Continuing the trend of using nostalgia-powered crowd-funding to reboot classic gaming franchises, a subset of the team behind the original Ultima Underworld series has hit Kickstarter to fund the launch of Underworld Ascendant.
Launched in 1992 as a spin-off from Richard Garriott's Ultima franchise, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss represented one of the first fantasy role-playing games to take a fully three-dimensional first-person perspective. It was a slow-burner, nearly abandoned by Origin at launch, but went on to sell half a million copies alongside its sequel, Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds. These days, it is best known for having launched Looking Glass Studios - then known as Blue Sky Productions - which would go on to produce the System Shock and Thief franchises before going bust in 2000. Many of its members moved to Ion Storm, continuing the Thief franchise and launching Deus Ex, while other staffers worked on Ultima Underworld-inspired Arx Fatalis at Arkane Studios.
Now, developer OtherSide Entertainment is looking to bring the Underworld back. Headed by Blue Sky Productions co-founder Paul Neurath, the studio includes fellow Blue Sky alumnus Warren Spector on-board as creative advisor along with developers who worked on games including the Ultima Underworld franchise, Thief, System Shock, Deus Ex, BioShock, Duke Nukem 3D, Star Trek Online, and Lord of the Rings Online. Notable in his absence is Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima franchise.
The game is positioned as a true reboot, offering the familiar environs of the original franchise but with shiny new features including dynamic factions with relationships that alter the storyline, an 'improvision engine' that allows the player to solve challenges in ways other than hack-and-slash, and dynamic character growth.
The game's creators are currently seeking $600,000 to fund the title's development as a Windows exclusive, with stretch goals reaching up to the $1.2 million mark. At the time of writing, the day-old campaign had already broken the $260,000 mark. More information is available on the Kickstarter page