Ultima II Review
Review by James A. McPherson
Computer Gaming World Volume 3 Number 2 (Mar-Apr 1983)


NAME: Ultima II
TYPE: Fantasy
FORMAT: Diskette
AUTHOR: Lord British
PRICE: $59.95
PUBLISHER: Sierra On-line

You can stop holding your breath, ULTIMA II has finally arrived. Lord British's sequel to ULTIMA continues the saga with enhanced detail and a larger universe.

This is an adventure across time and space that takes you from three-dimensional dungeons deep in the ground through time doors to the future and interplanetary trips
throughout our solar system, plus more!

This colorful hi-res program has you traveling across a scrolling landscape of grasslands, mountains, and oceans with constantly moving waves.

The game resides on two disks with three sides of data. Along with the instruction book there is a cloth map of the world showing the approximate locations of the time doors. It is wise to read the instructions carefully.



In Ultima I your quest was to destroy the archevil Mondain. At the time of his demise you might have thought that the adventure was finished. However, rumors have been spreading, and it is believed that before Mondain was rubbed-out he had been training an apprentice. The rumor continues by stating that this apprentice has grown even more powerful than Mondain and that the new evil spreading throughout the land is the result of this force. Your quest is to find and destroy MINAX, enchantress of evil, apprentice of Mondain.



As in ULTIMA you must create your character and play the game on a separate play disk; you only use the master disks for booting and going in to space. This does save wear and tear on the original disks.

To create your character you must distribute 90 points between the five attributes (strength, agility, charisma, wisdom, and intelligence), choose your sex, class, and profession.

In distributing points for attributes I concentrated on giving the most to agility and intelligence, recognizing that each attribute must have a minimum of 10 points. Agility is your skill at wielding a weapon and I wanted to be able to use the deadliest weapon as soon as I could. Intelligence increases your skills in bargaining and, more important, in the casting of spells. You learn quickly in the dungeons and towers how important this ability can be.

Strength determines the damage you can inflict on a foe in a fight. Stamina reflects your ability to defend against attack. Charisma governs your success in bargaining with merchants and Wisdom is what you need to cast spells successfully.

Once you begin play you will be able to increase your attributes as high as ninety-nine. This is not as easy as it sounds, nor is it inexpensive.

In your choice of sex (sorry folks, only male and female is available) you can increase certain attributes. A male character will increase your strength by ten and a female will increase your charisma by ten. You then pick between five races and four professions: human, elven, dwarven, hobbit and fighter, cleric, wizard, thief. Each of these adds points to certain attributes.

There are also magic spells available to clerics and wizards. You have nine spells in three categories:

Spells both Clerics and Wizards can use:
1. Light-creates magical illumination
2. Ladder down-teleports you down one level in a tower or dungeon
3. Ladder up-teleports you straight up one level in a tower or dungeon

Cleric's Spells:
4. Passwall-destroys the wall in front of you
5. Surface-teleports you immediately to the surface
6. Prayer-calls for divine intervention to destroy your foe

Wizard's Spells:
7. Magic Missile-offensive magic weapon
8. Blink-randomly teleports you anywhere on the same level
9. Kill-attempts to obliterate your foe by magic

These spells are purchased in stores and can only be used in dungeons and towers. They are for killing and teleporting.

When your character is complete you are ready to explore Ultima II.



There are five time periods in Ultima II connected-by time doors that appear off and on throughout the game. In order to be confident of your whereabouts these time doors should be mapped, which you can do with the aid of the cloth time map provided.

The time periods range from the predawn legends era to the post-apocalyptic A. D. 2112. Each period has unique locations and inhabitants to help or hinder you in your quest. You must talk or as they call it "transact" with everyone in the game otherwise you will miss some important clues, clues that are required to finish your quest. You may even meet someone you know.

As you travel through the time periods you will visit villages, cities, castles, dungeons, and towers where you can purchase food, spells, transportation, armour, and weapons. You can even stop in at the local tavern to have a drink and hear the local gossip or bribe the barkeep for a hint.

You also have an entire solar system to explore with each planet having its own features and towns to visit, You might even discover the whereabouts of the mysterious Planet X.



Your first quest upon entering ULTIMA II is to safely make your way to the nearest settlement to arm yourself against the nastier inhabitants that roam the world. You also must not forget to make sure you have enough food to last for awhile. Otherwise you can die if you're too far from a village and can't get back in time for food. I found this out the hard way.

I spent a lot of time the first few tries making new player disks until I was able to get close to the water and board a frigate. (You need "something" in your possession to be able to board the frigate but it is obtained by doing battle with the inhabitants and should not take long). It is difficult staying alive until a frigate appears. However, once on the frigate you patrol the shores of the continents and attack the Orcs, Devils, and Balrons with the ships guns. You will find that you lose little or no hit points during the battle and it doesn't take long to build up your inventory of gold, possessions, and experience points. The best time period for this is the Pangea.

When you initially travel through the time doors you end up being stranded on one continent until a frigate ventures close. This sometimes took a while and I was determined to find a solution to this lack of transportation. Once you are on a frigate you can get other frigates. Instead of firing on hostile frigates, head for land and dock your frigate. Then board the hostile frigate. It will become friendly. You now have two frigates. In this manner any number of frigates can be docked by the different time doors. This can be very helpful to you as you travel about.

When you press the "Z" key you are shown the status of your characters attributes, experience points, and inventory. You have to keep a careful watch on five items, but four of these items deserve special attention. They are attributes, torches, keys, and tools. You are allowed to have 99 of each but go just one point above and the total resets to zero. It's not healthy to have anyone of your attributes go to zero, let alone having to lose keys that are very hard to come across. Experience points were very important in ULTIMA I and you strive to increase them but in Ultima II they are not important and if you get above 9999 the counter will just reset to zero.

There are dungeons and towers which are similar in detail to other popular games but are not really necessary areas to explore to win the game. However, I did enjoy mapping the levels and there were definitely new twists added that I have not experienced in other dungeon-type games. It is very expensive to reach the highest floor in a tower or the lowest level in a dungeon.

Remember to visit all time zones and planets. Transact with everyone you can, it is very easy to let the most important contact slip through your fingers if you are not careful.

There is one weapon you need before you can effectively attack Minax and that is the magical quicksword ENILNO. The instructions say you cannot buy it, you must earn it. I had to buy it.

You use a lot of money in ULTIMA II trying to get information so it is wise to know where and how to get restocked quickly.

My copy of Ultima II was one of the first off the production line. When you first build your character you are allowed to spread 90 points between the five attributes. If you didn't give at least 30 points to strength it turned out you were not able to wear either the reflector or power armor. Without the reflector suit on you could not venture out into space. I was lucky and gave my character 30 points initially and never saw that problem. Although I never was able to wear the power suit which would have made me less vulnerable to hits. This has been corrected by Sierra On-line.

The game has a nice feature in that it automatically saves your character at certain points in the game. Even this did not help me in one instance. I had ventured out into space with very little food and was unable to get close to a village to buy food without dying. At this point in the game my character had been very strong and I was able to travel throughout the time periods without too much trouble because of the possessions and vehicles I had accumulated. I hated to even think that I would have to start over. I found a partial solution for anybody who gets in this predicament. Start a new character on a new disk and build him up so he has about 5000 hit points and the same amount in gold. Somewhere in this new game remove your new disk and put your old disk into the drive. Press Q to save. The computer will save your new character on your old disk. You will then still have use of whatever frigates, planes, or shuttles that your previous character used. I do not know if this will work in all instances and I recommend it only as a last resort, it did save me a lot of time.

One thing you learn quickly while piloting a shuttle is that you only have one chance to land. If you do not land on grass you die, no exceptions. The shuttle will continue to circle every planet until you press a key so it is wise to allow it to initially circle every new planet once before you land so that you know what you are getting into.

When you first get into combat you start acquiring items that you have no idea what they are used for. You usually end up finding out the hard way so watch your cursor every chance you have during battle for hints.

One of the most difficult item(s) to find and obtain are the keys. Let me just say that the initial few are costly but there are ways to use these first few to build up more than you will need.



The world of ULTIMA II is vastly improved over ULTIMA I. The villages, castles, and towns are all unique; the oceans and lakes even have animated water. My only thought as I finished the game was that very little of this enormous work was really utilized as being required to complete the game. It was almost as if this was only a small initial quest to give you the lay of the land and that additional scenarios would be released, each one using more of the game until the "Ultimate" quest was finished. Therefore I was not surprised at the little ad that appeared at the bottom of my screen at the completion of this quest. It said that...


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