Ultima IX: Ascension is the ninth and final part of the main series of the role-playing video game series Ultima. Developed by Origin Systems and published by Electronic Arts, Ultima IX was released in 1999 for Microsoft Windows after years in development hell. Following the Avatar's escape from Pagan, he is transported back to Britannia for one final battle with the Guardian, who is increasingly ruining the physical and moral fabric of that land by use of eight columns. The Avatar must fight his way to the runes of virtue found in each of the columns, and cleanse them in the shrines of Virtue, then face off against the Guardian himself.
A difference from previous Ultima games is that in Ultima IX the player has less control of what path to take in the game. Most areas of Britannia are blocked off until specific tasks are completed, reducing the amount of initial exploration available to the player.
The game world is rendered in a detailed and seamless manner, but Britannia is much smaller in overall area than previous games. For example, Britain, the largest city of Britannia, consists of only a few buildings.
In the beginning of Ultima IX, the Avatar had somehow returned to Earth for an unspecified amount of time before getting back to Britannia. The game starts just after the end of Ultima VIII, in which the Avatar is transported to a Guardian-controlled Britannia. He arrives in Britannia on a mountain overlooking the Guardian's keep in Terfin. The Avatar is transported to Stonegate by Hawkwind the Seer (from Ultima IV), who informs him that great columns have appeared throughout the land, and their malignant influence has caused plagues, famine, and other natural disasters. Under their power, the people of Britannia have twisted the Virtues into mockeries of their true meaning. The Guardian is helped by Lord Blackthorn, who leads the Wyrmguards and forces the people to obey the Guardian.