Ultima VIII: Pagan introduced a new game engine that uses a quasi-isometric viewpoint and a basic physics system. In the game, the Avatar travels alone across the island of Morgaelin on Pagan, a sunless world which has been conquered by the Guardian centuries earlier. The Avatar must search for a way to defeat the four elemental Titans that rule the land and find a way back to Britannia.
Different in tone and gameplay to previous Ultima games, this eighth release in the series was considerably less well received than its predecessor, Ultima VII: The Black Gate, a game which is often cited as one of the top classic PC RPGs of all time. The reintroduction of a lone character mechanic, as opposed to the previously party based games, which initially appeared in the first two Ultima games was one of the reasons this left many series veterans cold.
Further issues included
- The considerable reduction in world size
- The much smaller number of interactive NPCs
- Instant death when falling into water
- Platform game style running and jumping puzzles
Lead developer Richard Garriott has blamed the game's shortcomings on a hurried development forced by its publisher, Electronic Arts and the need to delegate work on the title to others. Due to the rushed schedule, numerous areas and events had to be cut from the game. Remnants of some of this cut content can be found in the game's files.
Despite these criticisms, Ultima VIII was still considered a great RPG amongst a segment of fans.
An expansion for the game titled The Lost Vale was developed. However, Origin's owner EA decided against releasing it and cancelled the expansion even though it had already been completed. The software is believed to have been lost, and most of what is known about it comes from screenshots and leaked box art. Years later, The Lost Vale's design documents were also unearthed.
The expansion would have involved the Avatar unlocking the titular valley, an area where the Zealans (the original inhabitants of the land who had opposed the Guardian) were imprisoned for centuries. The Zealans have divided into two factions in a blood feud over the deaths of two boys that had occurred several years earlier. To unite them in opposition to the Titans, the Avatar climbs to the home of the ancient Zealan gods atop a cloud-covered peak, where he must free three of the Gods of Emotion from magical stasis and uncover the truth about the slain boys.
Modern PC compatibility
- As a DOS based game, trying to run Ultima VII directly on a windows based PC is not an option, however it does run acceptably in DOSBox.
- Pagan is currently available at GOG.com. This release runs in a version of DOSBox.
- There is an open-source project titled Pentagram which aims to develop an engine capable of running Ultima VIII on modern operating systems.