Ultima II is the long awaited follow-up to the original Ultima, a fantasy role-playing game by Lord British. It seems that when Mondrain was finally killed in the earlier game, we didn't find and deal with his apprentice, Minax. Now that she has come of age, she is even more powerful than her predecessor.

More than a simple successor with new maps and challenges, Ultima II's three disk sides take you to several towers and villages, five time periods, and ten planets, in addition to the towns, castles, and dungeons that players of the original game will remember. This time, towns and castles, as well as villages, are in the colorful, multi-screen scrolling form that so distinguished Ultima. Each of their layouts and contents are different, except that one of the castles appears in two time zones. There are time portals, horses, ships, airplanes, and rockets to ride around in. Fewer dungeons and towns provide a more balanced game.

The commands are generally the same, but have been streamlined by dropping those which were seldom used and adding two more useful ones: an interrupt, (Y)ell, to permit a pause for thoughtful planning, and a (V)iew command which provides an excellent single screen graphic of the location in which you are currently scrolling your merry way. Without it, Ultima II would be a mapmaker's ultimate challenge; as it is, mappers will have plenty of action in the dungeons which seem to go on forever. The command execution time is also pleasantly speeded up over the original. The game even comes complete with a neat cloth map representing most of the time portals on a "from-to" basis; it's pretty, but not much use in the game.

To achieve the goal and rid the universe of Minax, your fantasy character (your choice of four races, three types, two sexes, and six allocatable attributes) faces many hours of searching, interrogations, and monster whomping. The monsters serve as a source of gold, and there are many ways to spend your hard-earned loot; many are mandatory if you are ever to succeed in winning. You only need to obtain two objects to defeat Minax, but both take time, thought, and money - so it's back to whomping monsters.

There are a few bugs, but none fatal. As a hint, load up on strength at the outset, as it's the one attribute that can't be increased. Also, don't exit the town if any attribute goes over 99, unless you're rolling in gold. My only gripe is that it has the same save-game routine as in the original Ultima. While you can save it at any point, it can be recalled only on drive A through lengthy rebooting. Yet such defects pale in the face of the graphical tour de force; whether you played the first version or not, this one is a must.

Overall rating : A Controllability:BError handling:N/A
Game concept :BSkill involved: BDocumentation:B
Creativity:BChallenge:BHolds interest ?:A
Game depth :AGraphics:AValue for money:A