Ultima I – The First Age of Darkness

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Ultima I – The First Age of Darkness
Title screen from the game
Game No. 429
Voting 6.06 points, 17 votes
Developer Richard Garriott, David Lubar
Company Origin Systems
Publisher Sierra Online
Release 1986
Platform Apple II, Atari 400/800/XE/XL, C64, MSX, PC-DOS
Genre Adventure, RPG 2D (Role play game)
Operation Icon Port2.pngJoystick & Keyboard
Media Diskette
Language Language:english
Information Followers:

Description[edit | edit source]

... an animation from the game

Ultima I - The First Age of Darkness is the second game by Richard Garriott and the first official part of the Ultima series. At the same time this is the first part of the Age of Darkness trilogy. The game was ported from the Apple II to other systems only in 1986. Before that, sequels had already been published on the C64.

Ultima takes place in the fictional world of Sosaria. The land consists of four continents. The continents are reigned by eight Lords; each two Lords reign one continent. On each continent there are two castles in which the player may take over quests, as well as several towns in which the player can purchase goods and services. On the continent are also several cave systems, woods, mountains and lakes which the player can explore. These continents are inhabited by different creatures that are out to kill the player and attack him as soon as they see him. In ruins and other interesting places the player can find treasures that mostly pay out in points.

As with its forerunners, the mechanism of the game is oriented on the pen &amp paper role play game Dungeons & Dragons. It is a classical hack'n'slay where the emphasis is more on the elimination of hordes of enemies than on the story itself. Due to its size and complexity it was nevertheless a milestone for RPG games. When the game was published for the C64, players were already used to more complex games, the pressure of the fans led to the porting of the game to current systems in 1986.

The primary version of Ultima I was one of the first games that used tiles. The tile graphics were programmed in machine language by Ken W. Arnold – a friend of Richard Garriott. Concerning the gameplay much reminds of Garriott's Akalabeth, which is also unofficially counted as Ultima 0. In contrast to Akalabeth was Ultima I directly planned as commercial game.

The reissue on the C64, PC and MSX was completely reprogrammed in Assembler. In these some improvements to the game were made: the graphics were reworked, the action elements were accelerated and the gameplay got some fine tuning. The version sold by far better than the original Apple II Version. However, it was no particular success if you consider the strong growth of the computer game market between 1981 and 1986.

At the start of the development the game was named Ultimatum. But a board game also had this name. Therefore they decided to change the name to Ultima.

Enclosed to the game in the 1986 version were four continent maps. These each show one continent of the game. This was standard in all the Ultima games. In later publishing these maps were enclosed only in an inferior quality or even not at all. Next to that there was also a small bag of plastic coins enclosed to the game from 1986. This was also left out in later reissues.

Design[edit | edit source]

The design is limited to the essential. For its time it is even utterly inordinate. This is probably one of the main reasons for the meager success of the game.

The game is mainly black and is brightened up by green forests, blue waters and white elements. These are created by tiles. Some parts of the game, as e.g. traders, are a bit more coloured but not much. The title screen only consists of white text on black background. The introduction was played to the gallery with relatively spares graphics.

The screen is divided into 3 elements. The big area is the actual game field. Below that is a text field for the interactions and at the right is the status display.

Hints[edit | edit source]

You should always examine the map. By this you can find some treasures. If Food is at a value of below 100, then instantly go to a trader to buy new food. When you see a Sign Post always enter.

The classes[edit | edit source]

  • Fighter - needs strength, fights best
  • Cleric - needs wisdom, is good with spells
  • Wizard - needs a high intelligence, is good with spells
  • Thief - needs high agility, can steal well

Key commands[edit | edit source]

  • A Attack - attacks enemies with the chosen weapon.
  • B Board - enter ships etc.
  • C Spell - cast the chosen spell
  • E Enter - you enter a town, castle etc.
  • F Fire - fire a weapon
  • G Get - pick up items
  • H Hyperjump - change lickety-split to another sector (only possible in space)
  • I Inform and search - informs you about the current whereabouts
  • K Climb - climb a ladder up or down
  • N Noises - switch on or off the noises of movement
  • O Open - open a coffin
  • Q Save - saves the game
  • R Ready - make weapon, armour or spell ready for the fight
  • S Steal - steal from the royal stores
  • T Interact - talk with the king or the trader
  • U Unlock - opens locker doors in castles (if you have the key)
  • V View - change view of the spaceship
  • X Exit - exit
  • Z Status - get status information

Status screen[edit | edit source]

  • Hit Points - How many life points are left
  • Strength - The character's strength (has an effect on the strength of hits)
  • Agility - How agile the character is (has an effect on the chance of hits)
  • Stamina - How much stamina the character has (has an effect on the damage that the character gets)
  • Charisma - How much charisma the character has
  • Wisdom - How much knowledge the character has (has an effect on spells)
  • Intelligence - How intelligent the character is (has an effect on spells)

Status display[edit | edit source]

  • Hits - See Hit Points
  • Food - How much food is left (0 means you starved to death)
  • Exp. - How much experience the character has (rises each 1.000 points)
  • Coin - How much money the character has

Money[edit | edit source]

1 gold coin = 100 silver pieces
1 silver piece = 100 copper pence

Solution[edit | edit source]

Lands of Lord British[edit | edit source]

You start the game approx. in the south east of Britain. First you go to Britain. There you first speak with the man in the pub until he talks about a quest. At the weapon store you first buy a mace. If you have enough money, you should also buy a chain armor. Now you enter the next castle. You speak with the king there and note down the quest. If necessary, you should buy hit points here. To solve this quest you need a boat. For the required money you need to kill a few creatures until you have enough money. It is probably better to go straight to the next dungeon and tidy up there. While you do this, you should go to the Lost King in the north west. When you have enough money you should buy an ace in the Paws. The Lost King will ask you to kill a gelatinous cube. This is easier to do than the quest of Lord British, at least for the moment. Now you go to the east into the dungeon of Montor. Do not forget to save before entering. You find the cube in the third floor. However, you need to enter the dungeon several times to collect gold and experience points, otherwise you could die a heroic death very quickly. If the need arises, you can return to Paws or Britain any time to buy equipment, whereby this will probably not be affordable at the beginning except if you are a wizard. The mines of Mt. Drash work as well for leveling up as Montor. At the end of the quest you should have reached level 2 and own a great sword and a plate mail. Now back to the Lost King. He will fork out a red gem for the successful solution of the quest. Now you best head back to Lord British. There you should first buy an aircar and if possible a reflect suit. Now fly to the north east into the Land of Danger and Despair. The grave lies at the coast of an island. Enter and solve the quest. Now back to Britain. Now you have finished already 1/4 of the game.

Lands of the Feudal Lords[edit | edit source]

Fly to the Castle Rondorin and enter. The Lord will offer the quest to destroy the carrion creeper. This animal can be found in every dungeon in the 5th or 6th floor. But first travel to the castle Barataria. The quest is to find the southern sign post. This should be no problem with the flying device. You only need to fly to the Land of the Dark Unknown. It is at the northern coast. Now fly back to the castle. You will not be able to finish the carrion creeper at the moment anyway. Now you fly southwest to the Pillars of Ozymandias. You fly from the one to the other until you get the blaster. Meanwhile you should have leveled up almost the complete knowledge, as a bonus. Now fly to the north and a bit to the east where the Scorpion Hole is. If you still do not have a reflect suit now, it is time to get one. Before you leave this place again go up 5 ladders and 5 down again. You'd best sell all unnecessary weapons here and the unnecessary equipment. You can also swap these against Hit Points. If you can do magic you can easily reach level 5 with the Down spells. Now you look for the Crawler. When you have found one it will of course be killed. Then you only need to go back to the surface and get the green gem from the king. Now you have already made half of the game.

However, from now on it gets really difficult.

Lands of the Dark Unknown[edit | edit source]

Fly to the east and in the Lands of the Dark Unknown fly to the Gulf in the east. There you find the black castle. The king will offer the quest to kill the lich. Before you dare into this task, you first fly to the castle Olympus. The king will say that you need to find the Pillar of Ozymandias. You have already done that, so head back to the west. The lich lingers in level 7 and 8 of the dungeons. At the moment you are not strong enough to go for the lich. You first need more experience points. You get these by rescuing princesses from the castles. In the black castle you first take care of the jester – head off! Here you'd best save. Now you run to the dungeon and open the door. If the door does not open: load an earlier saved game and try again. When you have brought the princess outside, you get gold and experience for this comely deed. Now you fly to the east to Stout and buy 7 ladders downs there. Then to Clear Lagoon for the ladder ups. With the rest of the money you buy hit points. Now further to the northwest until the end. Now you use magic to climb down and there you kill the lich and return to the surface. Now thumb the next gem.

Space[edit | edit source]

They will tell you that the princess is held captive in space between the times. Now you fly to Nassau and buy a reflect suit and a shuttle. If you cannot afford it, then rescue a princess or butcher around in the dungeons. You need to have at least 1000 gold before you use the spaceship because otherwise you will not get down any more. Having arrived in space you need to steer the ship carefully! into the next port. Now you need to take the next ship to be able to proceed. It is not that important which one you take. The bigger one has more fuel while the smaller one has more shields. During a fight you best aim upwards. If you have 500 gold you can let the ship get refueled. When you need to return, you will recognize the own planet as "a +" in the center of the map. In any case you need to destroy 20 hostile ships to get an ace.

Lands of Danger and Despair[edit | edit source]

Now you fly southwest into the Land of Danger and Despair. The king did not say which princess he means. The first castle that you will find is Shamino’s. You get the quest there in which you need to kill the balron. Before that, however, you need to do a few other things... You enter the castle a second time, and kill the jester just like that there. With the key you open the cell door of the princess and escort her outside. She will tell you that there is a time machine in the northwest. You can visit it, but not use it yet. Therefore you then fly southwest to the next castle. The white dragon will now instruct you that you need to find the Tower of Wisdom. This is in the east of the Land of Lord British. The tower will wait for the player there. To kill balron simply follow the same routing. However, balron is this time in the 9th or 19th level of the dungeon. One ladder down can be found in the next town. The ladder up in the west on Dextron. A suited dungeon is the one on the island in the east. When you have done this you go back to Shamino. He will offer you to take 9 items from the shop. This is would you best do then.

1000 Years Ago[edit | edit source]

You are not 1000 years earlier yet. All the gold is swapped against hit points. You also sell all stuff here that has accumulated but you have no use for any more. You also sell the vehicles. In any case you should be equipped with a reflect suit and a blaster, but in no case with a light sword. You should also not have less than 6000 Hit Points before you face the last task. Now you go to the time machine and enter it. Here is Mondain’s laboratory where the gem is made. You'd best instantly attack Mondain and especially only from a distance. Stay away from the gem! Also stay away from the fire thingies! When he turns into a bat, you need to follow him to the outer left. Then he cannot fly to the east any more because you block his way. Now you attack him until he gets unconscious. Maybe he can get awake again, but this should not disturb us. You just keep attacking him. When he does not get awake any more, run to the gem and grab it. This will cost a few hit points, so be careful! In case you should not win the game this way, you need to bash Mondain, he will probably die after a while and then you have won the game.

Cheats[edit | edit source]

No cheats known.

Voting[edit | edit source]

Voting of the C64-Wiki users (10=the best vote):
6.06 points at 17 votes (rank 770).
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C64Games 6 3rd April 2015 - 6 out of 10 points - 20512 downs
Lemon64 8 3rd April 2015 - 8 out of 10 points - 41 votes
C64.com 7 3rd April 2015 - 7 out of 10 points - 9185 downs
Ready64 10 3rd April 2015 - 10 out of 10 points - 1 vote
Kultboy.com 7 3rd April 2015 - 6,78 out of 10 points - 13 votes
The Legacy 8 3rd April 2015 - "very good" - 7 votes
Amiga Joker 5 Special No.3 1992 - 45% - p.14
Your Commodore 7 Issue October 1987 - 7 out of 10 points - p.65

Reviews[edit | edit source]

Amiga Joker Special No.3 "Role play games" 1992 (C64 version – Graphics: 34%, Sound: 19%, Atmosphere: 57%, Total:45%): "With The First Age of Darkness the amazing success story of this astonishing series began in 1980. It was by the way not the first role play game by Mr. Garriott, because two years before he was already noticed in a positive sense in role play game circles with Akalabeth – a proud number of 25.000 of this quasi forerunner were sold! Although the age of darkness was originally programmed in basic, it already contains (almost) all elements typical for Ultima: The often copied tile graphics where seemingly all objects are put together from modules of the same size; added to this a complex and diversified adventure world with open land, towns, oceans and dungeons – the latter have a lot of similarities with old Wizardry dungeons. Not to forget, the characteristic Lord British humor! Only the famous, profound conversations with other people were rather underdeveloped here, same as the choices of spells. From today's point of view, the game naturally seems a bit puny, the fights consist of a simple exchange of blows man against orc, in the land of Sosaria there is only one hero running around and it is according to newer Ultima standards almost ridiculous that the game is only about killing the top dog Mondain. But at that time, the concept was so sensational, that the owners of PC and C64 kept on and on until the game was finally converted from the Apple II to their machines (slightly gussied up) in 1986." (German original from Max Magenauer)

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

The introduction of Ultima I - The First Age of Darkness

Cover[edit | edit source]

The front cover of Ultima I
The back cover of Ultima I

Disks[edit | edit source]

The disks of Ultima I

Accessories[edit | edit source]

The brown map
The green map

The orange map
The red map

The bag with the coins
The versos of the coins

Highscore[edit | edit source]

In the game Ultima I there is no highscore.

Links[edit | edit source]

WP-W11.png Wikipedia: Ultima_(series)
WP-W11.png Wikipedia: Ultima_I