Underworld Ascendant brought to you by Zombie Looking Glass



Guess it goes into my play list this weekend then!


They already had that money in-hand, so it would be difficult to justify spending it to satisfy existing customers with over a year of development. A couple months, sure. Then again, who knows?


There is one more update on the way.


After that, I’m in.
I’ve spent more on less promise before. The current update sounds good.


Now $7.49 for a limited time on Steam. I’m in.


Wow… I just jumped in, too.

Pretty busy with Anthem right now, but I’ll make some time for this. That last patch looked good.

EDIT: And, it doesn’t support widescreen. It has 3440x1440 as a resolution in the graphics options, but the actual gameplay is in a small, nausea-inducing box. Refunded.


Has anyone tried this after all the patches?
What’s the verdict? - Has there been a big improvement?


Well, it’s gone from Mostly Negative to Mixed on Steam, so it seems to be moving in the right direction! You can now save the game (yay!) and they’ve interconnected the levels, fixed a bunch of bugs. I’ve not played it since the patch, there’s another one that’s due to drop early next week (update 3) so I was going to give it a look after that. There’s one final update planned for the following month.


I gave it a try a few weeks back. It almost feels like an engine demo, you kind of float around the place without a real feeling of being connected to the environment. I got as far as the first lizard-man. When it spoke, I burst out laughing, quit the game and haven’t touched it since.


They’re improving, but still have a way to go before it’s a game – let alone anything like the game they originally pitched. I’m impressed with how much effort they’re giving to a game that has such an incredibly low amount of players, according to Steam. It’s clearly just a matter of pride, at this point – and that’s damn admirable.

I’ve given up hope on UA even remotely resembling UU, but I still look forward to the patches. I’m still hoping they beef up the AI and maybe get something like a living world implemented – even a half-dead world would be preferable. The lack of meaningful AI interaction is pretty damning.

What an interesting story must be behind all this. I hope we get an unvarnished, non-corporate-speak version, someday.


We kinda already did in this thread, if you read it carefully. Ambitious design and scope, facing sky-high expectations, but they had a very small team and it just ran away from them.


But it really ran away – to the point where it was nearly nothing like the pitched game. The general overview of “small team, big dreams, too-little time” is pretty generic. This was an epic collapse, to the point of being utterly unplayable on release. I’ve never seen a game of this scope released without any save function, for instance. The AI wasn’t even at kiosk-level. From a single, amateur programmer, I might expect this. For vets to release something like this is unprecedented.


Yeah I don’t think the problem was overreaching, as much as it was “let’s pitch it as this nostalgic thing because we’ll get the most money that way and then go do our own new thing because we don’t want to redo the nostalgic thing everyone gave us money for.”


That’s the part of the story we haven’t really heard yet, why they pitched a direct sequel to Ultima Underworld and delivered, well, this.


What killed my interest in UA wasn’t the general bugginess (though that certainly didn’t help), but rather the almost complete lack of any attempt whatsoever to immerse the player in the game’s world. To this day I can still, for example, play even the most trivial Thief fan mission and have a good time, because it automatically brings with it everything that Thief established-- Garrett, the City, the Hammerites, etc. I can fire up Fallout 3 and just faff about, sightseeing and bapping random monsters, because the setting has so etched itself into my memory. The experience is more than what’s on the screen-- it’s the Capital Wasteland, and I’m the Lone Wanderer. Ditto for many other games that established a strong sense of place. Deus Ex, Myst, Anachronox, Bloodlines, etc. They’re almost like real places in my memory, that I occasionally enjoy revisiting long after all the quests are done.

Underworld Ascendant, on the other hand, presents itself as little more than the set of a game show, with your host Cabirus and color commentary by Typhon. We’re summoned to the game’s world and immediately sent off to the quest factory. There’s no sense of discovery, no mystery, nothing to draw us into the world, no sense that anyone ever lived here, no characters, no emotional investment in anything. Thus, the actual gameplay feels supremely pointless. Every moment is dominated by wondering why I’m even bothering with this. Who am I? Nobody. Where am I? Nowhere. What am I struggling for? Nothing. There’s a reason Valve invested so much effort in the writing of Portal 1 & 2, because they understood that memorable characters and settings, even when they don’t mechanically affect gameplay in any way, are vital to anchoring players in the game fiction. UA entirely lacks this.

The damning thing is that, from a technical perspective, this sort of thing can be almost free. You just need good writing and good pacing. But they barely even tried. We get an informed threat to the world, cryptic scrawls on rocks, and that’s basically it. Otherside is made up of industry veterans who worked on some of the most immersive games ever made, yet somehow they completely forgot to make their game immersive. This, more than almost anything else, is what needs fixing, yet is probably also the least fixable.


Just checking, Zylon. Did you mean UA?


Whoops, yes, I was referencing Underworld Ascendant, not the original Ultima Underworld. Fixed.


UA update 3 is out with some pretty major improvements, and they’re starting to talk about an update 4. Maybe that will be the time to finally play it.


I’ve only returned three games in my Steam history, and two of those were UA :) It looks like they still don’t support ultrawides (3440x1440). That’s enough to keep me from trying again.

It is interesting that they’re still working on this.