September 5th, 2017

Ultima Underworld revisited with Underworld Ascension

ultima underworld
This is not Underworld Ascension. This is Ultima Underworld 2. I’m guessing you knew that, but I figured I should point it out.

OtherSide Entertainment have announced Underworld Ascension, a “return to the beloved Underworld series.” Which, from the sounds of it, means Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2.

OtherSide Entertainment is a brand new indie studio fronted by Paul Neurath, a veteran designer and director who worked at Origin, Looking Glass, Eidos, and EA, and worked on franchises from Ultima Underworld through Thief and System Shock. He also worked on Arx Fatalis, which is probably the most Ultima Underworld-ish game I can think of that wasn’t actually called Ultima Underworld.

Not much in the way of hard details on Underworld Ascension, but it sounds like it won’t be using the Ultima license. The game is aiming to innovate and revitalise the fantasy RPG once again, though; if it’s following on from Ultima Underworld‘s roots then it’ll likely be a single-hero, first-person, real-time RPG with a lot of characters and a living, breathing world. Or underworld.

This particular project has already received a bunch of endorsements from gaming luminaries. Richard Garriott, who credits the Underworld franchise to Paul Neurath, called the original games “a watershed event” and claims to be “as excited about Underworld as any game I can imagine.” Ken Levine says the original Underworld games “primed all of my creative ambitions.” Chris Roberts calls the original “the granddaddy of first-person role-playing games”, and Warren Spector – the producer of the original games – reckons that Underworld changed the world. “As the first fully-textured, real-time, first-person game, Underworld paved the way for every other first-person game that followed,” he says, which is a hell of a claim.

Personally, as a fan of first-person real-time RPGs in thoroughly well-built worlds, I’m rather excited – and that’s without any real details.

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  • Tim McDonald

    Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing things about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning some really terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.

    • MorningLM

      If I had to make a list of my favourite games of all time then Ultima Underworld would be an automatic pick. I agree completely with Spector, there was nothing else like it. Catacombs 3D might have been released a few months earlier, but Carmack based that extremely primitive game on a demo of what became Ultima Underworld that he saw at a show.

      I’ve never understood the adulation that Carmack receives, but I guess that’s largely because I’ve never liked any of his games. On the other hand Neurath’s CV includes several of my favourite games of all time: Thief, Thief 2, System Shock 2, etc. It’s good to know he’s no longer working at Zynga.

    • ehcmier

      I’m positively thrilled. 🙂