I first played Akalabeth... oh, about three or four years ago, when I purchased the Ultima Collection. At first, I found the game rather simple, going into dungeons, killing enemies, and coming back up with the gold and items, to spend on food, which, itself, is needed to survive. But, the more I played, the more I was hooked. Simplistic, yes, but in a day and age when it was new and hi-tech, I'm sure the game was a little more popular.
The release of the Ultima Collection, however, is sure to have given the game some more time in the spotlight.
Akalabeth really is just a dungeon crawler. There are towns, and a castle, too, although the game is limited in that every town is built pretty much the same way. The main part of the game is crawling in dungeons, doing quests for Lord British, and all of these quests are to go down to a certain level, and kill a certain monster. Each monster you kill gets you money and possibly items which help you survive. Food and health are your essential stats, as you'll die of starvation without food, and you'll die, of course, when your health is 0 or less.
In all, you'll go and get quests from Lord British 10 times in a single game of Akalabeth... unless you die. And, if you're not careful, you'll die often.
Monsters, found entirely in the dungeons, are the standard fantasy fare, skeletons, thieves, orcs, and even demons. Similarly, you have a choice of several characters to play, and they are also the standard fantasy fare. The farther down you go, the stronger your enemies become, so keep a close eye on your health. Unlike other games, though, the moment you get back to the Overworld, you'll gain health.
You'll find gold, food, items, weapons, and armour inside the dungeon, all of which will help you survive, although one item in particular, the amulet, is more effective when a Mage character uses it, as it'll have the chance to produce more magical effects. As per usual, the better the weapon and armour, the more damage you deal or are protected from. And, with the gold you find, you can either purchase more food or better weaponry.
In all, although simplistic, Akalabeth, Richard Garriot's first game in the Ultima mythos, is a very fun way to spend a few minutes of free time. Go ahead and give it a try, and don't let the graphics get in your way.