Underworld Ascendant looking to bring back a legend via Kickstarter
If you are a fan of classic RPGs – and I’m definitely guilty as charged here – then the news of a Kickstarter seeking to produce a new game in the Ultima Underworld series should be met with a degree of pleasure and surprise bordering disbelief. Yet that is the game that OtherSide Entertainment are pitching with their campaign for Underworld Ascendant.
Let’s get the cynicism out of the way at the start – Kickstarter is becoming the go-to place for gaming nostalgia. Looking at the top funded gaming projects on the site is like a remix of the gaming release schedules from a few decades ago – Wasteland? Elite? Planescape: Torment? Total Annihilation? Of course, these are names that through their quality have stuck in the memory of those who played them, and the projects are given credibility when pitched by members of the original teams too.
And here is where Underworld Ascendant is likely onto a winner – Ultima: Underworld exceeds the description of being a classic. It is a legend. The Kickstarter mentions various titles that have claimed inspiration from it, including some heavyweights like BioShock and Skyrim; it doesn’t mention how it also inspired Wolfenstein 3D, which led to Doom, Quake and from there pretty much the whole FPS genre. Simply put, Ultima: Underworld is one of the most important games in shaping the industry as it stands right now.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be fantastic of course, but OtherSide is made up of members from Looking Glass Studios – the original developers two decades ago, who are already proposing a game with ideas relating to multiple puzzle solutions (although whether we’ll actually get to “be the ‘MacGyver’ of a fantasy world” as they put it will be interesting to see).
It also carries the weight of being an official game in the series; while they do not have the rights to the Ultima name, it is still the Stygian Abyss, you are still playing as the Avatar, and Richard Garriott – the man behind the Ultima series – gives it his support in the accompanying video (as well as there being mention of bonuses for people who have supported both Underworld and Garriott’s own “not quite Ultima” game Shroud of the Avatar).
So… it’s likely that the level of excitement this project has depends on how old you are and what you were playing in 1992; but those of us who remember 90s RPGs with enough excitement to want more now are also those able to reach into wallets and donate – the project has already exceeded $147,000 of a $600,000 goal within a few hours.
If you’re interested in seeing how this slice of nostalgia is being pitched, take a look at the Underworld Ascendant page here. Don’t let the Lurker eat you while you’re there.