At the start of Warriors of Destiny, the player learns that Lord British has been lost on an expedition into the Underworld, and the throne of Britannia has been usurped by a tyrant known as Lord Blackthorn, while three shadowy figures known as the Shadowlords terrorize the countryside. Blackthorn enforces a strict, fundamentalist version of the eight virtues, which leads to results that are anything but virtuous (for example, citizens are required to give to charity or else face execution). The Avatar is summoned back to Britannia by his friends; together they form the "Warriors of Destiny" in order to eliminate the Shadowlords, undermine Blackthorn's rule, and restore Lord British to his throne.
Warriors of Destiny featured much more polished writing (earlier games were riddled with some orthographical errors and uneven vocabulary) and considerably greater detail than previous games. It was the first Ultima to implement a time-of-day system in which the sun rises and sets, and non-player characters follow daily routine schedules. This game has been lauded as realistically portraying a culture living under a dictatorial regime; its tone is much darker than that of Ultima IV.
Like the previous two games in the series, Ultima V was also ported to the NES by Origin and published through FCI/Pony Canyon; it was released as Ultima: Warriors of Destiny in 1991. Each of the NES games had significant differences from the originals; this NES version was, however, a less faithful rendition of the source material than its predecessors had been. Introductory parts were cropped; graphics and gameplay were relatively limited (a clear example is that the swamp terrain was represented by magical poison fields); and there were few music tracks.
The Commodore version of Ultima V lacks a musical score when played on a C64, due to lack of available RAM memory. The game's music will only play when it is run on a C128 in the C128's native mode. Additionally, the included fast loader of the Commodore version will only work on (American) NTSC C64s because of its intricate timing, so users of the slightly slower (European) PAL C64s were forced to select a third-party floppy disk drive type at the initial menu and had to live with very slow loading. On the C128, the native fast-loading code of that system is used, so that this problem disappears.
There are three Shadowlords: Nosfentor, the Shadowlord of Cowardice; Astaroth, the Shadowlord of Hatred; and Faulinei, the Shadowlord of Falsehood. Each of the lords represents the antithesis of one of the three principles of Truth, Love, and Courage. Each Shadowlord's name must be learned by the player in order to defeat them.
Ultima V used a modified form of the Elder Futhark runic alphabet for some game text, adding some letters to make a complete one-to-one correspondence with the English alphabet (plus a few runes to represent some common two-letter combinations). While all the earlier Ultima games since Ultima II had used runes on accompanying material such as maps and manuals and Ultima IV had shown single runes on the screen in specific situations, Ultima V was the first part of the series to incorporate multi-letter runic texts into the actual on-screen display.
In May 2008, a complete remake of Ultima V was created for TI calculators (TI-89, TI-89Ti, TI-92+, and TI-V200) . See the Ultima V for TI Calcs project forums.