The first full trailer for Underworld Ascendant, the modernized followup to the great Looking Glass RPG Ultima Underworld, showcases colorful dungeons, broken stone halls, magic, traps, and a bunch of underground beasties looking to do you harm. Developer Otherside Entertainment also released a new dev diary video in which writer and game director Joe Fielder, lead designer Tim Stellmach, and lead engineer Will Teixeira talk about their approach to "crafting an immersive sim."
"Players love to change everything in the world," Fielder explains at one point. "Agency is my player's ability to affect things in the world. And so the more that we allow players to mess with the world, even if it looks kind of broken, I think that's great. I love it because it means that players have way more to do in that game."
"You have the space in which to solve problems in ways that we might not have even foreseen," Stellmach says. "We've seen this, where people come up with solutions to challenges that we are surprised by. There's nothing we like better than to be surprised by the way that our players solve a problem that we pose them."
Player agency is something that Otherside has talked about in previous updates, and I very much hope that the focus on "systems" doesn't come at the cost of "game." Ultima Underworld was very open-ended, but it also provided a narrative experience that led players from top to bottom along a fairly consistent path. That's really what I'd like to see more of in Underworld Ascendant trailers: Less about how I'll do things, and more about what I'm doing, and why.
That trailer does look pretty great, though. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the Abyss.
Underworld Ascendant is expected to be out later this year. We spent an hour with Otherside founder Paul Neurath and studio director Warren Spector at SXSW in March, and you can watch the full talk below.