Dragon Age IV finds its single-player mojo

In what can only be deemed a good decision, Bioware and EA have made the very wise decision to remove all multiplayer components from the still-in-development Dragon Age IV, to focus on a tight single-player experience. Bloomberg broke the story this morning.

Following on the heels of two critical failures in a row – Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem – Dragon Age IV is widely seen as being absolutely critical to Bioware’s reputation. As a studio famed for its excellent single-player games, including Baldur’s Gate I and II, Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic, the Mass Effect trilogy, and the Dragon Age series, attempting to include multiplayer components in their games have been less successful. Though Dragon Age: Inquisition features a multiplayer component, it never quite attracted the number of players and interest that the studio and its parent company EA had hoped to see.

Dragon Age IV has itself seen a number of creative design shifts, including a previous pivot towards more multiplayer features. That change, back in 2017, led to the departure of creative director Mike Laidlaw, and resulted in several employees dubbing the game “Anthem with dragons”.

However, on the back of the success of Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, Star Wars: Squadrons, and the critical and financial failure of Anthem, the pivot back to a single-player focus will hopefully restore fan faith in the company and appease unhappy staff members.

Dragon Age IV is currently in development, with no firm launch date set at present.

Spider-Man III now has a title

After several cute fake titles from the cast were teased, the official title of the next Spider-Man movie has finally been announced.

Spider-Man: No Way Home.

A delightfully charming video was released that announced the official title, which you can see below.

Mission: Impossible 7 to hit streaming 45 days after cinemas

As announced on io9 this morning, Paramount Pictures have decided to debut Mission: Impossible 7 on Paramount+ 45 days after the movie’s arrival in cinemas, as a result of (naturally) the pandemic. With the majority of cinemas still closed at the moment across North America, it’s clear that film studios are trying to find new ways to maximise audience engagement and revenue streams.

In io9 writer Germain Lussier’s own words:

Mission Impossible 7 starring Tom Cruise is currently filming and aiming at a November 19 release, which would put it on the streamer in early January.

So expect the still-untitled seventh instalment in the series to be on streaming platforms in early 2022.

Anthem’s swan song

Well, it’s game over for Anthem.

EA and Bioware have announced that they will no longer be working on Anthem 2.0, otherwise known as Anthem Next, and will instead, redirect all energies and focus to Dragon Age 4 and Mass Effect 4.

Christian Dailey wrote, in an official Bioware blog post:

“In the spirit of transparency and closure we wanted to share that we’ve made the difficult decision to stop our new development work on Anthem (aka Anthem NEXT). We will, however, continue to keep the Anthem live service running as it exists today.”

A famously troubled production (originally codenamed ‘Project Dylan’), Anthem lacked a strong direction and focus for several years while in development, and ultimately launched to the worst reviews and sales in the history of Bioware.

Anthem was one of several SaaS games that emerged on the market during the 2010s, alongside No Man’s Sky, Destiny, Destiny 2, The Division, The Division 2, and more. Despite some excellent design ideas and an absolutely magnificent soundtrack by Sarah Schachner, Anthem never quite found an audience, and featured content that had clearly been gutten to hit a release date.

Hopefully, Bioware have learned from the mistakes of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, and release games worthy of their name and legacy.

Lookback: Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight

This was originally published on 12 March 1999 on the now-defunct 3DGaming.net.


Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight

While taking a break from fragging on a Quake II server, I found myself wanting to play something with more depth and color, so I decided to load up a golden oldie that I never got around to finishing, Jedi Knight. I’ve had the game for a little over two years now, and I never got around to completing it. After spending many hours in the single player campaign, I decided to sit down and write about this game and why it has remained, after all this time since its release, my favorite game.

At 1024×768 the game runs clean as a whistle. That right there is a primary indication of a game’s long term success: will it look good when looked back upon a year or two after it was released? In Jedi Knight’s case, that’s a resounding yes.

Looking back at Jedi Knight, I found myself noticing things I’d never paid attention to in the past:

A. The game shipped with no bugs.
B. The multiplayer elements were vastly unique compared to other games.
C. The single player campaign is still unparalleled to this day.
D. FMVs are not dead. And I much prefer them to the in-game engine cinematics used in Mysteries of the Sith. I much prefer seeing real live humans talk. Talking polygons terrify me.

Since Jedi Knight takes place in the Star Wars universe, it already has an advantage over everyone else. Why do I say this? Undeniably, the Star Wars universe has always been a damn fun universe, whether you’re reading one of the many Star Wars books, watching one of the movies (or that mind-blowing trailer) or playing a Star Wars game, it never gets boring, which is part of the attraction. Everyone knows Star Wars, and because it’s so well known, it’s easier for people to associate with it.

What made Jedi Knight stand out the most was its kickass gameplay. Whether it’s running around in the Bespin Mining Colony, or chasing after 8t88 in Nar Shaddaa, the game manages to keep reminding the player, “This is Star Wars! Have a blast!” The immersion never stops. And what more could be asked of a game? I know myself, when I sit down to play a game, I want to get lost in the world I’m playing in.

And with Jedi Knight, the moment I hear the rumble of John Williams’ Oscar winning music, I’m caught. That to me is the definition of success. Why gameplay? It can rise above everything else. Even if the graphics are mediocre and the sound merely adequate, great gameplay can always save the day. And Jedi Knight more than does the job. It did everything right.

While talking with a friend, we ended up discussing Jedi Knight. He piqued my interest when he said “There is nothing more amazing that cutting someone in half with a lightsaber in a deathmatch!” I couldn’t agree more (What, no gibs?) The deathmatching aspects of Jedi Knight are unlike that of any other game, all due to the combat system created by LucasArts. In addition to the lightsaber are the Jedi force powers (the ultimate pooch screw for those of you who fear force grip) which makes gaming oh so deadly. With dark and light Jedi force powers to choose from, deathmatching will not be the same again.

A little over a year ago, at the end of 1997, Jedi Knight received in several different publications the Game of the Year award for combining the right mix of adventure, role playing, and 3D shooting action. Along the way LucasArts managed to properly use of the third person point of view, with top of the line graphics, and a great story with a cool hero, spunky sidekick, nasty villains. Plus that little thing about being able to use a lightsaber is pretty damn cool.

No other game I’ve played recently (excluding rpgs) has come to have as much sheer replay value as Jedi Knight. While it may not be a lengthy game (it can be beaten in under a week), the option of playing your character as a light or dark Jedi, basing the choice upon your actions throughout the game, presented a branching storyline. With the addition of Mysteries of the Sith, we’re presented with more single player options, as well as multiplayer options.

All of these combined make Jedi Knight, in my mind, the finest game ever crafted. Not a bug in sight out of the box, flawless multiplayer, a variety of options for skins and levels, the optional use of Jedi force powers, superbly crafted levels, a well presented single player game, add to that a flawless setup, and that makes in my mind a perfect game. I cherish this game above all and will never stop playing it, not even when Quake IV hits the market.

Tomorrowland: Real-Time Strategy Games

This was originally published on the now-defunct 3DGaming.net some time in 2000.


The fruit of the tree is always sweet. Or so we would be led to believe. Everyone covers upcoming games, it’s a fact of life. Who wants to read about upcoming games when every site has the same info just rehashed? I sure as hell don’t, and I don’t think you do either.

That’s right, you, over there with the pink plush dragon, you know what I’m talkin’ about. Come on, say it with me: “Tomorrowland Part Deux: Modland”.

What’s new this week? Real Time Strategy Games baybee. We’ve got the stuff love and it’s all for you. So without further interruption let’s get on with the show!

Middle-Earth Diablo

The first mod of the week I owe props to theonering.net for p1mping. It seems as if this mod had slipped past the attentive eyes of gaming writers around the world (we are that numerous folks): Middle-Earth Diablo.

What’s so damn special about ME: Diablo? Here’s the short and skinny of it all: New monsters, bosses, base items, linguistic changes, and new armor and weapons. Weapon speeds and damage have been added and modified. I’m sure there are rpgers out there who role play Middle Earth who are going to go absolutely nuts with this mod.

You’re also probably asking yourself why this is so freaking special. Very simply because Lord of the Rings is not only one of the most successful fantasy series ever published (at a current total of over 50 million copies sold), but there’s also a movie on the way.

Suffice to say, interest in Lord of the Rings is running rampant right now. Fantasy is finally experiencing a renaissance period, which excites me greatly. First Wheel of Time had a game (as well as a possible television movie ala Merlin) and now Lord of the Rings dances in the spotlight. The other big plus is that Diablo has a huge fan base, which means heavy publicity for the makers of this mod.

Release Date: Download at your leisure.
Developer: Varaya and Khan
Official Site: Middle Earth Diablo

WarCraft III: The Total Conversion

Next on the list is WarCraft III. Now, I know you’re thinking “Well waitaminute, isn’t Blizzard already working on a 3D version of WarCraft III?” The answer is a hearty “Yes,” but that’s never stopped anyone in the past.

Based on the StaftCraft engine, WarCraft III: The Total Conversion promises to be one of the largest total convesions for an RTS game yet seen, and with good reason. The conversion will include new units and spells for each race, converted units, new weapons of war, such as the storm riders and gnomish cannons, a new race (the burning legions), a new interface, a fully functioning campaign, and a new storyline.

All of this will also be playable on Battle.net. A playable release is currently out for download with a new build expected near the end of April. Notice the eye of Sauron on the left hand side of the screenshot. Cool stuff, eh?

So what’s so hot about this mod? Very simple. This one will challenge developers. Like Shadowed Destiny for Wheel of Time, WarCraft III is a mod that will give developers a run for their money. I can only imagine what would happen if WarCraft III: TC turns out to be more enjoyable than WarCraft 2. Let’s all try and imagine what that would be like.

Release Date: Download at your leisure.
Developer: The Infoceptor
Official Site: WarCraft III: The Total Conversion

The War of the Ring

The last mod of the week is also a modification of a Blizzard game (this is all by chance folks. None of this has been plotted out in advance against your will). This time the mod is: The War of the Ring, a total conversion of WarCraft II. Take one guess what this mod could possibly be inspired by. You betcha, Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s hot property these days, isn’t he?

So what will ‘The War of the Ring’ (otherwise known as WotR) offer players? How do new units, graphics, unit statistics, and missions all based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy sound? Spooging yet? I thought so.

Why get hot under the collar for WotR? Because it’s Lord of the Rings dammit! Whereas Middle Earth (ME) Diablo is an action version perspective on ME, WotR offers a more epic and grandios ‘battles on the plains of Middle Earth’ vision of ME during the third age. There’s also the obvious perk of getting to see some of the more famous sites of Middle Earth, which is what has me attracted.

Release Date: The conversion isn’t quite finished yet.
Developer: Sponsored by Gurthaur Entertainment
Official Site: The War of the Ring

Tomorrowland: Upcoming Mods

Originally published on 3DGaming.net at…some point in 2000.


It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Tomorrowland has drifted off the radar as 3DGN threw the goodies at you. And what goodies they have been. But like the ever-changing tides, the flow of content at 3DGN sometimes shifts, and everything old is new again.

So what is new now, you ask? Mods, my dear readers. Unlike the Tomorrowlands of the past, I’m not content with reporting the status of upcoming games. That’s been done before countless times, so I’d like to try something a little bit different this time.

I’d like to send a little love back to the mod community that has kept so many games alive and interesting. What would Quake 2 be like without Chaotic Dreams, Jailbreak, Lithium, RailArena? What would Half-Life be like without Counterstrike and TFC?

So what mods would I like most to discuss? I have a few in mind that seemed of interest, and for this week it’s first person shooter mods. Why first person shooters? Because I like them godammit! So you’re going to sit down and read about them!

Immediately upon deciding to write this article, I knew I wanted to pursue mods that would somehow stand out. Rather than discuss something such as Rocket Arena UT or LMCTF Quake 3, I wanted to discuss something new that hasn’t [to the best of my knowledge] been done before.

Half-Life: Blade Runner

The first mod comes our way from the wonderful lads at Terminus Studio, who are fervently working on a project that I personally am quite interested in: Half Life: BladeRunner. I’d like to believe that is the sort of path Westwood Studios would have pursued had they chosen to make BladeRunner a first person shooter style game, rather than the excellent adventure game they produced.

So what does Half Life: BladeRunner have to offer? Quite a bit actually, such as multiple modes of gameplay. Deathmatch is all fine and good, but who really cares anymore? It’s been done. BladeRunner means to offer something a bit more diverse, such as:

THE HUNTERS AND THE HUNTED. The Hunters and the Hunted will feature a group of Replicants on the run from special police units called BladeRunners, who track and execute them. Add a dash of ‘last man standing’ from Unreal Tournament and throw in a timer. The Reps have to wipe out the RepDetec within a certain amount of time and vice versa.

OFFWORLD. This mode could be called ‘Assault and Conquer.’ The premise of this mod is that BladeRunner units are holding a Replicant doctor hostage. Other Replicants have to rescue him as a first priority, with a second priority of killing all the BladeRunners. And the setting is on Mars rather than Los Angeles.

POLICE HQ. BladeRunners protect Police Chief Bryant from a Replicant assault.

HIDEOUT. Replicants must protect several doctors from BladeRunner units. If the BladeRunner units kill all the doctors and/or Replicants, they win. This could turn out to be a bit like TFC’s ‘The Hunted’ in design, which I personally wouldn’t mind, since The Hunted is an awesome game.

STREET CHASE. This mode of gameplay is somewhat akin to ‘one on one assault’ with npcs. BladeRunner units hunt Replicants who are trying to reach a certain point on a map.

TYRELL CORPORATION. BladeRunners must protect Tyrell, the head of the Tyrell Corporation, from a Replicant assault.

At the moment ideas are still being tossed about amongst the design team, so nothing is for certain. Nonetheless, the ideas already in consideration could make for an incredibly fun mod. This is an extremely interesting project that has had my attention since its inception.

Release Date: TBA
Developer: Terminus Studios
Official Site: N/A

Wheel of Time: Shadowed Destiny

The next mod is a project that can be described in one word: ambitious. Shadowed Destiny has officially earned its place in my mind as a mod that is truly by the fans and for the fans. I’m surprised to see a mod of such scope in development, due to the lack of interest in fantasy games in recent times.

Games such as Hexen II and Heretic II all but disappeared from the radar within months of release. I feared the same fate for Wheel of Time until I discovered that Game Knight Software had begun development on Shadowed Destiny, a mod that has acended to the position of expansion pack, rather than a simple mod.

So what’s Shadowed Destiny about? It’s a single player mod involving a newly raised Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah who is sent to investigate the whereabouts of a man who purportedly can channel. I don’t expect a brief five level expansion pack, for several reasons, one of which is the inclusion of fifteen new cutscenes. When was the last time a single player mission pack (free, no less) shipped with its own pre-rendered cut scenes?

Could cutscenes using the engine be done? Yes, but having videos to contribute to the story adds a great deal of narrative to the game. As well as the new cutscenes, the mod will include new levels, music, skins, and most likely new ter’angreals. We might even be allowed to channel more than ‘a trickle’ (that got kinda annoying in the single player game, didn’t it?).

In addition, the mod takes place in 248 AB (After Breaking), a scant amount of time after the Time of Madness. Why is this a significant detail? During the breaking [of the world], the physical shape of the planet was wildly altered by insane male channelers, and civilization was destroyed. Hopefully Game Knight will realize the significance of this and include famous sights of the period.

Release Date: TBA
Developer: Game Knight Software
Official Site: Shadowed Destiny

Half-Life: Goldeneye

The final mod of the evening is none other than 007 himself, James Bond, staring in Half-Life GoldenEye. Originally the project began as a series of deathmatch maps for Half-Life that were recreations of Rare’s GoldenEye, which shipped on the Nintendo 64. Due to the unwillingness of developers to develop a PC port, a group of talented individuals took it upon themselves to begin work on a multiplayer partial conversion, which will include most of the weapons from the original game, as well as skins for Bond, M, Q, Moonraker (dear god why?) and a variety of options.

One such option is randomly spawning weapons (which is guaranteed to piss off my camping whore of an editor), bot support and a new twist on making deathmatch more strategic: life is as important as death. Every time you die, you lose a kill, which makes staying alive imperative. This isn’t Die Hard, John McClane run-and-gun blitzkrieg attacks are no longer encouraged. Your new mission is to stay alive as long as possible and kill everyone else.

If there was ever a mod deserving of attention, this is it. Developers, pay attention to this mod, it might just own you. You too Carmack. You want the way of the future? I have three words for you: “Bond. James Bond.”

Release Date: TBA
Developer: Sponsored by HalfLife.net
Official Site: Goldeneye

That’s all for this week folks. Next week the sheep humpers at 3DGN shall bring more goodness to the table. Or something like that. Just like Bond, Tomorrowland shall return…

Tomorrowland: Upcoming Games

This was originally published…sometime in 1999, on 3DGaming.net


Welcome all! Welcome to the most unlikely show on Earth since Ted Danson’s career! That’s right, it’s time for another journey through the Ouji board playing, beer guzzling, cheap stripper whore psychic with a heart of gold world of Tomorrowland.

Prey

The first game to not see the light of day by us is Prey, being developed by Apogee and 3D Realms. To give you a good idea of how damn pretty this game is… Prey is to Unreal what Quake was to Doom. That’s right, get ready to become Apogee’s bitch (wait a sec, that’s Ion Storm). Prey will be sporting portal technology (those orange globes in Half-Life multiplied by 1 gillion), advanced kinematic character animation system (I have no idea), and something called full radiosity lighting (sounds damn cool to me).

Simply put, Prey is going to smoke Unreal, you got all that? S-M-O-K-E. And with the promise of being able to blow just about everything up, Prey looks to be a damn cool game. Throw in the high-speed multiplayer promised by 3D Realms, an ultra 16-bit palette, and an actual character with an actual name that has a history and purpose, and Prey makes itself stand out in a crowd of competing shooters.

Release Date: Unknown
Developer: 3D Realms
Official Site: Prey

Seed

The next 3D shooter is second oldest to Prey and has seen almost no hype in its many months of development. If you would kindly follow me, our first stop will be at the ‘We Got the Goods’ display. Here we have real-time shadows, dynamically handled worlds, realistic physics (a touchy phrase in the wake of Trespasser), an unlimited number of lightsources in 16 and 32 bit color, and OpenGL and Glide compatibility (yeah yeah, I’m wondering where the hell D3D is too).

With the addition of platform gameplay via the first and third person point of views, Seed will attempt to balance the gameplay elements just right, similar to Jedi Knight. While not the behemoth that is Prey, Seed intends to stand out through its humor and ‘morbid game elements.’ Basically, you better laugh your ass off while playing this game.

And with a lack of hype, this could become ‘the little game that could’ and may surprise everyone when it’s released. Remember, Half-Life had very little publicity when compared to the likes of Quake II or Daikatana…

Release Date: Unknown
Developer: Human Soft
Official Site: Seed

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – The Heart of Gaia

For the final part of our journey, we arrive at Werewolf, whose title is simply too long. Utilizing the Unreal engine, Werewolf may just turn out to be the most fascinating of all the Sons of Unreal games. Alongside The Wheel of Time, Werewolf is utilizing the Unreal engine to bring gamers a fascinating single player experience, and Werewolf will not settle for anything less than spectacular. One of the things that makes this baby tick are the transformations that will be produced via the engine.

That’s right, imagine a man transforming into a werewolf right in front of you. All thanks to the Unreal engine. No avi, no tricks of the eye, polygons will shift form right there in front of you. Yep, Werewolf dares to do it, and the end results could be mind blowing. Also, be on the lookout for the option to play the game from a third person perspective.

And if that’s not enough, ASC has promised that Werewolf will have just the right blend of action and story to satisfy gamers of both story driven games and shooters. If DreamForge can blend the two elements together properly, this game could turn out to have a very high drool factor.

Release Date: October 1999
Developer: DreamForge
Official Site: Werewolf: The Apocalypse

That’s it for this week… stop by again as we’ll be spotlighting many more future ‘hits to be’ here at Tomorrowland, where the tax price is always cheaper. Now go call Miss Kitty, and she’ll get you a good hamster to love.

Ultima IX: Ascension

This review was originally published on 15 November 1999 at the now-defunct 3DGaming.net


Once upon a time in a beta test across the country, a man named Rainz got the smack down on a certain Lord British, proving once and for all that knowledge is power.

Have you ever awoken from a restless night of sleep sweating, feeling lost and filled with a desire to go beyond the boundaries of life? Have you ever wanted to be a hero? Has the desire to pass through the halls of Lord British’s castle ever crossed your mind? If it has, then the Ultima series is the game series to try. Unlike other role playing games such as Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, Final Fantasy, and the myriad online rpgs, Lord British’s Ultima games have always held firm to the idea that in order for a game to succeed, the player must care about the character he or she is investing such a great deal of time in.

So could Ultima IX change the way role-playing games are crafted in today’s market? That’s a tough call to make. Lord British is renown for having a love of depth and history in his games, as well as involving the player and making them care. If British were ever to have a career high, IX looks to be it. If there’s something role-playing games today lack, it’s a system of morals. Of course, that’s just one of many things rpgs tend to lack, no thanks to games such as Diablo that have dropped rpgs to an inferior level. But nonetheless, they shall survive.

As someone who’s wasted one too many hours in Baldur’s Gate, perhaps only three times did I truly care about the repercussions my actions would have. I’m one of those nice folk who have a thing called “integrity”, so when someone asks me if I found any important remains on a corpse that a family would like, regardless of whether or not it’s worth money to me, I return it. This, in a pinch, is the type of drive I’ve felt has driven Richard Garriott, aka Lord British’s games in the past. That and annoying jump features.

It’s been years since Ultima 8: Pagan (hey, my irc nick!) and without a doubt, anxiety has been developing on Garriott’s newest game. Understandably so in the wake of Tiberian Sun. Fortunately, Garriott aims to please, and if Ultima IX: Ascension is everything that he promises it shall be, then I’d begin telling your loved ones that you’ll be gone for a few weeks.

So what’s Ultima about? If you haven’t been living under a rock since 1915 then you’ll know it’s the granddaddy of role playing games. Ultima IX is the 9th, the final trilogy of trilogies, or something like that. It’s also the one that in Garriott’s own words, is a culmination of 20 years of work on the Ultima series.

Graphics

Ultima IX is one a smack dab new engine built from the ground up to bring the avatar (that guy decked out in armor that you control) to full three-dimensional glory. How does it compare to the likes of UT and Q3 for competition of ‘prettiest game ever’? Well it certainly is a ram hog. British himself said that 128 mb of ram is ideal on this bad boy.

I think its very efficient to sit on the toilet while eating.. it goes in and comes right back out

From what I’ve heard on the newsgroups and in updates about the game, the fans of the Ultima series are in an uproar over the fact that for the first time ever in a Ultima game, it’s not top down as all the rest were. The most prominent fear is ‘Tomb Raider Disease.’ Well unless the avatar suddenly develops some boobies and uh, you know what else (which btw would be really cool) then I don’t think we have anything to fear.

After all, what’s wrong with a fully 3D Britannia? Personally I think The Avatar is about to give Lara a big swift kick to the groin with the imminent release of Ultima IX. She deserves it to. Have you played the TR 4 demo? That demo sucks so much!

Regardless, 3D is the future folks, Neverwinter Nights is evidence of that. The game will also be sporting full 16-bit color. Aha. No 32 bit for you! Mind you, this is not EverQuest. This slaps EQ like a good monkey. While I don’t know what the polygon count is, in this case, the world looks too friggin pretty to matter to me.

If you’ve ever played EverQuest then you’re most likely familiar with the ever annoying zones that pop up at the most inopportune of times. To say the least, EverQuest is to Tomb Raider what Asheron’s Call is to Ultima IX. How’s that for a comparison ? The college boards would be impressed I bet! College, here I come! Hah. I made a funny. Lord British must have heard that load times pissed me off, so he decided to make the world a continuous world.

Storyline and the power of the verb

Without revealing too much about the game, let’s just say that it involves Santa, a double-barreled shotgun and a bottle of scotch whiskey. Actually it involves the avatar’s return to Britannia one last time. This isn’t the Britannia that we all saw in Ultima VIII though, as things have changed, and not for the better.

Welcome to Britannia. All sheep are welcome. Hit next to enjoy them in private.

Twenty years have passed since the Avatar passed through the land of Britannia. Upon being called back for one last adventure, the player (you!) discovers that eight large pillars have risen from the ground all across Britannia. Somehow these pillars are negatively affecting the populace of Britannia, warping everyone and bringing out the bad side of Britannia. Welcome to the dark side of the force baby.

Of course, the guardian is back for one last dance. But this time he doesn’t want to take over Britannia, this time his intent is much more unpleasant. Is the complete and utter destruction of Britannia epic enough for you? That’s what awaits the Avatar. Save the world, restore the virtues to all of Britannia, and ensure that Britannia can survive without your presence, since this is the avatar’s final quest, the adventure to top all adventures.

Drunks elves and gun toting deer! Talk about a wild Yule Tide Season!

The world of Britannia has been rendered in a fully 3d Victorian era design, just the way British likes it (I heard he likes to be on top, but hey). Along the way you’ll run into old chums like Iolo the Fletcher, Shamino the Ranger (am I the only one that thinks they sound like soap products?) Katrina the Shepherdess (good for more than sheep), Geoffrey the Knight and many more.

Control System and the Perils of the Space key

Afraid Garrett fell into Diablo Central? Fear not my rpg loving freaks, Ultima IX is not going to be a hack and slash clone. That title is left for Darkstone. The combat consists of simple attacks that progress to round house attacks and a golf ball type swing that is gained as experience and wisdom are gained. Jumping has also been fixed (Ultima VIII fans know a great deal about this issue).

You want a piece of me fat boy? I’ll spork your ass!

Easy access is also provided to the spell book and map. Just like Baldur’s Gate, when you wear something, you’ll see it too. The mouse icon thingy also changes to indicate what the item the player is looking at. The jump system works now too. Merely point the icon to where you want to jump, and then press the jump key (I’m a whore and use the space bar for such an important task)

Also be on the lookout for the new 12-slot tool kit belt, not unlike the kind Tim Allen wore in Home Improvement. Just like Asheron’s Call, the first slot is ‘1’, the second is’2’ and so on. All the options are easily adjustable, like a good paid of pants. The one factor that has me drooling over Ultima IX like my new cashmere sweater ($100 for a sweater. What is the world coming to?) is the system of virtues, which basically determines whether you’re a wuss, or a real man.

Well not quite, it’s actually a system that balances the players’ values with consequences of actions and through that determines how the character advances in skill. If anything it’s one of the smartest additions to role playing games I’ve yet seen, as it encourages the player to care about the world more and to become more involved with the character and the npcs.

Cinematics

The cinematics are also damn amazing. If you’ve downloaded any of the myriad 4 million Mb files you’ll know that the videos in Ultima IX are dialed pieces of work that would make 3d modelers proud.

Multiplayer

Do we even need to touch this issue? Five years was spent on the single player alone, and nearly half way through the entire design was scrapped. Adding multiplayer would turn this into a Daikatana scenario, which is the last thing the gaming world needs. At least British has cool hair.

Welcome to Britannia Young Adventurer! Don’t mind the smell!

Interface

There are three types of interfaces in my experience. Interface 1 is well designed, clearly shows what can be placed and stored where, presents the user with a myriad amount of options, and is basically placed on a pedestal by players. I place Baldur’s Gate on the pedestal, as well as Asheron’s Call.

Interface 2 is the unused one. If you’ve ever played Tomb Raider or MDK then you’ll know what I mean. They’re the nonexistent arcade interfaces that matter about as much as how many sheep Sweet Dick gets the funk with each night.

Interface 3 is the one I’ve oh so tastefully named ‘Pure Crap.’ Examples of ‘Pure Crap’ include the Nerf Arena blaster demo and Blackstone Chronicles. They’re the type of interface that causes my body to systematically reject the game. The feeling is quite close to having a stomach pumped.

What category does Ultima IX fall under? Well the interface from what I currently understand is fairly simple. Right click to move. Left click to interact. The cursor floating mysteriously in front of the avatar changes shades to determine where the avatar may jump. If the icon is green, the location can be jumped to, red means you’ve got about as much chance as Tonya Harding does of ever seeing Olympic glory

Music

All I have are a whopping load of midis I found from Ultima 1-8 and two mod files that are just above the crap we know as midi. I don’t recall hearing any music in the E3 press junket that Garriott displayed in a crowded sweaty room. (Note to readers: wearing a leather cap in Los Angeles is hazardous to your health.) Hopefully the demo will present me with new music to add to my video game music collection, which I’ll have you know I’m very proud of.

Oh look, it’s daylight savings time.

Conclusions from sedation

This is the section where I get to talk about what I think about Ultima IX based upon what I’ve seen up until this point. Well first I want Lord British nudered for releasing so many large videos but not a single mp3 of music. Ultima IX: Ascension. It can bake a cake. It gives amazing hair cuts, and it’s fat free. It’s Lord British in a brand new way! And it’s dishwasher safe!

In all honesty folks, I don’t see how this game could not succeed. It just looks too damn impressive not to be successful. If the storyline is consistent, the music well written, characters fleshed out and three dimensional, then I don’t see this game not succeeding. It’s just not within my realm of understanding to imagine how this game could fail.

But then again, I’m an eternal optimist who can’t wait to get his hands on Daikatana. Trust in John Romero and Richard Garriott and they shall deliver. Hey, if Ray Liotta can play Shoeless Joe Jackson, then Richard Garriott can take five years to release the follow-up to Ultima VIII. The question remaining in my mind is how well this will stack up against the likes of Baldur’s Gate II and Final Fantasy VIII. Only time, the demo and final shipping version will tell. And remember, when it Rainz, it pours…

The Goods

Quick Peek: You are the mighty (aren’t they all?) Avatar, called to return to the land of Britannia to save the land from the Guardian (I thought guardians were supposed to protect people, not hurt em) and restore the eight virtues to the land of Britannia (open a portal to Woodstock circa : 1963).

Release Date: Imminent. The week of November 23, 1999 is my guess.

Thief Gold Demo

This article was originally published on 14 October 1999 on the now sadly defunct gaming site 3DGaming.net.


In an attempt to discover whether or not Daikatana exists, Garrett snuck into Ion’s offices to discover the truth.

Garrett here,

“Log: 2300 hours. The Downwind thieves guild beat me to the punch in stealing Lord Randall’s Sapphire Vase. Word on the street has it that the two leaders of the guild are at each other’s throats about what to do with it, so a third party should help. Of course, I’m no mediator, so I’m going to steal it instead, by breaking into the Overlord’s Fancy and taking it for myself. They’re so busy arguing they’ll never know I was here…”

“Log: 2350 hours. Sneaking in through the back door took more effort than anticipated. I had to pick that lock several times to jimmy the damn thing. I made it just as the guard was coming around on his nightly shift. Sucker never even heard me coming. I snuffed the chick behind the desk and hid her body in the backroom. The patrolling guard was left to the same fate.”

This is Garrent, and this is his world. One half medieval ages, one half heavy metal, brought to you with love by Looking Glass, the pirates who gave us the Ultima Underworld series, System Shock 1 and 2, Thief, and now, Thief Gold, and the upcoming Thief 2: The Metal Age.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Gold versions exist to drain a series of all it’s monetary value and sap the life out it. Just ask Lara.

So let’s get down to the skinny, shall we?

The graphics haven’t changed much if at all. 1997 graphics, meet 1999.Although Thief looks mighty purty at 1024 X 768 with the graphics turned up all the way up, the models still suffer from a lack of polygons, and the world itself lacks the detail it could have. But hey, when the gameplay is this good, who cares, right? I’m sure some of you do, considering the times, what with video cards pushing 15 million polygon’s a second.

The kickass sound is still there, with EAX for all you SoundBlaster users. I’m uncertain as to whether or not A3D is supported in game or not (it was in the original Thief), but the sound was pretty amazing. The doors squeaked when I opened them, women cried out in terror when I showed them the hard end of my blackjack, and guards shook in terror when I danced the YMCA.

So what’s the level like? Well…I’m currently trying to figure out how to get into the basement at this point in time. The only solution at this point seems to be jumping down what looks like a laundry chute and landing on a metal floor. And then I’m going to have to kill everyone in the hallway. Old habits die hard for this Quake 2 weaned gamer.

The concept of the level, breaking into a thieves’ guild, is a brilliant one for Thief, but unfortunately, the game suffers due to poor level design. All too often I’ve found myself wandering thinking “now what?” This can’t touch the original levels from Thief, which I don’t enjoy admitting, especially for such a well-crafted and thought out game.

As always, there’s a opening video detailing the heist. Readers beware, there are two versions of the demo, the smaller 42.41 MB has no AVI files included, so good luck trying to figure out the point of the mission. Although the separate movie file can now be downloaded, what’s the point, right? You only really need it once so you know what’s going on in the game. Deathmatch has yet to be added as of yet. Hopefully Thief 2 will present some form of multiplayer option.

So is this happy puppy worth it? Let me be frank. You can be Sally.

There’s only one level. With the opening video it’s 68.91 MB, without it’s 42.41 MB. For one level. After that it’s over.

The Goods

Size: 68.91 MB
Pros: Amazing atmosphere, slightly updated graphics, a new level for Thief! Swanky intro, easy to use interface.
Cons: Only one level. Enormous file size. Dated graphics.
Bottom Line: If you liked Thief, give this a try, otherwise go play with socks.

Worth it?

Download Factor: 1/5
Overall Fun: 3/5
Overall: 2/5