Can you complete an Ultima game without killing anyone?

I'll assume this ended poorly.

Well, no, I don’t think it’s actually possible. Pulling off an achievement like this in an Ultima title — in which you, the player, do not directly kill even one enemy — is simply not do-able.

The Update Gate (July 2015): Or is it? See below…

But how close can you come?

Take my personal favourite Ultima title, for example: Ultima 6. If ever there was an Ultima where it might be possible to opt for the pure pacifistic playthrough, Ultima 6 would be it, because the number of direct kills necessary to pass it can be kept fairly low:

  • All of the shrines can be cleansed without combat (thanks to invisibility rings)
  • None of the gargoyles that ambush you at the beginning need to be killed by you, personally
    • The First Age of Update (July 2015): Or at all, actually…this encounter can be fled from on foot, or avoided by talking to Lord British, learning about the Orb of the Moons, and moongating away from the battle!
  • Most encounters can be avoided, and even many monsters in dungeons can be avoided
    • Revenge of the Update(July 2015): To be fair, most of the dungeons can be avoided.
  • Arguably, building off of point to and with reference to the above-linked article, it really is just the player — the Avatar — who wouldn’t need to rack up kills in order to achieve this goal; the party in Ultima 6 is fairly effective in combat, should combat become an ugly necessity at any point

And in fact, I can think of only a few situations in Ultima 6 where combat would be an ugly necessity:

  • The three gargoyles at the beginning, of course.
    • Updatodus (July 2015): Not a necessity; see above
  • The hydra guarding the entrance to the pirate cave
    • Quest of the Update (July 2015): Not a necessity; this quest line can be entirely avoided.
  • The two-headed alligators and ants in Sutek’s castle, and the rabbits outside
    • The False Update (July 2015): Although I have to wonder if perhaps the Sleep or Mass Sleep spells could be utilized to bypass these monsters. Contra Ultima 7, these spells are 2nd and 3rd-level spells (respectively) in Ultima 6, meaning they are accessible even to starting players.
  • Possibly a few ants in the Ant Mound, since they do occasionally block the tunnels
    • Update of Destiny (July 2015): Not a necessity; this quest line can be entirely avoided.

As I say, I’ve tried to play the game this way and haven’t managed it as yet, in no small part because I’m really impatient. I’m convinced it’s possible, though, so perhaps it’s time to dust off DOSbox and give it another try.

And what about some of the other Ultima games? Ultima 1, Ultima 2, and Ultima 3 are write-offs, of course. How about Ultima 4? So is Ultima 4, as explained in the comments below. How about Ultima 5? Ultima 5 is right out: you have to kill the Shadowlords, after all.

I could see it being possible in Ultima 7: The Black Gate, provided I haven’t forgotten about any instances where the Avatar is forced to be alone for a sequence. There is one part of Ultima 7 where the Avatar is forced to be alone, and indeed does have to kill some manner of beasty. Which is a shame, because the companions in that game could handle the end fight, against Batlin and his cronies, well enough to allow the Avatar to avoid having to kill anyone personally…and the same is generally true of any other fight in the game.

I don’t think it’s possible in Serpent Isle, and it’s for sure not possible in Ultima 8 or Ultima 9, or in either Ultima Underworld game.

Anyone else care to speculate? It looks like we’re zeroing in on Ultima 6 as the only possibility. And then not a perfect possibility, either.

11 Responses

  1. Fenyx says:

    Well, I think I can safely say it is impossible with Ultima 4. You need to kills stuff to get to level 8 to get all the companions to be able to win the game.

  2. wtf_dragon says:

    Right, then…Ultima 4 is out!

  3. Browncoat Jayson Browncoat Jayson says:

    Don’t you need to kill the Ether Beast in U7 solo? Or is that before you go in the cube?

  4. Cear Dragon says:

    Browncoat is right. you have to enter the void alone and take down that guardianish looking fiend yourself. But there are very few instances like that in the game. I cant think of another. as long as we are just talking about the avatar not killing, six is the best bet.

  5. wtf_dragon says:

    That’s right…I forgot about the ethereal monster thingy.

    Okay, that rules Ultima 7 out.

  6. skavenhorde says:

    So your companions can kill, but the avatar can’t? Seems like it’s doable if you ignore the instances where you have to kill something by yourself. That is still quite an accomplishment and since the game isn’t designed to played as a pacifist then it would be even more worthwhile if you can do it.

    It seems silly to count the few instances where you have to actually kill something by yourself. Just write those off and play the games with your rules 🙂 because that is the only way to do it. The games were not made to be played that way. You’ll just have to not count the times where you have to kill something.

    • wtf_dragon says:

      Ah, but that’s the point! You’re quite right that the games aren’t designed for that sort of playthrough, just as surely as COD: MW2 wasn’t. (See linked article.)

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve passed Ultima 6 dozens of times, and other Ultima titles several times. After a while, playing the game “normally” just doesn’t satisfy as once it did. Thought experiments like this are a means of thinking up new ways to make the games more challenging.

      The point of this specific thought exercise is to figure out whether ANY Ultima title can be passed without the Stranger/Avatar killing anyone or anything directly. So far, Ultima 6 seems to be the prime candidate.

      As you note, were we to extend the experiment to exclude situations where a) the Avatar is flying solo and b) the kill is a mandatory plot point, we could maybe include Ultima 7 again, and possibly some others.

      But this thought experiment here is primarily an extension of the linked article from Joystiq, and so is focused on the stricter ruleset…and whether it is possible to pass any particular Ultima game operating under those rules. We can discuss the broader case later.

  7. bob says:

    Well you have to destroy the Shadowlords in Ultima 5 so that makes it impossible.

  8. wtf_dragon says:

    Quite correct!

    We seem to have eliminated almost everything from consideration, save for Ultima 6.

  9. Dino says:

    Interesting discussion. My input is as follows:

    1. I don’t agree you can let companions kill things. It still counts as killing after all… it’s like not pulling the trigger but giving the order.
    2. It’s been a while so I may have forgotten the specifics… but in Ultima 5 do you really kill the Shadowlords or just banish them? They do reappear in Martian Dreams, but I don’t know if that counts as not being dead or appearing as a dream.
    3. Personally when I beat Ultima 6, I did kill stuff, but I never leveled up (something I figured how to do much later). I skipped most of the plot thanks to the Orb of the Moons, so many things you listed are bypassable anyway. I think it is quite possible to complete U6 without killing anything.

  10. wtf_dragon says:

    Hi Dino…and thanks for contributing!

    Were I defining the rules, I’d agree that the companions shouldn’t be allowed to kill anything either. But then no Ultima would qualify, I don’t think. (As it is, the fact that the companions are allowed to kill comes from the source article that I link to.)

    As to the Shadowlords…I suppose there is that. We could perhaps debate whether Martian Dreams counts as canon, and also whether only canon Ultimas should be considered in this thought experiment, but it is an interesting point to raise (and one which, frankly, I’m not sure if there is a definite answer to).

    As to passing Ultima 6, you raise a valid point (again!) with the mention of the Orb of the Moons and how it allows for much of the plot to be skipped. Indeed, I think I may even have passed the game once without ever completing the quest to retrieve the pirate treasure.

    I suppose we have to distinguish between merely passing Ultima 6, then, and passing all elements of its plot. The breakdown is, I think, as follows:

    a) Freeing the shrines – necessary, but can be done without killing
    b) Pirate map – unnecessary, dubious as to whether it can be done without killing*
    c) Pirate treasure – unnecessary(?), cannot be done without killing**
    d) Vortex Cube/Codex Lenses – necessary, but can be done without killing
    e) Balloon – necessary, dubious as to whether it can be done without killing***
    f) Gargish lands – necessary, but can be done without killing

    Caveats are as follows:

    * many of the pirate map fragments are buried within dungeons, or require the completion of dungeon runs in order to obtain. In most cases, it should be possible to circumvent monsters in dungeons if one has a sufficiently large trove of invisibility rings and potions (and a sufficiently small party), although I recall a few cases in the Ant Mounds specifically where the ants tended to obstruct necessary corridors.

    ** the only way to access the pirate cave is to kill the Hydra situated directly atop it. But it may not be strictly necessary to access the cave…I seem to recall circumventing doing so at least once.

    *** the balloon quest is made dubious by the fact that in Sutek’s castle, there is a two-headed alligator which blocks your way at one point (if memory serves).

    There’s also the matter of how Ultima 6’s gameplay starts with a fight against three wingless gargoyles. It might be possible to flee from this fight (I’ve never tried), or it might be possible to end combat, talk with Lord British about the Orb of the Moons, and Orb away somewhere (presumably, the wingless gargoyles would, like any other encounter fled from, disappear after an increment of time).

    But presuming that one can in fact flee this fight without causing the death of a single wingless, it might be possible to pass Ultima 6 without having the Avatar or his companions kill even a single creature. This in turn presumes that entering the pirate cave is completely unnecessary, of course…if entering the cave is in fact necessary, it is still possible for the Avatar himself not to kill anything, but the companions would have to be leveraged to dispatch the Hydra.

    I’m not sure about Sutek’s castle, though.

    Passing the entire plot of Ultima 6 without even the companions killing anything is, I suspect, impossible…though it might be possible if one was playing by the rules originally proposed in this post, and in the linked article.