You have probably have heard about it by now, but Ultima Underworld is making a comeback through the creation of a new game spearheaded by UW’s original Creator Paul Neurath and called “Underworld Ascendant.”
While the game is not allowed to use the Ultima brand, Paul Neurath’s studio Otherside Entertainment has the rights to use most of what comprised the original games, and thus will craft a new spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld where as the Avatar, you are taken from Earth to the underground world of the Stygian Abyss…
I have to say it : Ultiama Underworld has always had a special place in my heart. Most specifically, while Serpent Isle remains my top 1 Ultima game, Ultima Underworld II would probably be a close second. As a matter of fact, before starting down the path of Ultima: Return so many years ago, I briefly considered instead of setting up to do a fan-made Ultima Underworld III. But looks like I won’t need anymore… or maybe I will someday in many many years. 😉
The Underworld games remains rather unique in the history of videogame. Outside of how revolutionnary they were, there haven’t really been many games like the Underworld. Sure there have been many games influenced from Underworld, from Looking Glass’ own System Shock and Thief games, to Bioshock or even Dishonored. Most often though, while the lineage is obviously apparent, it’s never quite a game like Ultima Underworld, notably in how theses successor have shed themselves of traditionnal RPGs elements (starting with dialogues and NPCs in System Shock) to a point that we see some people (including UW’s co-Creator Doug Church), claiming the RPG aspects of Ultima Underworld were the flaw of the game… while I’d personally argue that Ultima Underworld was also revolutionnary WITH its RPG aspects.
That being said there was ONE game that really took the mantle from the Underworld game : Arkane Studios’ Arx Fatalis which coincidentially aimed to be Ultima Underworld III but had to become its own IP as EA wasn’t interest in licensing UW to a small unknown French studio. Still, it was an amazing game as well and the closest we’ve ever been to having a proper new Underworld game.
But that was over a decade ago, and the Arx IP has fallen into Oblivion as Arkane Studios moved to greener pastures and other exciting projects.
We often make a point of pointing of little game there reminiscent of Ultima games – and it’s true, I mean outside of Bethesda and Piranha Bytes’ RPGs, you won’t see many games trying to create the same sort of virtual world approach Ultima was known for – but this is also very true of Ultima Underworld.
And who better than Underworld’s own Creator to live up to the task ?
Which is why I urge every fan to head to Kickstarter and back Underworld Ascendant right now. While there is still a lot of time to go, UWA has nearly half of its funding to meet yet, so it’ up to us to make sure this legacy stay alive !