Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss Retrospective

Ultima Underworld: The Styigian Abyss received the retrospective treatment from the folks at Faulty Pixel, who are keen to note the influence the title had on the entire genre. Here's a snip:
Think over the key features of games like Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim and their kind; open world, non-linear storylines; all come from Underworld. Hell, even the idea of having a detailed world map is in evidence in Underworld. Not only that, but in many ways the Underworld's map surpasses it's modern luminaries' versions, being fully editable, allowing the player to make annotations, diagrams and whatever else they feel they need to aid in their work.

And boy, are those notes needed. Many games worlds are described as epic and vast, but Underworld's titular Stygian Abyss is definitely worthy of the description. The levels of the dungeon, a total of thirteen, are sprawling and labyrinthine, especially compared to games of the time. There are a great number of features and inhabitants, all of which will need to be noted down on the map if the player is to have any hope of progressing.

This is coupled with what is perhaps the most progressive aspect of the game; the non-linear storyline/game narrative. The game world exists as an entire entity, with no specific progression line or levelling limit segregation; meaning that in theory all areas are accessible from the beginning. This has both good and bad results for the player, creating a more realistic feel to the environment layout, but meaning that even the first level has several areas inhabited by very high level monsters, making it extremely unforgiving at times. Though, to be fair, the unforgiving nature of the game is often cited as one of the reasons its many fans love the game so much. This set-up does rather lend itself to the survival simulation nature of the game, often frustrating but never giving the impression of an artificially managed experience. It's about as close as you can get to pitting yourself against a dungeon without having to don armour yourself.

Spotted on RPGWatch.