The Worlds of Ultima titles took the Avatar into strange and mysterious places outside the scope of a conventional dungeon-based RPG. This one visits Eodon, an Amazonian world dominated by dinosaurs. There are dozens of characters to interact with, including stone-age tribes, mad scientists and lizardmen. Get ready to fight for survival as gorillas, pterodanodons and tigers encroach. All this is done in a familiar engine somewhere between those used to Ultima VI and Ultima VII
The Savage Empire was the first in the regrettably short-lived Worlds of Ultima series produced by Origin in the 1990. Utilizing the same game engine as Ultima 6 with a slight graphics upgrade, the Worlds of Ultima series recast the Avatar as a pulp-style action hero, sending him on adventures heavily influenced by the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and other early science-fiction writers from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Savage Empire finds the Avatar trapped in the “Lost World”-like Valley of Eodon. Following in the footsteps of a previous culture-hero, the Avatar sets out on a quest to convince the scattered tribes of the valley (each descended from various aboriginal peoples from Earth), to unite against a common threat: the Myrmidex, a race of vicious, man-sized ants. Joined by the apprentice shaman Triolo, a pair of fellow earthmen, and other allies gathered along the way, the Avatar travels across Eodon, facing off against vicious dinosaurs and other prehistoric megafauna, rescuing a princess or two, overthrowing a despotic mad scientist, and generally fighting the good fight - while, incidentally, trying to figure out how to get back to his own world.
The control interface is primarily mouse-based with optional keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys. You select a command icon from the bottom of the screen and click on your target or destination in the map or inventory areas. Movement is accomplished by moving the mouse until the pointer indicates the direction you want go, then pressing or holding the left mouse button. Alternatively, you can just use the arrow keys or numberpad. Combat is turn-based and utilizes a simplistic AI for your foes and allies. The latter can be set to follow a particular routine (engage in melee, use ranged weapons, bravely run away, etc.) or switched to full manual control. NPC conversations (initiated with the Talk command) are based on typed keywords. By default, the keywords a given NPC will respond to will be highlighted in red when they bring the subject up.
In typical RPG fashion, you gain experience points (and ultimately, levels) by defeating monsters and hostile humanoids and by Ultima series tradition, your characters will also require regular food and rest in order to grow and stay healthy. Rather than rolling or assigning starting attributes, new characters go through an interview process where you answer a series of questions (presumably related to the Virtues central to most Ultima games). Your responses then shape your character's initial physical and mental makeup. However, your character's stats have very little bearing on how the game actually plays out. Even the weakest or dumbest characters can finish the game with little difficulty.
The Savage Empire also ignores the Code of Virtue central to the experience of most other Ultima games. Unburdened by the restrictions the Code normally imposes on the Avatar's behaviour, you're able to do pretty much whatever you want, consequence-free. In fact, with the lack of shopkeepers to be found, you're more or less encouraged to simply take whatever you want. Adhering to the Avatar's code of conduct will largely just result in your characters being under-equipped and starving. Personally, I think this takes away a bit of the 'Ultima-ness' of the game experience (which, perhaps, is why this side-series didn't do too well). Though it could reasonably be argued that, as the Valley itself is a holdover from a more primitive time, there's really no place in it for the Virtues or the other niceties of 'civilized' society.
Other than one or two modern implements that were transported with you, the available weapons and armor are fairly primitive - mostly stone-age versions of typical melee gear (stone blades and wooden clubs, hide armors and shields). Though with the right tools and materials, one of your companions can fashion more advanced weaponry. Magic in Eodon utilizes a more primitive, shamanistic style - spells are cast by making small offerings to one of three totemic spirits (for a total of 9 different spells) and is restricted to trained shamans. The game world itself is highly interactive and nature often provides you with a bounty of useful raw materials. You can chop down trees, dig clay, fish, make charcoal, weave cloth, harvest from plants, collect minerals, and more. And the enterprising Avatar can use these things to fashion a variety of useful items.
The graphics are typical for an RPG of the time period (that is to say, tile-based and populated with small sprites) and do a serviceable job of illustrating the world the designers probably had in mind. Though because much of the game world is an expanse of undeveloped jungle wilderness, the scenery tends to be a bit monotonous - especially since you'll probably spend much of the game having to trudge across it on foot. Combined with the relatively small area covered by the map screen, it can be easy to get lost if you stray too far from a landmark or once night falls and your viewing area is reduced by fifty percent or more (a flaw the game shares with the others that used this engine).
The musical score is quite good and its heavy reliance on percussion and synthesized woodwinds meshes nicely with the overall visual theme of the game world. The use of sound effects is kept to a bare minimum, being mostly reserved for attacks and spells. The inclusion of ambient jungle noises and calls (rather than PC-speaker bleats) for the various beasts would have been a nice touch - especially in areas where the score dies off completely. But it's not really a deal-breaker.
Long story short, The Savage Empire is a solid old-school RPG in the Ultima tradition, providing a nice change of pace from the pseudo-medieval fantasy typical of the genre while not straying too far from the conventions that made them so appealing in the first place. Definitely worth giving a shot and maybe a semi-permanent place on your hard drive.
The game will run in pure DOS or DOSBox and it will probably need to be slowed-down on modern systems. You will need the manual (included in the game extras) to answer the copy-protection question after creating your character.
Part of the Ultima Series
Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire is the first release in the short-lived World of Ultima series that was designed as spin-offs from Origin's lucrative Ultima games. Each game would take you, the Avatar from Ultima, into new worlds and time periods that are unrelated to Britannia.
In Savage Empire, you are transported to the lost land of Edon, which looks just like Earth thousands of years ago... except that humans coexist with dinosaurs. Here, you meet up with several familiar faces such as Shamuru (who looks and talks the same way as Shamino from Ultima), and learn that you must help the village unite all tribes before you can go home.
The game is based on the Ultima VI engine with slightly different graphics to add to the ambiance, and some modifications to tone down Ultime VI's focus on real RPG elements. For instance, Savage Empire has a lot more character interaction than the Ultima games, and unlike Ultima VI, characters will jump into conversations whenever they feel they have something pertinent to add. This greatly enhances the game and makes you feel like you are talking to real people with minds of their own. Spellcasting is also vastly simplified, with only nine spells and three reagents. In contrast to stealing as a way of life in Ultima VI, you are free to take whatever you want in your quest, although your pack is limited to 16 items no matter how heavy they weigh. Since the game is more of an adventure than RPG, this limit is slightly annoying in mid-game when you want to carry more items.
As in Ultima VI, you are able to interact with the environment in a realistic manner: picking branches from trees, digging clay from a riverbank etc. Many puzzles are fun and require more brains than brawn (getting rid of the hungry Tyrannosaur is my favorite), although sometimes you need to trek all over the map to find one small item that you overlooked earlier. Overall, Savage Empries is a great and unique game that may not appeal to die-hard RPGers who crave complex RPG elements, but will be a lot of fun for everyone else.
This fairly old game (1990-1991) is in direct lineage with the famous Ultima series created by Richard Garriot, aka Lord British for the friends. It uses the engine of Ultima 6, which is to my opinion the second best engine Origin created (after the engine of Ultima 7).
The action takes place in a lost world called Eodon by the locals, after you were transported by a mysterious blackish gate. You must then return to your home land after accomplishing some quests, as the Avatar is used to. Indeed, this land is inhabited by several tribes, certain as primitives as cavemen, others as advanced as the Aztecs. The quest you work on is to get rid of the Myrmidex, an ant-like creature that destroy land and men throughout the world. They are fierce enemies but you know the tribes could fight them if only they worked together as one man. Unfortunately, every tribe as a problem with a least another one and thus will not unite their efforts. It is your mission to unite them so that they will fight together against the Myrmidex and thus enable you to go back in your world. In order to unite them, you must get from each tribe's chief a quest to achieve. The quests can go from just convincing the chief to put back on the throne the former chief of the tribe.
To help you some individuals will accept you as part of you team. Some figures include: Triolo, Shamuru, Rafkin and Jimmy. There is a little magic used for the game and only Triolo can practise it in your team.
As usual for an Origin game, you will spend hours playing in this rich and fabulous world. Every bit of the game is interesting and I must say I went to bed at 5am sometimes as I was so into it! The world is full of details and, as you would experience in Ultima 7, the richness of the game is so that you can even create your own weapons out of bamboo, extract branches from trees and burn them to obtain charcoal, dig clay and make pots with it, create rudimental bombs, chop trees with an axe but create a bridge over a pit, etc...
During the game you will get a wider picture of how the tribes came to be here, where the myrmydex come from and how you can go back home.
As a huge fan of Origin games and especially RPG games, I really emjoyed playing this game and I am sure you will find hours of good entertainment with it. Using a recent PC with recent sound cards, I never managed to get any music out of it. I know it is unfortunate because I played this game about 8 years ago on an older machine and the music was amazing. Also, using the computer clock to let the time pass, I found the notion of time to be a little bit distorded. Using the mouse is essential but to move I strongly recommand the keyboard. If anyone got to get the sound working fine on a recent machine, I would be interesting in knowing how they did it.
Being an older game, the player should not expect 3D engine, rendered graphics, etc. .. The fans would recognize a good RPG game of the early 90's and will devour it as I did, the newest players will see an old-fashioned kind of game and might help them to see how you don't need 3D to have a good time and how a good storyboard make games WAY more interesting. To conclude with a few words: PLAY IT!
People who downloaded Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire have also downloaded:
Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2 - Martian Dreams, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Wizardry 6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge, Ultima Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds, Ultima 5: Warriors of Destiny, Ultima 7: Part Two - Serpent Isle, ZangbandTK, Ultima 6: The False Prophet
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