Ultima: Quest of the Avatar - The Book of Lore

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Cover of the booklet.

Ultima: Quest of the Avatar - The Book of Lore is the manual for Ultima: Quest of the Avatar, the NES port of the Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar made by Newtopia Planning. While the 1989 Japanese release of the game saw a fairly detailed manual, the 1990 US release saw documentation above and beyond what most games of the time shipped with. The manual is 80 pages, all color, fully illustrated, and contains detailed information about every important aspect of the game including charts of data and maps of Britannia, all the villages and towns, and the dungeons. Unfortunately, the authors are not credited.

Personal

In the early 1990s, my friend Chris rented Ultima: Quest of the Avatar. Already a big fan of Ultima: Exodus, I was very eager to see the game. I criticized him for naming his character "Chris" and even more when he used his NES Max to turbo answer all the virtue questions (leaving him with a mage). However, as I watched him play, I was very impressed by the game's graphics and music, but I was especially absorbed in the manual. It's rare for rented games to still have a manual with them, but this one did, so this must have been shortly after the store got the game. For the next couple days, I would go to his house after school and we would follow the manual and visit every village and town. After we finished everything described in the manual, and those clues we remembered, we didn't really know what to do next, but, it didn't matter much since he had to return the game anyway. Years later, I bought a used copy of the game, and it too came with the manual, and I re-read it then. I still remember a lot of it just because it was so unique as game manuals go, and it is more of a hint book you'd ordinarily have to buy in addition to the game.

Status

I own a well-worn copy of this book (the cover page is missing), and have read it multiple times.

Review

Good

  • The manual gives very detailed instructions on how to play the game.
  • The books has over 100 illustrations including story art, maps, classes, items, and reagents, and over 150 screenshots covering much of the game.
  • All the hints and maps really help guide you deep into the game. While it does contain a fair amount of spoilers, most younger kids playing the game would have a hard time discovering them otherwise. I wish all video games came with such detailed documentation.

Bad

  • There are a number of typos throughout the book. The most common are missing spaces between words, but, also, some of the charts are wrong (I'm pretty sure the paladin doesn't start with over 3 times the intelligence as a mage!), and some of the images are mixed up, like the phantom, and the position map for Yew.
  • The recap of story from the previous three games not only heavily ret-cons everything, it also does so differently than other Ultima games. For example, it suggests the serpent barring entry to Exodus' castle was actually Exodus.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Media

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