There's not a whole lot to explain about the original timeline of Ultima that can be learned in better detail from reading wikis and watching Spoony's Retrospective. Linguistic Dragon's Blog offers a perhaps the best synopsis of the series and eras within that I have ever read.
Seriously, stop reading. Read his. Bask in the glory. Come back if you have time.
I'll be here.
Hey, long time no see! No, I had the beard when you left, don't worry.
I hope you enjoyed it, but if you just skipped it and kept reading, here's the quick rundown.
Ultima 1-3 you are a stranger from earth (Depending on the version of the game). You save the world!
Ultima 4 You are declared the AVATAR! And you make the world safer.
Ultima 5 & 6 You make the world of Britannia a better place for everyone... committing accidental genocide is in there somewhere...
Ultima 7 The Guardian Appears! You thwart his plans!
Ultima Underworld 2 More Thwarting!
Ultima 7 Part 2 Yet more Thwarting! And you restore balance by patching up the serpent gods' breakup by Exodus. Once the band is back together-
Ultima 8 The guardian drops you into the conquered world of Pagan where you gather magic power to become the Titan of Ether!
Okay I'm going to stop there for a moment and just state...I have no clue why the guardian didn't just pinch the Avatar's little head off right there. Just, POP! I'm totally missing some lore here. The only thing I can come up with at this moment is the whole two sides of the same coin plot of Ultima 9. I know, I know, I'll work on it, but if anyone has some info on that I'd appreciate it.
Ultima 9 You return to Britannia. Titan of Ether no longer...for some reason. FINAL THWART! And you fuse your energy with the Guardian's with some special blend of the armageddon spell.
This is GROSSLY over-simplified, but if you see anything false here, please comment it. I'd like simple, not inaccurate.
That over with, time for -
The Time Loop
I love the Ultima series, I really do, but if you step back from it, there seems to be a bit of something out of order. I stated this in my Guardian origin post, the most powerful baddies are the 3 Original ones. Mondain, Minax, and Exodus. Sure the Guardian conquered worlds, be he did so away from the powers that could defeat him. He also had a lot of time, centuries even. where as the the first three games seem to span fifty years or so.
Somewhere along the way, and after the games were finished, game studios started doing something Hollywood caught onto pretty fast. They started remaking older games. At first it was simply updating graphics and re-mastering, but, especially around the time Squaresoft released a demo for a possible Final Fantasy remake, games started getting more than just facelifts.
What if I could pitch an Ultima Remake?
So I returned to that old nagging issue I had with the buildup of the Ultima series. The biggest baddies coming first, ending with the Guardian. He was powerful alright, but not world-wide reality-space/time-bending fusing-two-planets-together powerful. Compared to Minax, Mondain's apprentice, pulling down the moon is like the difference between splattering paint on a canvas verses Rembrandt.
If I were to reorder it someway, however, maybe it would work better, flow more smoothly. It really didn't take me long to find the perfect starting point.
In Ultima 4 you are drawn from Earth to Brittania. The world is new, the people are getting on the feet at the start of a new era. The land has been renamed with a nod to it's ruler, Lord British. The ancient wars of the three evils defeated by a legendary warrior. Now is the time to name an adventurer protector of the realm and paragon of the eight virtues.
Seriously, if there was a game that felt like the tutorial level for a modern game, it's 4.
No huge conflict, twisty plotline, or heavy feels. Just a journey of self exploration and the betterment of the world.
You learn what's great about the virtues in 4, then how they can be twisted in 5, and how even the best intentions can start wars in 6.
Ultima 7-9, you face the Guardian. At this point, if you haven't read my post on the Guardian's origin, I suggest you go check it out, because this next part isn't going to make much sense.
My theory is that the Guardian is an attempt at synthetically creating a god for the purposes of Mondain's hopeful ascension to cosmic power. He is imbued with powers of immortality, space and time manipulation, and interdimensional travel, but in the span of a god's eternal existence, he is still young. Powerful enough to enslave Britannia, but with possibly only one weakness. His origin point.
It is my theory, that at the end of Ultima 8,the Avatar, now harnessing the powers of the Titans, arrived back in Britannia too late. The Guardian had already won. But an opportunity for speculation came with the opening of Ultima 9. You appeared back on Earth and before the cataclysmic event that had wiped out a world (Possibly two since the Guardian did threaten Earth as well).
The answer could be as simple as time travel. The Time Lord has the ability to work with and see the fabric of time, but possibly didn't have the strength to fight the Guardian for control of it until the Avatar collected it on Pagan. With that amount of power, the Time Lord could gain ground and send the Avatar far enough back in time to face the Guardian as he first came through from the void in some kind of weakened state from travel. This gave the Avatar enough time and opportunity to defeat the guardian at a more vulnerable state.
But what about immortality? I like to think the Guardian wasn't destroyed. Banished maybe, or incapacitated, sure, but not killed. Just out of the way for the Time Lord to hurl the Avatar back in time again. Far back to face the three evils of the age of darkness.
To become the Legendary Hero the world needed in it's darkest hours. To put a stop to the Guardian before its genesis.
The beauty of changing the timeline around in this manner is that there isn't much to change. The Guardian's origins were somewhat thin in detail in the final game. There's a sizable hole between 8 and 9 that fills up quite nicely. And the first three Ultimas were not plot heavy. In fact, limitations of the time they were written pretty much forbade a complicated story.
There are no longer the same limitations so we are free to add in our own stories if given the chance.
The biggest change, I suppose, is simply the ending of Ultima 9. There are those who liked the idea of the Avatar Ascension into Godhood, but may I make just one last Observation about that particular plot point. Although it's layering headcanon on top of more headcanon driving the idea further away from the source material, what if the Avatar ascends following the defeat of Exodus, the god creating machine?
What powers would a machine capable of god creation be containing that the Avatar might require? That depends on whether the Avatar is successful in stopping the creation of the Guardian.
Now let THAT idea sink in, what if he FAILS. He's too late. He's not powerful enough, not virtuous enough, the entity that would become the Guardian slips away into the void through a vortex and out of reach.
Enter the Loop : The Avatar takes on the role of a god-like being and must seek out another hopeful soul of destiny. Another potential Avatar to send to Britannia to test their mettle by completing the Quest of the Avatar.
- The Pitch -
To be completed if/after the rest of the headcanon is complete.