I’ve got a bit of time on my hands today but no access to my collection since I’m not at home, so I thought I’d go through a few of the Ultima cluebooks I scanned in several years back. All of these are downloadable from http://www.replacementdocs.com. I won’t go into too much detail since they are available for anyone to read themselves, and will just do a few short(ish) posts. I’ll start off with the Ultima 4 cluebook which was published in 1986 by Origin.
Something I have noticed is that the newer these books get, the larger they get. Ultima 4 being one of the oldest is therefore particularly short. It’s a similar format to the Ultima 3 one with the obvious difference being that the ASCII maps of the towns are now replaced with an isometric drawing instead. This definitely helps to give the book the impression of being a guide to Britannia which is how it is presented.
The book is spilt into town and dungeon sections. Starting with the towns, along with the drawing there is a little text that goes along with each. This usually mentions a few people you need to talk to but doesn’t contain anything in the way of backstory. Since you always need to talk to more or less everyone in Ultima games, this isn’t especially helpful.
It’s a similar structure with the dungeons, although the text here is more useful telling you where to find altar rooms and the coloured stones. Rather than drawings, the maps here are more conventional overhead views of each level of a dungeon. If you want help beating the game, this is the truly useful bit and will save a lot of mapping.
The book ends with a single page about using the shrines. Even more so than Ultima 3, I think it’s striking just how much is left out of this cluebook. It mentions needing the bell, book and candle but gives you no idea where to get them. It doesn’t even say how to achieve the fundamental requirements of your quest or what actions affect your virtues. This is definitely no walkthrough and even with this guide you will still have to play the game properly finding clues for yourself if you are going to finish it. I quite like this aspect of it and how the book never comes out of character as such but if I’m honest there probably should have been more content here. This book is helpful but doesn’t hand the answers to you on a plate and you certainly wouldn’t see a game guide like this by the early 90’s.