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PC Gamer Retrospective Review - Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams

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PC Gamer Retrospective Review - Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams

Review - posted by Infinitron on Thu 5 September 2013, 14:12:45

Tags: Origin Systems; Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams

PC Gamer's Richard Cobbett writes a weekly feature called Saturday Crapshoot, where he profiles various older games, with an emphasis on "quirky" titles from the 1990s. Last month, he dedicated a column to a game that certainly fits that description - the Ultima spinoff Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams. Here's the introduction:

Richard “Lord British” Garriott’s Ultima is, was, and always shall be one the western world’s great RPG series. They were the games that brought a sense of morality to a genre that’s so often simply about killing anything that’s green or has gold, where each new game was both a new quest, and a return to a familiar world whose dawn featured space travel and TIE Fighters and golden era waseth stilleth ableth to get away with talketh liketh thiseth. Also, at one point all your long-term friends from previous games got turned into evil chaos demons and you got to compensate by dressing automatons up in their clothes and leading a robot army against them. This was Ultima. Ultima was very special. Still is.

Then there was Worlds of Ultima, a short-lived experiment that asked “But what if we did something else instead?” A fine question, and two fine answers – the first, The Savage Empire, sending the Avatar to a Doc Savage type world for a change. And Martian Dreams? It’s Victorian. It’s sci-fi. And its character creation system is run by Sigmund Freud. Then things really start to get interesting…

The year is… well, that’s a bit of a funny one. As with the other Ultima games, the hero is the Avatar – a hero from our world who regularly heads into the land of Britannia to solve its problems, from giving the people a symbol to look up to, to preventing justice being perverted and turned to evil, to ending a race war, to finding each and every person responsible for the new iOS game Ultima Forever and kicking them hard in the nearest available genitals. (If you haven’t played that F2P abomination, consider my review less a series of specific criticisms as the taste and sensation of sick. It’s one thing to know a classic series you once loved is dead, quite another to see its corpse being used as a piñata. Playing it is to wish they’d taken the license and done something more respectful with it. Like Ultima Kart.)

Worlds of Ultima also has the Avatar heading into adventure from the modern world, only this time it’s via time travel rather than jumping between dimensions. It’s also a rare chance to see what he (you can have a lady Avatar, but he’s a he for the intro) gets up to during his downtime, which turns out to be hanging with Deus Ex creator Warren Spector. Technically, he’s actually ‘Johann’ Spector, but we’ll be having none of that nonsense, thank you very much. The two are sitting around by his PC, decorated with an Ultima VI poster, when a strange woman shows up with a package containing a photo of them both recreating their favourite scene from Back To The Future 3, and a warning that “The greatest minds of your world and my own depend on you.” So, no pressure. Needless to say though, the Avatar has no questions about this. That might sound like he’s been spending a little too much time tripping through magic moongates, but six and a bit games in, he probably just shrugs it all off as “Wednesday.”

What’s going on is that back at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, shortly before Rosalind Lutece attached the hot air balloons and it went sailing on its merry racist way, just about every celebrity of the era was having a tour of Percival Lowell’s new Space Cannon. This turned out to be exactly as bad an idea as it sounds, with the whole lot of them being shot to Mars. It’s now two years later, and in what’s unofficially dubbed Operation: Really Bad Idea, Sigmund Freud and Nikola Tesla have teamed up with a cowboy, a doctor, and lady journalist Nellie Bly to head to Mars and find out what the hell happened.

I shall repeat that. Sigmund Freud and Nikola Tesla have teamed up with a cowboy, a doctor, and Nellie Bly, to go to Mars. And via time-travel and a signed note from Tesla to himself, the Avatar and Warren Spector have a seat. “Suck on my Epic Mickey, Mike Dawson,” mutters Spector to himself, as he belts himself in for one of the greatest game premises of all goddamn time.

This game was so fucking cool. I hope NUVIE is finished someday so I can play it again without the limitations of Ultima VI's crappy engine.

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