Ultima IX: Ascension is the tenth (and most likely final) installment of the main series and the fourteenth in the entire series (counting the Worlds of Ultima and Ultima Underworld I and II). It was released and published by Electronic Arts for the IBM-PC in 1999. It is the final part of the "Age of Armageddon" saga.
Ultima IX is one of the most controversial of all the Ultimas released. It was released incomplete and buggy, requiring patches to function correctly. Also, while the game's graphics and music were praised, many other aspects were harshly criticized by some fans of the series, such as the lack of a party and the inclusion of action gameplay elements. The game also faced some criticism for its simple story and poor voice acting. While many elements of the previous Ultima games were brought back, many details of the continuity were also ignored, wrongly interpreted or simply retconned which lead to disappointed fans accusing the development team to have had little experience with previous Ultima games. It was, in short, an extreme disappointment for long time fans.
The Guardian has created eight huge columns, which have ripped Britannia apart and have begun to corrupt the virtues of the people, leading them to act contrary to their beliefs. At the same time, the columns are also drawing the Moons toward Britannia, which will end all life on it. The Avatar returns for the last time to prevent this disaster and destroy the Guardian once and for all. In the end, the Avatar casts Armageddon on himself and the Guardian, fusing their energies together and creating a new life form of energy, saving Britannia for a final time.
Ultima IX was exclusively produced for the PC, therefore other official ports of the game do not exist.
Originally, Ultima IX would have used a perspective similar to Ultima VIII, with the ability to zoom in and out and also rotate the view a full 360 degrees. The story was radically altered many times. Remnants of the old stories can be found in the game, and it is typically referred to as the Bob White Plot. See Ultima IX Plot Remnants.
Electronic Arts at some moment dissolved the development team of Ultima IX and pushed them all to Ultima Online, effectively killing the development of Ultima IX to that point. More about the rather long development of Ultima IX here: Development History of Ultima IX.
The music of Ultima IX was composed by George Oldziey, who was probably best known at the time for his work on the live-action Wing Commander games. It represented a drastic evolution in terms of Ultima soundtracks, no longer being synthesized but rather recorded by a live forty-piece orchestra.
While the game offered renditions of the two emblematic Ultima pieces, "Stones" and "Rule Britannia," it otherwise featured completely original music. Since the Britannian Virtues were the main focus of the plot, Oldziey chose to use a thematic approach based around them, composing a leitmotif for each of the three Principles: Truth, Love and Courage; and their opposites: Falsehood, Hatred and Cowardice. As such, each town was given two themes: one based on the Principles of its respective Virtue, and another conceived from its "anti-Principles" while it was under the influence of the columns. For instance, the negative music of Trinsic wove the Falsehood and Cowardice themes together, while its positive counterpart used Truth and Courage. To make each city feel more unique, each of them also used a specific set of instruments and orchestration, thus making it recognizable in both its positive and negative forms.
In addition, specific themes were written for other cities not related to any of the Virtues. Multiple combat themes (with a fast and slow-paced version of each) also featured, with the score varying depending on the kind of enemy faced in battle.
The music remained mostly constant throughout the game, looping whenever in a town or during combat. The wilderness, however, offered some quieter moments.
Unfortunately, some bugs still remaining in Ultima IX make it impossible to listen to some of these pieces without first extracting them from the game files, as they are unable to trigger properly within the game.
Ultima IX was translated to several languages, including German, French and Spanish.
Included with the game
The release of Ultima IX included these things with the game:
- The book Journal.
- The book Spellbook.
- A cloth map of Britannia in Ultima IX
- The eight Cards of Virtue (same as in the game)
Ultima IX was also released in a so-called "Dragon Edition" (to honor the UDIC). This edition had numerous extras to boast with; see its article for details.
Due to a rushed release, Ultima IX received a more or less official patch to version 1.18f for improved Direct3D performance. An "unofficial" patch to 1.19f exists (rumored to have been written by one of the original developers in an act of frustration) that provides increased performance, bug fixes, and removes the SafeDisc copy protection from the game.
Fan-made economy, dialogue, and monster patches are also available as a fan-made combined patch. These address economy issues, and re-work dialogue and plot elements to make Ultima IX more cognizant of previous Ultimas, as well as tweak monster settings. See the external links for downloads.
- For bugs in this game, see Ultima IX Bugs.
- For easter eggs and real-life references in this game, see Ultima IX Real-life references and easter eggs.
- For nitpicks for this game, see Ultima IX Nitpicks.
- While Ultima IX is the official conclusion of the Ultima series, many fans tend to consider this game non-canon and disregard its story.
- At the time of Ultima IX's release, Richard Garriott expressed his intention to release remakes of the entire Ultima series that would be made with the Ultima IX engine and released online in a episodic format. With his departure from Origin a few months later, however, this never saw the light of day.