Your review of Ultima IV makes me sad although it is reasonably argued.
I agree the ethical stuff doesn't impact gameplay that much, at least IMO. I like the idea of it but you don't have choice in how you proceed (it's the Avatar's way or the highway). And yeah, basic gameplay is the hack-and-slay level/loot grind that came before and after. But I do give U4 a lot of credit for at least trying new themes (previously it was all about Kill Foozle), and for adding several new game mechanics including the NPC conversations (which has become hugely important in subsequent RPGs), the ability to recruit NPCs from the gameworld, and the spell reagents. It was also stylistically a triple A title. The graphics were beautiful for their time (I am referring to the C64 version) and the music was wonderful too.
I also like the sheer scope of the gameworld. The size may be seen as tedious and indeed, even in 1986, my brothers and I lampooned it as such -- though mainly because there were so many damn random monsters and you had to keep fighting them. The world itself was never my problem, I just wish there weren't so many orc-bands you have to flee from. (But if I had realized at the time that you can hit the Y key to yell "giddap" and speed up your horse, I might have had fewer problems on that front.)
For me it was a real revelation to have a gameworld so big you could actually get lost in it. Ultima IV didn't pioneer this, though; Questron had a similarly huge continent a couple years earlier. But Britannia has a lot more personality and sense of "history" than Questron's gameworld did. Part of the credit for that goes to the documentation, I'll admit. The early Ultimas were loaded with multiple instruction manuals with great illustrations, written in cool Ren Faire prose (cool to a 12 year old, anyway), and those swanky cloth maps.
Hipo, I'd recommend you take a gander at Ultima V at some point. In so many ways it is a huge improvement over U4 and really holds up even today. Improved interface, improved combat system, much more interesting loot, first instance of day/night cycles and full NPC schedules. Better plot that gives you a few options, plus a larger pool of NPCs to select for your party. IMO Ultima V is the best Ultima in absolute terms (though I need to give more attention to U7 before I can really make a strong declaration) and is an 8 bit masterpiece.