Ultima V Lazarus was released just before Christmas. I got to try it out last night and my initial impressions are very good. It’s a mod for Dungeon Siege, so you need this now-oldish action RPG to play. I never bothered to play DS very far, but I bought it as a budget re-release specifically in order to play Lazarus one day. Granted, I didn’t really expect the team to ever finish their massive task. (So it’s still buggy, but the first patch is already out.)
I never really played the Ultima series before. I was too young to grasp them initially, and then I lacked a PC to play on for quite some time. I lack the emotional attachment to the game most Lazarus players are likely to bring along. Still, the game’s opening really grabbed my attention and I already feel like embarking on a truly epic quest.
Ultima V doesn’t dumb down the experience. You really feel that the characters have a history together (which they, of course, do, but I never experienced it) and that they are real people. You’re actually given choices right from the start (go to the Abbey? Go straight to Britain?), stuff isn’t over-explained and combat is actually risky. The first clues to solving the situation at hand are intriguing (a demon seeking redemption). And you’re no barehanded newbie, you’re Avatar, who’s already saved the realm once!
It’s been a long time since I last wished to get home quickly and get back to playing, but Lazarus is doing that. Very much recommended.
I like the game’s little touches a lot. You need to gather materials for casting spells (ginseng and garlic to cure poison, for insance), and these are actually harvested from the wilderness. Your party needs to eat, so you have to keep an eye on rations, but you don’t have to actually manually make them eat. You can also hunt. Dialogue is largely very good and there seems to be real motivation to do stuff.
Bear in mind that you need to stomach quite a bit of bugs to enjoy the game, though. Even if this is subject to change if the team keeps up its pace.