped the game achieve more technical stability, the game still suffers from a number of problems. Its story feels mostly like a retread of previous Ultima games, its characters are mostly sketches (and seldom seem the same as they did in the previous games), and it plays more like an action-adventure hybrid than a role-playing game, with broadly defined quests and goals instead of the intricate plotting and ideas of earlier games in the series. Far from an ideal way to end the series, and not the signoff Ultima deserved, Ultima IX: Ascension is a mostly decent game for those with top-of-the-line computers, a good deal of patience, and little or no knowledge of the previous, richer, and more exciting games in the series.

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