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What is the difference between the free version of Ultima IV and the version that can be bought with Ultima V and VI? I've noticed the file sizes are different by 1 MB (free version 17MB paid version 16MB) which was a lot back in those days so what's the difference so I know which I should install.
The files are that big because the games are bundled with DOSBox, enabling them to run on modern systems. That's probably where the difference in size comes from too, because one file is 'setup_ultima4_2.1.0.20.exe' and the other one 'setup_ultima4_free_2.1.0.46.exe'. I guess that it is just a different version of the installer.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's just something to do with DOSBox. To my knowledge there's no difference between the two versions, although U4 is such a small game that you could install both and check for yourself and not really have to worry about wasting any space worth thinking about.

The "different" versions of Ultima IV are actually console versions, which you won't find here on GOG. There's a Sega Master System version, which is a straight port with graphics improvements, though I think only Europe officially got it (not that this would stop you from emulating if that's your thing). Gameplay-wise the differences are dungeons (which are top-down instead of overhead like on PC) and dialogue (you choose keywords from a list rather than typing them, and the game reveals new keywords for you as you go through convos).

There's also a Nintendo Entertainment System port which seems to be the same as the Master System version except with graphics heavily overhauled to be very chibi-style and JRPGish to appeal to Japanese gamers. Probably not the one to play unless you particularly like that aesthetic.

EDIT: There are also a couple of unofficial rebuilds of U4 floating around online, I think, but I don't know much about them besides them having a few graphics tweaks and being made to run on modern systems.
Post edited June 12, 2015 by HWanderer
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HWanderer: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's just something to do with DOSBox. To my knowledge there's no difference between the two versions, although U4 is such a small game that you could install both and check for yourself and not really have to worry about wasting any space worth thinking about.

The "different" versions of Ultima IV are actually console versions, which you won't find here on GOG. There's a Sega Master System version, which is a straight port with graphics improvements, though I think only Europe officially got it (not that this would stop you from emulating if that's your thing). Gameplay-wise the differences are dungeons (which are top-down instead of overhead like on PC) and dialogue (you choose keywords from a list rather than typing them, and the game reveals new keywords for you as you go through convos).

There's also a Nintendo Entertainment System port which seems to be the same as the Master System version except with graphics heavily overhauled to be very chibi-style and JRPGish to appeal to Japanese gamers. Probably not the one to play unless you particularly like that aesthetic.

EDIT: There are also a couple of unofficial rebuilds of U4 floating around online, I think, but I don't know much about them besides them having a few graphics tweaks and being made to run on modern systems.
Actually, about the console ports:
The dungeons are still first-person in both ports.

The SMS version is pretty faithful to the original. Dialogue uses a keyword system. (One annoying thing: you can't just go around asking everyone about "rune" or "mantra"; you have to learn who to ask through dialogue,) Ranged weapons can fire in all directions, but can't go through walls and some have limited range. Mixing spells works either like the original or Ultima V (I forgot which).

The NES version is completely different. The battle mechanics have been completely redone. Characters can equip both a bow and another weapon at the same time. Ranged weapons can fire in all directions, have infinite range, and can fire through walls. Mixing spells is more like Ultima VI; if you know a spell and have the reagents (called "herbs" in the English translation), you can cast it without mixing before hand. You do, however, have to learn certain spells before you can cast them. The spell list also changed. Reagent costs are the same at every store, unlike other versions.

In the NES version, there are fewer distinct dungeon rooms. Many rooms are repeated. The Abyss, in particular, is much simpler, but only the Avatar can go in. Speaking of which, the Avatar now gets 99 MP regardless of class. On the other hand, you only get one of each Exotic equipment and can't sell it for lots of money. There are a few new items, such as the Flute that a Shepherd (only) can use once per day to put all enemies to sleep. Keys are much more expensive, but you only need 1, as it has infinte uses.

The NES version lacks food. Resting and saving is only possible at inns. Also, party size is limited to 4 characters; everyone else waits in Castle Britannia. You can't buy any horses because they're all dead.

I mentioned the "English translation" earlier; that's because the NES version was translated from Japanese, which in turn was translated from English. Needless to say, things were lost in double translation.

There was also a version for the MSX computer, which I believe was based on the NES version.
Funny, I've heard that the dungeons in the Master System version were top-down. Hrm.

Still, thanks for clearing all that up.
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HWanderer: Funny, I've heard that the dungeons in the Master System version were top-down. Hrm.

Still, thanks for clearing all that up.
Dungeon Despise at 20:48

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRZjzWUE-vg

Looks top-down to me...
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HWanderer: Funny, I've heard that the dungeons in the Master System version were top-down. Hrm.

Still, thanks for clearing all that up.
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stryx: Dungeon Despise at 20:48

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRZjzWUE-vg

Looks top-down to me...
Well, maybe I misremembered. The NES version is the one I grew up on, and it wasn't until years later that I played the SMS version out of curiosity. With that said, the SMS version is still the more faithful version.

On the other hand, avoid the NES version of Ultima V. It is rather poor, and I've read that it might not be completable.

The SNES verion of Ultima VI is decent, and it actually shows damage numbers, but it is simplified, and is missing some of the more unusual spells.
Post edited June 12, 2015 by dtgreene
The Sega Master System version of Ultima IV actually is quite good. I've been plaing it through an emulator on my PSP for a while. Good stuff for the subway ride. I've been to dungeon Despise too, and yes, it's top-down.
The Master System version's only drawback in my mind is the simplified dialogue system (choosing keywords and having them revealed to you on a list takes away that element of figuring things out yourself). Graphically it looks a lot better than the DOS version, and it actually has, you know, a little bit of music.

And I hate old-school first-person labyrinth dungeons, so, meh.
I think the SMS version of the dialogue system makes more sense from a immersion point of view, because you had to legitimately learn about a topic that you can ask an NPC about, before being able to ask him about that topic. So someone needed to tell you that Nigel knows something about a spell called 'Recall', before the Recall option appeared in your dialogue menue when talking to Nigel. That way you cannot meta game the game that much.
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stryx: I think the SMS version of the dialogue system makes more sense from a immersion point of view, because you had to legitimately learn about a topic that you can ask an NPC about, before being able to ask him about that topic. So someone needed to tell you that Nigel knows something about a spell called 'Recall', before the Recall option appeared in your dialogue menue when talking to Nigel. That way you cannot meta game the game that much.
On the other hand, you didn't actually have to be paying much attention for a given keyword to appear in the menu, you just had to trip a dialogue flag. The charm of the keyword system is mostly in how engaged you have to be with the dialogue to figure anything out without a guide. That said, Ultima VII also had a pick-from-a-list system that worked in the much the same way as the Master System U4 port, and that was still plenty immersive, so it's not really THAT much of a minus.

The other downside though is that you can't do the logical thing and just ask EVERYONE about the mantras or runes.
At least you can still cast any spell you have the MP and reagents for if you know the recipe. It is really nice being able to cast Gate Travel as soon as you can get Mandrake. (This is unlike Ultima V, where you can't cast that spell until you reach Level 8, which takes a long time.)

As a side note, I have noticed that Ultima VII is heavily praised, yet nobody mentions the combat in that game (which I consider to be the worst of all the Ultima games I've played).
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dtgreene: As a side note, I have noticed that Ultima VII is heavily praised, yet nobody mentions the combat in that game (which I consider to be the worst of all the Ultima games I've played).
The combat is the worst part of Ultima VII, that's why nobody ever talks about it. Horribly indirect and non interactive on the player part. Just equip your party members as well as possible, enter combat mode, let chaos ensue and see how it plays out.
Post edited June 15, 2015 by stryx
To be fair, Ultima never had particularly good combat.

U1 & 2: Spam the attack button.
U3 & 4: Line everyone up and shoot the enemies to pieces before they can reach you.
U5: Same but now you can fire in any direction.
U6: Most combat can be easily avoided.
U8: Spam left click several dozen times, or if you're smart, just run past them.
U9: Pray you can make it through a battle without crashing.

U7 just trims some of the fat and gives you a button that asks your party to kindly kill everything hostile within visual range. Dictating their every step and swing would just be needless micromanagement. You can still set their tactics or assume manual control of the Avatar at any point if you feel the need.
I like the combat of Ultima IV and V. Turn based (sort of, you can run out of time if you don't do anything IIRC) and you can give your party members individual instructions. Makes combat tactical.