The Commodore 64 version of Ultima VI: The False Prophet was programmed by Axel Brown of Imagitec Design and published by Origin Systems in 1991 and is the only 8-bit port of the game available. It is a somewhat stunted version of Ultima VI, with a number of changes made to make it fit onto three double-side floppy disks (six sides in total).
There are no character portraits; no horses; no Peer Gems; no in-game music; and the maximum party size has been reduced from eight to six. The number of available spells has been reduced, as have the number of usable items. There’s less detail in the game world, and less interactivity.
Spell-casting doesn’t require a spellbook (there is one in the game, but it’s useless), and combat mode is toggled on/off by pressing the ‘B’ key. During combat you control all party members – not just The Avatar, like in the PC original – and the joystick is used to move a crosshair around to select targets
Organising inventories is more difficult than in the PC original and there also seems to be less space to store items, which limits the game even more. There are also no bags in the game, which means that you cannot store items inside them to save inventory space. Learning the keypresses to move items between party members also requires practise and patience.
Another big issue with this version of the game is the disk-swapping. Just to initiate a conversation with a single NPC means having to swap disks twice, and – considering how many times you need to converse with people in Ultima VI – that means a considerable amount of time spent waiting for the game to load (not to mention the moves/clicks required to change disks).
There are also other issues that only become apparent with further play. Like gargoyles returning to shrines that you’ve already cleared (which shouldn’t happen); characters who should heal you for free now not doing that; party members starting with different equipment to the original; a lack of loot dropped by defeated enemies; and important NPCs scurrying around the place so much that it’s almost impossible to target them for a conversation (which can get tiresome very quickly).
While this version of Ultima VI is a valiant effort (pun intended), it’s also a bit of a slog to play. If you manage to get into it you do begin to feel that it is a good game, but it’s such a slow, reduced-down version of the original that it’s barely worth the effort.
Ignore reviews that say that this game is “the best thing since sliced bread” on the C64. It really isn’t. In fact: it’s not even as good as the last two C64 Ultimas in my opinion. It’s certainly not as good as the PC original, which is the version to play if you want the authentic Ultima VI experience.
Ultima VI: The False Prophet Keyboard Commands for Commodore 64:
a = Attack
b = Begin/break combat
c = Cast
d = Drop
h = Help on/off
l = Look
m = Move
r = Rest
t = Talk
u = Use
z = Statistics
Space = Pass time
Shift+L = Load (note: press ‘N’ for load, ‘Y’ for cancel)
Shift+S = Save
Shift+1-4 = Character inventories
CTRL+1-4 = Character attributes
Shift+9 = See energy
Tab = Move cursor to inventory
Run/Stop = Escape