The best games are those that inspire gamers and games throughout their ages. Their sequels are innovative and relevant, and their imitators are creative homages. For these reasons, we find ourselves returning to these archetypes over and over, whether in name or in spirit.
Many of these pastimes originated on the Apple II but eventually migrated to other platforms. Ultima, Richard Garriott's storied role-playing game series, had its start on Apple's popular computer, but beginning with Ultima VI, the venerable machine couldn't contain Lord British's ambitions. This last game in the "Age of Enlightenment" trilogy, subtitled "The False Prophet", has now transcended even its original format with the finalization of the Ultima 6 Project, an eight-year-long fan effort to recreate Ultima VI using the Dungeon Siege engine.
This isn't the first time an Ultima game has been reborn for a modern audience — standalone recreations of both Ultima III and Ultima IV exist, and Ultima V has also been remade in Dungeon Siege. But this update to Ultima VI is perhaps the most ambitious. Their FAQ states that the Ultima 6 Project is more than just a graphical overhaul of the source material. The team also focused on "adding an enhanced storyline to bolster intraseries continuity and building on the Ultima legacy in a way that will please fans new and old… flesh[ing] out a lot of the mysteries and unanswered questions, and … adding a lot of mysteriously 'missing' buildings that existed in U5, and suddenly weren't there any more in U6," as well as a hundred new NPCs for adventurers to encounter. These finer details will be appreciated by gamers, but even a casual observer can compare the original game's opening (above) with that of the remake:
The downside to the Ultima 6 Project is that it requires Dungeon Siege, a commercial product that was last released in 2002 for PC and Mac. Copies are still available on eBay, but a re-release on Good Old Games or Steam would make the project much more accessible.
Regardless, kudos to the U6P team for their dedication to recreating their favorite RPG. May many fans finally enjoy the fruits of their labor.
If you want to know more about Ultima's roots, check out a video series recently begun by The Spoony Experiment (contains NSFW language) that goes all the way back to Akalabeth (which is now available for the iPhone).