Ultima 8 Review – PC Zone

This is a review of Ultima 8 from the June 1994 PC Zone. The reviewer describes it as a love/hate sort of game which I can agree with falling more into the hate camp myself. He was clearly reviewing the first unpatched version and was suffering with the platform jumping.

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I should have had more updates over the weekend but I’ve spent a crazy amount of time getting my Win 98/DOS machine up and running. I’ve got it dual booting into DOS 6.0 now, and have my AWE32 and SBLive coexisting inside Windows. I’ve also managed to get it wired up to my MT-32 and SC-155 via the AWE32. This isn’t ideal as it requires a TSR to process the MIDI in DOS but it works in most games. My USB keyboard causes glitches in DOS resulting in slowdown, or hanging/crashing. I’ve now given in on that and have just got a second keyboard which I swap to as needed.

I found an ancient serial ball-mouse which seems to work ok – first time I’ve used one of those in a very long time. I ought to get something a little better in the long run though. When I use it in Windows I keep finding myself scrolling a non-existent mouse wheel.

I’ve still got some problems in DOS. EMM386 refuses to load no matter what. I’ve tried excluding the entire possible memory range and still no luck. I’ve got QEMM 7.5 running but that is struggling as well as if I load QEMM itself into high memory it locks up. Any advice on that is welcome. I’m thinking that a newer version might be enough. With the tiny cd and mouse drivers I’ve still got plenty of free memory so I’m probably ok for all games except those few that insist on EMM386 anyway.

The only other problem I noticed is that I don’t appear to be able to redirect the MIDI of DOS games in Win 98 to the MIDI-out and I’m stuck with playing them through the AWE32. Not sure if I’d ever run into an occasion where this would be a big issue but it does rule out running some DOS games inside Win98 if I can’t fix it. I expect a poke around the registry might be needed. Other than that it appears to be working well but I’ve only quickly tried a few games. Highlights so far are playing the first level of Dark Forces and a quick blast on the 3dfx version of Carmageddon.

6 thoughts on “Ultima 8 Review – PC Zone

  1. Excellent to see the beginning of another DOS machine! You’ll be wasting crazy amounts of money on tiny details in no time! 🙂

    I believe there are hacks out there for USB keyboards and mice in DOS, although I didn’t bother with any of them. I found I could still buy a PS/2 optical mouse in a regular computer store for $2.99. (While first putting together my machine I found that I owned about a dozen serial mice… none of which worked correctly anymore. Switching to a nice smooth optical mouse and being able to use it in DOS feels surprisingly great. Makes switching back to the old Mac’s ball mouse a sad affair.)

    That’s odd about EMM386; I’m guessing something is using a specific memory allocation it wants? Maybe something you can force in the BIOS? Hard to figure anything about how those old memory managers are going to work; the Ultima VII team was being refreshingly honest when they named theirs…!

    • I’m already in negotiations to waste crazy money on one large detail. Not sure if postage is practical yet though and I’m dealing with someone who has neither a pair of scales or a tape measure. More on that if it happens. A new mouse is on the shopping list as well but this ball mouse is ok for now.

      The BIOS isn’t exactly full of options to tweak and I’ve tried the ones I have. I read somewhere that network cards could cause problems with QEMM, I might try pulling that out and see if it makes a difference.

    • That’s uncanny as it’s exactly what I was referring to. In my own interests I think I’ll edit out that link. It may be free postage in the US but he wanted $100 to get it to me which is insane. I managed to convince him to take it down to the post office to get a quote and am waiting to see what price he comes up with.

  2. Heh, that’s bizarre! I look forward to hearing about it. (Although I bet I was thinking about it in the first place because I downloaded the Wings of Glory demo after your review, then I saw it mentioned in the FAQ… so… it’s all connected.) I will… stop mentioning it until you’ve won the auction!

    • I’ll release the condfidentiality agreement now. He came back with a halved postage price and after I griped enough about the free USA postage, I got another $15 off for not being American. Still not exactly a bargain but I’ve wanted to try one of these since 1995. I seriously do have to stop spending money now.

      It doesn’t work with Shadowcaster but it does indeed work with System Shock CD and in full 3D no less. There is a list of supported games at http://www.mindflux.com.au/products/iis/vfx1soft.html. It’s a short list with only a handful in 3D but there are some great games on there.

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