Hard to believe it’s been 20 years already. It feels like yesterday that I went to the store and bought Serpent Isle and brought it home, just extactic at getting a new Ultima game.
Extatic? Yes, because it was the first time I had the chance to get an Ultima game on release (even if has it turns out it only came out in April in France). You see I was an Atari ST gamer, this was were I played all the Ultimas from II to VI – indeed I DID get Ultima VI on release for the Atari ST.. but needless to say it was MUCH later than the original version and the wait was torture.
We had just gotten our first PC at home at that point (I even remember the date precisely, March 3rd 1993) and Ultima Underworld II which had been released a few month earlier had been my first PC game (while my brother got Wing Commander II… Origin classics, those were the days!)
So getting a new Ultima game, brand new, with little knowledge of its content beforehand – well that was marvelous. I vaguely remember going home, opening the box, getting the paper map out of it (I only became aware many years later this should have been a cloth one) and reading the manual, immediately entranced by the story of Erstam’s journey and his twisted rendition of Britannia’s history.
And the game… well it shall be pointed that having no played Ultima VII had this point, this was my first foray with the Ultima VII engine. But boy, was it bliss. I just… everything in the game immediately captured me: from the intro which looks more amazing than anything I had seen before in game, the explosive opening with Thoxa and Karnaxx… and this feeling of discovery, this sense of exploration of discovering a strange new world.
I remember how puzzled I was when translating the runes and seeing the “Castle of Lord Shamino” and baffled when I got the reasons for it ingame. I remember feeling immediately attached to that sweet little Cantra. Fascinated by the three cities and cultures of the Serpent Isle. Baffled when I got to northern lands, freezing to death, so unique to this day in any game. Heartbroken for Iolo when we heard of Gwenno’s murder, heartbroken for Dupre’s death, and shocked to death by the massacre of the entire population in the second half of the game (indeed while much has been said of the game’s content… the truth is I wouldn’t trade this feeling of horror for any completed version of Serpent Isle).
There is so much to say about Serpent Isle… pages could be written about it.
Some might argue Ultima VII was bette because it was more open world. It’s true Serpent Isle was more linear (though not closed, and with more explorations than some people think), but it was the pinnacle of Ultima series in every ways, it brouht vidogames writing to a whole new level and to this day I would argue it remains on the best stories ever crafted in a videogame even if it may not have the same level of presentation than modern games.
I love you Serpent Isle.
And I can only thank every single one people who was involved in creating this epic Masterpiece.
Indeed this is why I am here. Because I love Serpent Isle. Because I want to see it again. To revisit it. Because I think there are great stories yet to be told in this land, one of such we strive hard to make it true.
Si I can only beg, if you’re a Serpent Isle fan, and want to help continue this legacy: join us! We need you more than ever and together we will make a game worthy of this legacy!