Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress is the sequel to Ultima and is the second game in the Ultima series. It was first released in 1982 for the Apple II. The game was initially published by Sierra On-Line, but a dispute over royalties for the PC version led series creator Richard Garriott to start his own company, Origin Systems.
In this game you once again play as “The Stranger” and must stop the evil enchantress, Minax, from exacting revenge for the defeat of the evil wizard Mondain in the first game. You must travel through several different time periods in Earth’s history, using ‘time doors’, to do this. The periods represented are: “The Time of Legends” (a mythological period), Pangea (300 million years ago), B.C. (1423, “before the dawn of civilisation”), A.D. (1990), and “The Aftermath” (after 2112). Later in the game you can also travel to space, where all the planets in the solar system can be visited.
The gameplay in Ultima II is similar to the previous game in the series, but the scope is much bigger. Some locations – like most of the solar system planets and the dungeons and towers – are not required to complete the game. The beginning of the game is different to previously, though, and may confuse fans of the first game.
After creating a new character you’re dumped into the world with no weapons or armour and are some way from the safety of a town. So you have to make a dash to the nearest, in order to equip yourself with some protection. After the scantest of clues (given by the landlord of the local pub, and only after tipping him four gold) you then work out that you must endure an overworld grinding session in order to acquire a Blue Tassel (which are occasionally dropped by defeated thieves) in order to be able to board a boat… Honestly… Talk about obscure quests! Once you’ve acquired a boat you can then make serious headway (because you require zero food when on a boat, thus can save money), and prepare to move on, but only after stocking up on Hit Points (HP), food, and lots of gold coins. You don’t even get to properly explore a dungeon until you’ve acquired yourself a boat, which is a little frustrating as it can take a while. You really need to ramp up your individual stats by offering gold to the clerk at the hotel in San Antonio in 1990AD before going dungeoneering…
Gold plays a more important role than in the previous game and the only way you can top up your HP is by visiting Lord British in his castle and paying for it. For 50G he’ll give you 300HP, up to a maximum of 9999HP. Lord British’s castle is obviously on the bit on the map that looks like the British Isles, and initially it can only be reached through a time door.
It’s safe to say that the beginning of Ultima II is quite confusing and I’ve read plenty of reviews of this game that dislike it because it’s not a very obvious opening. Compared to the first Ultima (which is fairly easy to get into) it’s a bit of a beast. That said: Ultima II – when you do get into it – is a really good game, but you have to understand what you’re supposed to be doing first, and the best way to do that is to either use a walkthrough, or pore over the manual and figure it out yourself. Playing it blind is a fool’s game…
Like the first Ultima, Ultima II was re-made to ‘modernise’ it for a compilation release in 1989, but this re-code – for the Apple II only – was only made available in the Ultima Trilogy compilation and is considered to be quite rare. That version of the game is distinguished by blue borders around the play area and a new custom lower case font (the original version uses only upper case letters). If you want to see that version, click here.
The version of Ultima II that’s currently available on GOG.com is the CGA MS-DOS version, which I think looks worse than the Apple II original. There is a fan-made patch available for it, which improves the graphics, but getting it to work is tricky.
If I were to make a concerted effort to play Ultima II, and wanted to complete it, I’d go for either the Apple II remake, or the patched DOS version. Those are the best. This original Apple II version is still pretty good though. IMHO there’s not a lot wrong with it, other than it being a slow-starter, but every version of Ultima II has that problem.
Ultima II keyboard commands:
a = Attack with the weapon you’re holding
b = Board a plane, ship or other form of transportation, or mount a horse
c = Cast a spell. You must first prepare the spell, using Magic. Spells can only be cast in dungeons and towers
d = Descend a level in a dungeon or tower
e = Enter a town, castle, dungeon or other landmark, or read a sign
f = Fire your ship’s guns
g = Get an item
h = Hyperspace your spaceship to the coordinates you specify
i = Ignite a torch
j = Jump up and down
k = Climb up a level in a dungeon or tower
l = Launch or Land in a plane or rocket, but only on grass
m = Readies a magic spell you know for casting
n = Negate the passage of time for all things farther than one square from you – if you posses a specific magic item
o = Offer gold as payment or bribe
q = Quit and save your progress to disk. Available only while on Earth and on foot, in the countryside
r = Ready a specified weapon
s = Steal from a store without paying for it
t = Transact business, or just start a conversation. Must be followed by a direction command
u = Unlock doors if you possess the keys. You must indicate the direction of the door
v = View to toggle between normal view and bird’s-eye view of town or planet. You must possess a specific magic item
w = Wear a suit of armour that you own
x = Exit or dismount your current transportation
y = Yell anything you can type. Often used in combination with Jump
z = Stats to display your vital statistics, possessions and spells. Also pauses the game
Spacebar = Pass time and eat