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Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a 
quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a 
quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
13,987 backers pledged $860,356 to help bring this project to life.

King of the Sandbox


The original Underworlds pioneered much of what today is known as ‘sandbox’ gameplay: instead of scripting a path on rails, players had the freedom to experiment and find their own path forward.

More modern games such as Deus Ex and Skyrim have taken up the banner of sandbox play. Considering the span of years since Underworld was released, the banner has been carried forward less so than one might have expected. With Underworld Ascendant our aim is to take sandbox play to a whole new level, beyond the current generation of games.

Making this all happen is the Improvisation Engine, which provides an array of sophisticated technologies for unleashing player creativity. Watch the video as Tim, Chris and Warren tell you more:

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Many Solutions to Choose

In Underworld Ascendant, instead of the designers scripting a set solution path for players, the Improvisation Engine puts the problem solving in the player’s hands. Our designers lay out an encounter; setting up the monsters, traps, the physical layout, and the like. Then the world simulation is turned on. A set of fairly complex interactions and dynamics take place of their own accord. The player comes into this dynamic mix, and can permeate this situation in a whole range of ways, some of which the designers may have never imagined.

As an example, let's look at the game vignette we affectionately call, “Spiders on a Bridge” that Chris showed us in the video. We saw Chris disturbing a nest of spiders. Chris chooses to run, which, all things considered, is probably wise. There are a lot of spiders!

Prototype graphics, final will look MUCH better
Prototype graphics, final will look MUCH better

 Chris has lots choices. For instance, he could:

  • Turn and fight.
  • Try to run away from the spiders long enough to lose them in the tunnels.
  • Try to block the passage behind him, with a Fungal Growth spell for instance.

Instead, Chris chose to cross a wooden bridge, then destroy it behind him, cutting him off from the spiders. A clever player could come up with other ways to survive.

Let's take our example another step forward. Chris has destroyed the bridge, saving himself from the spiders. What now? That bridge was the only way across the lava chasm and now it's gone. What if there is treasure on the other side that Chris wants?

Prototype graphics, final will look MUCH better
Prototype graphics, final will look MUCH better

 He now has a new problem to solve. Chris might:

  • Find the right reagents to make the mushrooms of his Fungal Growth spell fireproof, and then create a spongy walkway across the lava stream.
  • Use the plentiful spider webs that are around and construct rope and grapple. Throw and secure it across the chasm and then hope his acrobatic skills are up to par.
  • Build a boat from lava bat skins to cross the lava flow. They're fireproof, right?

How you develop your Avatar will open up new possible solutions. For instance, if you develop skills in clambering and acrobatics, you’ll have more ways to maneuver around, or up and over, a foe. Refine your marksmanship with a bow and you’ll be more effective at sniping creatures before they can close with you.

Being able to develop specialized skills will mean your experience playing through the game may be quite difference from other player’s. This also makes it more fun to replay the game with different character.

Faction Influence: You Can't Please Everyone

Underworld Ascendant's sandbox design also feeds into how you interact with the Abyss’ three factions: the Dark Elves, the Dwarves, and the Shamblers.

Each faction's outlook towards you is shared by all of its members, based on your reputation and prior actions towards them. Their outlook is influenced by choices in conversation, larceny, acts of overt hostility, favors (for them or their rivals), or actions that may even seem inconsequential at first.

For example, slaying a Tunnel Trapper blocking access to the mines might put you in good with the Dwarves, but harm your reputation with the Dark Elves, who herded it there earlier to thwart the mountain folk's prospecting efforts. Likewise, the bark of the carnivorous plant known as the Ripper is highly-prized by all three factions. The Dark Elves craft it into light, sturdy mail. The Dwarves utilize it as an alchemical ingredient. The Shamblers employ it as a fertile, living bed for the growth of spores. Killing one of the creatures may provide you with valuable items to trade the Dark Elves or Dwarves, but put you out of favor with the Shamblers.

Keeping on good terms with a faction may lead to special quests, access to unique items, and even to becoming adopted into their tribe; all of which greatly affect your gameplay experience. It’s all up to your choices.

A Dynamic, Reactive World

When we say that Underworld Ascendant will be a “living, breathing world”, we mean that there's a complex ecology of flora and fauna existing around you while you play. This ecology will be self-sustaining, designed to flourish and grow.

The player can impact the ecology. For instance, killing a pack of Shadow Beasts may mean the Lurkers living in the watering hole nearby won't have a food supply. Their new home may end up being directly in the path of your next quest, or adjacent to an encampment of Dwarven allies.

Conversely, if you decide not to hunt the Shadow Beasts, their nesting habits may attract Cave Worms, who love to lay eggs in Shadow Beast feces. More Cave Worms means more Dire Faeries, who view Cave Worms as a delicacy. Suddenly this area is getting pretty dangerous!

Opportunities will arise for you to take an active hand in altering the environment. For instance, transforming a damp, humid bog into a dry, arid plain by damming a nearby stream will drive out the native species. Invite in others that favor the altered clime, and tip the area out of the Shamblers' control and into the hands of the Dwarves or Dark Elves.

The more you play, the more you'll come to understand the web of interrelated systems playing out around you, and how you can play within those systems. That's what “freedom of choice” means for Underworld Ascendant.


We have reached the halfway point of the Kickstarter campaign. Over 8,600 Backers and more than $474,000 funded! It’s been a crazy ride so far, more thrilling because of the passion our fans are sharing to help bring Underworld Ascendant to life. We are daily thankful for your support!

We are pleased as punch to announce that Denis Loubet will be contributing his legendary artistic talents to Underworld Ascendant. Denis illustrated the box covers of every classic Ultima game, including the Ultima Underworlds! He will be doing the illustration for the COLLECTOR’s EDITION of our game box, as well as other art for the game. Above is an early sketch Denis did while collaborating with us on the original Underworld box, along with a (naturally) artistic woodcut of Denis himself. Please check out Denis’ Patreon campaign (HERE), and his website (HERE ).

Not yet a week in and Underworld Ascendant has already reached the #17 spot of 1,718 games in Steam Greenlight! Huge thanks to all of you for putting in the YES votes. Keep the YES votes coming and let’s see if we can reach to the rarefied air of a top-10 spot.

Besides the Twitch session this afternoon at 3-6pm ET where we play Thief, we also wanted to highlight that this Thursday the 19th at 8pm ET we are being interviewed by Arvan Eleron on Twitch.

The Team at OtherSide

Kappuchino, Dablue, and 57 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Leon Moor on

      I hope they end up with sane goals for the paltry ~$600k they're going to make instead of "deeper than Skyrim!"

    2. Missing avatar

      Naithan Briffa on

      @ymgve, I agree the hype ceiling is high, but this is coming from proven developers that are trying to make their backers, and potential backers excited. I understand how disappointing it can be when the hype ceiling collapses, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt along with our money, and continue our forward thinking vision of developers that deliver returning to the industry we enjoy so much.

    3. Haz on

      When does Dennis start working on the Shambler cover art? ;]

    4. Stormcry on

      Yey! Finally a real rpg game again, where not all you do is kill everything you encounter to get something done. God I missed this.

    5. Kevin VW on

      @John Pike - my thoughts exactly. That tactile sense of freedom and control is strong in crafting games, but has yet to find its way into modern RPGs. I can't really think of an example of an RPG that encourages spatial thinking beyond "how big does this fireball get?" The Skyrim modding community comes to mind, but the Papyrus engine imposed a low ceiling on their efforts.

    6. Minsc&Boo on

      I have a question(s) regarding "Prototype Graphics". Please bare with me.

      When you mean "Prototype graphics", do you mean the final graphics will:

      a) Have a much higher polygon count resulting in smoother edges.
      b) Have a much higher texture count resulting in richer surfaces.
      c) Use more G.P.U features to enhance aspects of polygons and surfaces.
      d) Use Extended G.P.U features such as AMD Mantle, Normal Mapping, Tessellation.
      e) Increase animation frame-rate, not FPS, but frames per animation, to eliminate jerkiness.
      f) Increase the suspension of disbelief - between protagonist and environment by introducing more physics based interactions.

      Cheers and thanks!
      Adam (MinscAndBoo)

    7. Astrobia on

      Soooo... If the spiders can carry me across the roof in the room with the broken bridge... How did breaking the bridge allow me to escape from these spiders which can crawl across the roof? Hope the AI will attempt to outwit the player along the way too.

    8. Missing avatar

      John Pike on

      I wish more people were appreciative of this kind of design. The Elder Scrolls seems to be most associated with the 'fantasy sandbox' concept nowadays, but those games just create a big world with little in the way of systemic interaction. Everything just waits in stasis until you arrive and kill everything to complete the next quest. They're great for exploration but actual player actions quickly get repetitive. 'Open world' is not the same as 'sandbox', imo, but the obsession with huge worlds (among players and media) often takes the focus off systemic interaction.

    9. Jeffrey Kesselman on

      You always need to consider the source.

    10. Missing avatar

      Nick on

      Man I'm pretty excited they nabbed Denis for some art.

    11. ymgve on

      Sorry, but this is starting to sound like the hype that one usually hears from Molyneux about his games.

    12. Denis Loubet on

      Well, this should be interesting.

    13. CatInSpace on

      Loved that cinematic "Wilhelm Scream" that was included in the video. ;)

    14. Vryl

      They did say "more modern". The original Deus Ex is certainly more modern than the original Underworld, and was probably included as a nice midpoint example between old and new games.

    15. Lars Ivar | AoUA on

      The first Deus Ex was the best, but I'm not sure it can be considered modern any more ... In any way, awesome update!

    16. Oscar Tong on

      (???) Which "Deus Ex" are you talking about, the first one or "Human Revolution"?