Ultima IX: Ascension is an RPG developed in 1999 for Windows by Origin Systems and published by Electronic Arts. It is the last game of the classic Ultima series and the closing chapter of the « Guardian Trilogy ». A 10th installment in the Ultima series was planned, but was cancelled in 2005 after the development focus was shifted towards Ultima Online, and thus, it was Origin System's official final game before closing its doors shortly after the planned 10th installment was cancelled.
After the Avatar escaped from Pagan in the previous game, he returns to the real world only to be summoned again to Britannia, which is again under attack by the Guardian, who has summoned black pillars which are corrupting the essence of the land and perverting the Virtues.
Why it Sucks
- This game does not work at all by default. Various unofficial patches are needed just to make the game run.
- Even after making the game run, it is riddled with glitches. The game constantly crashes, especially while saving, which WILL corrupt your save.
- The game is totally linear, unlike its open-ended predecessors.
- The world of Britannia is much much smaller than the previous games.
- Lots of plotholes and the main characters are all idiots.
- Terrible and inconsistent voice-acting (Almost every NPC you talk to is likely to have a completely different accent even if they all live in the same area). Even the Guardian, who is voiced by the same actor as in the previous three games, sounds bored with his role.
- Most of the game's story outright contradicts the canon set by the previous games, completely disregarding the continuity of the series.
- You probably don't care that this is a spoiler for the game, but the characterization of the Avatar has him forget things that he should know, like Dupre, a Paladin who sacrificed his life to restore the Chaos Serpent.
- At the time of original release it had what were considered obnoxious system requirements (this is obviously not an issue nowadays).
It led to an informative video retrospective of the Ultima series by popular reviewer The Spoony One (Noah Antwiler), culminating in a hilarious three-part review of the IX installment.
Spoony says that he created this whole retrospective in order to prepare for how Ascension was a disappointment for the fans. Thanks to this, it introduced the games and the relevance of their legacy to many people.
Why it Bombed
As with so many other games, including its own prequel, interference from Electronic Arts helped send the end product down in flames. The original version of the game was scheduled for release around 1997, but Origin were instead forced to work on Ultima Online, and by the time that game was released, the original Ultima IX engine was completely outdated. At around the same time, a high-profile gaming start-up named Ion Storm managed to lure nearly half of Origin's staff to come and work for them (though the staff who did so ended up working on Deus Ex instead of Daikatana, so there was that small mercy, at least).
Electronic Arts then forced series creator Richard Garriott to hire one of the creators of the Command & Conquer series to head up development, which worked out about as well as you'd expect, and resulted in the new lead designer being fired after just six months, with nothing accomplished. Finally, Garriott had to jump in and take control of development himself, using whatever assets they had from previous versions just to finish the game. In particular, they had to use certain pre-rendered FMVs that were intended as flash-backs to Ultima VIII to depict events from this game's story, as they couldn't afford to create new FMVs, creating some gigantic plot holes. Adding insult to injury, the engine was built around the 3dfx cards that were ubiquitous when development started, but by the time development was actually finished 3dfx had dropped away to being a fringe player, with Nvidia and ATI now dominating the market, resulting in the game being virtually unplayable on any non-3dfx card.