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Diablo 4 is coming soon, but what was the first hack and slay?

Diablo 4 is one of the most anticipated games of 2023. Many fans are looking forward to playing Hack&Slay soon, but do you actually know how the genre got its start? We take you to a time full of pixels and a lot of imagination that a gamer had to have.

What was the first Hack&Slay? The first well-known Hack&Slay, which also influenced Gerne, was the fantasy game “Ultima” from 1981. This is a game for the platforms Apple II, Atari 8 Bit Systems, Commodore 64, DOS, FM Towns and MSX . The title was the first professionally created game from game developer Richard Garriott, who was also executive producer of Tabula Rasa.


The graphics are very old compared to today’s games and yet Ultima was able to captivate many players with its game type and setting. We now take you into the world of Sosaria and show you what Ultima had to offer.

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Ancient graphics, new genre and a whimsical world

What is Ultima about? Ultima is set in a medieval fantasy setting. Richard Garriott was inspired by well-known fantasy universes such as Dungeons & Dragons and The Lord of the Rings. So you find yourself in the mystical world of Sosaria and as a stranger you have to stop the evil magician Mondain, who has made himself invincible with his crystal of invulnerability.


Your task is to find four special crystals on different continents of Sosaria in order to be able to activate a time machine. With this time machine you can then travel to a timeline where Mondain is not yet immortal and then kill him.

As a stranger, you then of course also have the option of choosing one of four classes at the start: the fighter, cleric, rogue or magician.

In addition, there are even four races to choose from: human, elf, dwarf or “Bobbit”. And while you couldn’t tell the difference with the rustic graphics, each class had its own strengths.

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Is there an open world? The world of Ultima is completely open world and can be explored by you. There are not only different kingdoms waiting to be discovered, but also dungeons to be looted or stolen from.

How was the combat system? The battles were turn-based. If you missed the time limit, it was your opponent’s turn to hit you. This was not only the case in dungeons, but also in the open world opponents could attack you randomly and without warning. So the world of Ultima was very much alive.


What made Ultima so special? The most interesting thing about Ultima is the world and how it evolves through your progression. You’ll start off with ancient weapons like bows and swords, and before you know it, you’ll be able to snag guns, lightsabers, and even battle T-Fighters with spaceships.

Ultima T Fighter Star Wars
From the Middle Ages to Sci-Fi – The world of Ultima changes so drastically on your journey (via

The contrast and especially how the world changes through your actions and becomes sci-fi makes Ultima bizarre, because nobody would have expected such changes in a game from 1981.

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Basically, the fantasy game of the time offered a lot of cool things and was ahead of many games of its time. For this reason, Richard Garriott’s game also paved the way for the Hack & Slay genre.


What do you think of Ultima? Do you know the title and have you even played the first part of this fantasy game series? Let us know in the comments!

The first commercially successful game is already 50 years old – do you know it?

Our cover image is an iconic image of a boy sitting in front of his gaming gear.


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