GOG today announced the surprise release of both games in Origin's Worlds of Ultima (aka Ultima Worlds of Adventure) series. Both titles are available free. The idea behind both "Worlds" games was that Origin could re-use the existing Ultima VI engine to create lower budget games between 'numbered' releases. A second team of developers would focus on spinoffs while others continued work on Ultima VII.
Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire (1990) transports the Avatar to a jungle world full of dinosaurs and stone-age people. Much of the development team would go on to work on Wing Commander II, including Stephen Beeman who directed both games. An SNES port was developed by Billy Cain, lead designer of Wing Commander Prophecy.
Ultima Worlds of Adventure: Martian Dreams (1991) is a significantly more complex game set in the Victorian era and featuring a trip to Mars and a cast of familiar historical characters (including Sigmund Freud and Nikola Tesla.) Oft-forgotten is that much of the game is not spent on Mars but in fact in the various characters' dreams. Martian Dreams was championed by Wing Commander produced Warren Spector. Spector was clearly enamored of the possibilities offered by the Worlds platform; his papers at the University of Texas include dozens of concepts for further spinoff adventures.
Lower than expected sales doomed the series and the lack of a retail CD-ROM release has left it an obscure footnate for most gamers. Development of a tangential third title, Arthurian Legends, began after Martian Dreams but ultimately came to naught as the development team was slowly transferred away for other projects. Origin did continue to develop spinoff projects based on existing engines, including Serpent Isle, Crusader, System Shock and a host of RealSpace games.
These releases are not part of GOG's 25-title Electronic Arts deal and were instead provided as part of the disjointed promotion for the yet-to-be-announced Ultima Forever social game.