Ultima: Warriors of Destiny, NES/Famicom

Ultima: Warriors of Destiny on the NES/Famicom was developed by FCI and first published by Pony Canyon in 1992. It is the fifth entry in the Ultima series and this console port is a simplification of the original game.

Warriors of Destiny is significantly different to the original Ultima V. The main character – The Avatar – goes unnamed (why? It would’ve been better if the player could name them), and the game’s view also doesn’t change when you travel from the overworld into towns. The story and gameplay are basically the same, though. You explore the land of Britannia, on a virtuous quest to destroy the evil Shadlowlords and rescue Lord British who is missing, presumed dead.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is how slow the game is. The scrolling is jerky and the control response is sluggish, which makes exploring a somewhat frustrating experience. The Start button brings up your inventory and the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons allow you to equip items in two slots. Pressing Select, while in the inventory, cycles through your party members. In the overworld, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons allow you to talk to NPCs, open chests, pick up items, and use whatever item is equipped in your hands. Lockpicks, for example, are very useful early in the game and seem to last indefinitely (so you only need one).

Combat is a mix of real time and turn-based, and is a bit weird. Your following companions will move on their own and engage any monsters within range, and you have to select your equipped weapon and choose a target to either take a swing, throw a weapon, or shoot an arrow at it. When combat is over your companions then get back in line behind you again – even if they’re dead (they follow you around as ghost until they can be resurrected). Overall, I’d have to say that the combat in this is not very satisfactory, but I’ve seen worse.

Warriors of Destiny on the NES has a number of annoying features that will probably bug anyone who’s played the original Ultima V before. Like not being able to walk through trees, making exploration of the landscape an exercise in maze-negotiating tedium and frustrating dead ends. Thankfully – with the Magic Carpet – you can fly over most obstacles, bar mountains. Resting, or ‘Holing-up’ as it’s known in Ultima V, is done in this game by going to your inventory; putting the tent into The Avatar’s hands, then activating the tent in the overworld. Which is ridiculously convoluted. A simple rest (or ‘Hole-up’) button in the inventory would’ve been much better than that rigmarole…

Conversations – while simple to navigate – look pretty bad, with NPC portraits that repeat a lot and an arrow cursor that is almost impossible to see (whoever thought that a salmon-coloured cursor on a light grey background was good idea should have their eyes tested). To re-order your party you have to dismiss a character, find them again, then ask them to re-join, which is a ball-ache. A re-order command would’ve saved a lot of hassle.

Reagents are still needed to mix spells but their price doesn’t fluctuate between shops; the map in the NES version of Warriors of Destiny is somewhat different to the original, with some islands (like Skara Brae) now connected to land; unlike in the original Ultima V you can’t just know information – like mantras and words of power – you must speak to the correct person to get that information, and the game will remember who you’ve spoken to, so it’s a good idea to speak to everyone when you visit somewhere new; only The Avatar gets Experience Points – your companions don’t, so they’re stuck at the level they join you at – and when you ascend a level your Hit Points don’t increase – only your magic level does. Dungeons are also different in this and use an overhead view, rather than the traditional first-person viewpoint. And – rather disconcertingly – the day and night cycles that you see on the surface also happen underground, which is nonsense.

While I wouldn’t say that Ultima: Warriors of Destiny on the NES is a bad game, it really isn’t a very good conversion of this classic RPG. The sluggish controls hamper enjoyment of it and the music is terrible (which is surprising as it’s by the great Martin Galway). I wouldn’t really recommend playing this version of the game unless you’re determined to experience it as a simplified console game. I’d also recommend playing the game with a walkthrough, which will probably save you a lot of messing around.

More: Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny on Wikipedia
GOG: Ultima 4+5+6 on GOG.com

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