Martian Dreams is the second (and sadly also the last) part of Worlds of Adventure, a spin-off series of Ultima games set in our universe instead of Britannia. Like the predecessor The Savage Empire it draws inspiration from pulp novels and science fiction stories. Especially those tales full of excitement with heroic guys (and occasionally girls) on the cover who single-handedly save the world/planet by fighting hordes of enemies in the most exotic places imaginable. This time you set forth on a journey to Mars, so it pays homage to novels like Burroughs’ Barsoom stories, Well‘s The War of the Worlds and Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon.
By the mid-1990s, PC gaming had been almost exclusively taken over by 3D shooters and so-called real-time strategy. Both genres were inherently computer-based, due to controller restrictions on console systems, leading to quite some passionate pride on the part of PC proponents who overall found themselves in a defensive position in this era. Though the huge success of the genre beacons (in the real-time strategy genre: the duopoly of Command & Conquer and Warcraft) came at a price. All the other companies wanted a slice and imitated the same formula very closely. By 1998, the genre had already driven itself into a dead end.
Manual and box already catch the eye of the mystery fan, as – using a lot of dark colours – they summon up a story of magicians in parallel worlds, about magical portals and about a hub called Nietoom. The aura of the phantastic genre is there. The manual also helps understanding the game's starting screen. You find yourself in the bedroom of your late grandfather who, until his death, researched the location of this portal of worlds. The room is shown with a crooked horizon line and the player's avatar is actually nowhere to be seen. Maybe the now missing grandfather is supposed to be symbolic for a world in turmoil. In order to leave the room and to really start your task, you have to – as described in the manual – search the side of the screen until you find a door in the back of the viewpoint. It is only in the next room – the upper staircase of the mansion – that you can actually take a look at the protagonist: a youthful figure neatly dressed in a kind of dressing gown, sporting full, perfectly groomed hair. Though is this prissy grandson the character a Lucas Arts afficionado would like to identify with?