The Underworld series is down one ‘Ultima’ prefix but up one sequel in Paul Neurath’s Underworld Ascension. The Looking Glass founder has built a new independent studio in Boston named OtherSide, and set to work on a new, unofficial entry in the “long fallow” series.
Ultima Underworld was the counterpoint to Wolfenstein 3D: an early 3D game that forefronted depth of interaction rather than speed. Players wandered its subterranean halls in first-person, and dealt with complex NPC communities.
“As producer on the original Ultima Underworld games, I'll never forget the first time I saw a working prototype of the game,” said Warren Spector of Neurath’s work. “I felt as if the world had just changed. As the first fully-textured, real-time, first-person game, Underworld paved the way for every other first-person game that followed.”
Underworld kickstarted the immersive sim, and its identity can be felt most strongly in the modern proponents of that genre: Deus Ex, Dishonored and BioShock. But the game itself has been left un-sequeled for more than twenty years - since 1992’s Labyrinth of Worlds.
The last concerted effort anybody made to develop a new entry was 2002’s Arx Fatalis: Arkane couldn’t persuade EA to part with the license.
Clearly faced with but undeterred by similar licensing issues, Neurath has founded OtherSide with the intention of making the Underworld series “more vital than ever before”.
Neurath’s last credited game was Shadows of Undrentide - the Neverwinter Nights expansion developed by his post-Looking Glass outfit, Floodgate. That was environmentally varied and very entertaining, but hardly the reclamation of the first-person RPG genre his fans have been waiting for.
Perhaps this’ll be that?