A spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed and immensely popular 1992 role playing dungeon crawler set in the Ultima universe Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is in development by brand new Bost, and on, Massachusetts developer OtherSide Entertainment. The studio, which is under the direction of Paul Neurath, developer of the original Ultima Underworld as well as other classic titles such as Thief: The Dark Project and System Shock, plans to reboot the two decade old franchise with Underworld Ascension, a modern take on the tried and true dungeon crawler genre.
The original Underworld takes place in the Stygian Abyss, the buried remnants of a fallen utopian civilization and follows the player character’s exploits as they explore the caverns of the Abyss and investigate its history. The game was praised for its storytelling, which featured elements from Richard Garriott’s legendary Ultima franchise despite existing outside the main continuity of the series, earning it the moniker of Ultima Underworld. The game’s greatest achievements, however, were its technical innovations. Commonly cited as the first true real-time 3D animated game, Underworld established the basic design patterns that would later be emulated in at least some sense by all first-person games to follow. In addition to its nonlinear 3D game world, Underworld featured a complex physics engine that allowed players to throw items and interact with the environment by jumping, climbing, and moving objects as well as real-time changes in the game world that occur while the player is resting or interacting with other characters.
With the sheer number of innovations that Ultima Underworld brought to the role playing genre and to the video game industry as a whole, it is an understatement to say that expectations for Underworld Ascension are already high despite next to nothing about the actual game being known. In order to meet those expectations, Neurath has already recruited Tim Stellmach, a developer at Looking Glass Studios, the company responsible for the original Ultima Underworld under their previous name of Blue Sky Productions, to lead the design team for Ascension. OtherSide games has received praise from Ultima creator Richard Garriott, although there is currently no indication that Garriott will play a role in the development of the upcoming game or that Ascension will utilize the Ultima property at all.
No details about Underworld Ascension’s gameplay and story have yet been released, although it will presumably utilize the same basic format and structure as its predecessor.