The Atari ST version of Richard Garriott‘s classic Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar was ported by Bob Hardy (the same guy who converted Ultima III to the ST and Amiga) and first published by Origin Systems in 1987. It is an excellent conversion of a brilliant game and is arguably the best RPG on the ST (barring the mighty Dungeon Master).
Read my review of the Apple II original for a more in-depth explanation of the game’s structure and mechanics – I won’t repeat myself here – but I will say that the ST version has excellent control response and allows you to use a combination of mouse and keyboard to control the game.
A few differences I noticed in the ST version: if you kill two monsters on the same spot the game actually stacks multiple chests on top of each other for you to open, which the 8-bit versions don’t do, which is good. You can also buy up to 99 reagents from shops, which is better than only being able to buy a maximum of nine in the 8-bit versions. Small enhancements like these add to the overall enjoyment of the game.
The enhanced 16-bit graphics are good, and the music is simple but well-suited to this type of game and creates a decent atmosphere without becoming annoying (although you can easily turn it off by pressing ‘V’ for volume). The first-person dungeon graphics are also much improved over the 8-bit versions, with proper brickwork and shaded walls.
The mouse cursor flickers a bit in the ST version and can occasionally create some graphical corruptions on-screen, although it doesn’t seem to be as bad as was seen in Ultima III. The Amiga version of Ultima IV doesn’t have this problem.
If you can, find a version of Ultima IV that plays from an ST hard drive as that will save you having to swap floppy disk files. The hard drive version is easy to set up in an emulator like Steem and makes playing the game more enjoyable.
I highly rate the Atari ST version of Ultima IV – it’s one of the best versions of the game around and is absorbing and fun to play.
More: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar on Wikipedia
GOG: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar on GOG.com [free]
GOG: Ultima 4+5+6 on GOG.com
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Keyboard Commands:
a = Attack (followed by direction of attack)
b = Board; mount a horse or board a frigate
c = Cast a magic spell (followed by spell letter)
d = Descend; climb down a ladder in a dungeon
e = Enter a settlement, dungeon or shrine
f = Fire ship’s cannons in the direction indicated
g = Get; open a chest
h = Hole up; make camp and rest
i = Ignite a torch
j = Jimmy lock; use a ‘Magic Key’ to unlock a door
k = Climb up a ladder in a dungeon or building
l = Locate; determine your position
m = Mix; prepare reagents for a spell to be cast
n = New order; rearrange the order of the party
o = Open; attempt to open a door (followed by direction)
p = Peer at a gem; shows a bird’s eye view of a town, castle, dungeon or the overworld; one viewing per gem
q = Quit and save to disk (from the overworld only)
r = Ready a weapon for use in combat
s = Search; inspect your current location for hidden items
t = Talk; converse with townspeople or trade with merchants (say “bye” to end conversation)
u = Use; use an item found by searching
v = Volume; adjusts sound volume
w = Wear armour; outfits player with specified armour
x = Exit; leave behind or dismount your current transport and travel on foot
y = Yell any word that’s typed
z = Stats; displays your character statistics, possessions and spells
Spacebar = Pass one game turn without taking any action
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