|At a Glance:
Ultima Online (UO) is an online fantasy role playing
game by Origin which uses a game engine very similar to its single player predecessors
(Ultimas VII and VIII). It offers a familiar third-person perspective with an interface
that is mostly point and click, and highly customizable. The biggest distinction between
the older Ultima titles and newer Ultima Online is the multi-player aspect of the UO
world. Multi-player gameplay in UO gives you the opportunity to interact with hundreds, if
not thousands, of other people who play online in the UO universe. If you can manage to
get through the lengthy installation and patching process of UO, you are sure to find
something in this game that keeps you coming back for more.
UOs setting is comprised of a single world which has been shattered into a
multi-verse of sorts. The games introduction sequence tells the story of how this
came about. This intro has little bearing on the gameplay within UO, but it is an
interesting way to introduce you, the subscriber, to UOs concept of many individual
Britannias, each unique unto themselves. Your characters may be created and played in many
different worlds (residing on different servers distributed across the United States)
which are more or less the same, geographically speaking, but have completely different
Character Creation and Development:
UOs character creation system is fairly flexible, allowing you to choose from
many varieties of skills or letting you choose a "class" template and developing
your character based on that template. It will even let you change the initial values for
your skills and your physical/mental attributes, which are made up of strength,
dexterity and intelligence. Your first character might
start out moderately proficient in his/her chosen abilities. More likely, however, as you
first get aquatinted with the system, you will probably find yourself with a character
that you feel is sub-standard or even completely worthless. Nevertheless, I would
encourage you to play the character out, simply for the learning experience and role-play
aspect of the game.
Developing your character in this completely skill-based system can get even trickier,
as you try to leverage the worth of one skill vs. another and not waste your precious
playing time (we all have real lives, right?) The ability to bring your PCs back from the
dead, by various means, gives you some room for experimentation and a margin of
forgiveness when it comes to playing and developing your character. Youll even have
the option to resurrect on the spot at the cost of valuable skill points.
Depending upon your gaming style, you may find it hard at first to fit into this
on-line multi-verse of Britannia. You should be very aware of your actions and those of
others as they can quickly bring an end to your characters life at least
Those who are familiar with Ultima VIII Pagan and other Ultima titles will feel right
at home with the world presented to you by UOs development team. While many things
have changed, the top-down perspective of previous Ultima titles is still utilized in this
release. From the buildings and streets in town, to the rest of the world at large
(including the deadly dungeons of Britannia), the land has been beautifully crafted and
rendered, optimized for 16-bit color displays. Almost every action can be a achieved with
the mouse, as you would expect from any good title on the market these days. However, the
hot-key options for Ultima are also superb and very helpful, shortening many tedious
mouse-intensive tasks, into a simple keystroke combination. You can even have your PC do
multiple things at one time with just one keystroke combo.
While the combat engine is pretty complex, it pretty much runs like this visually:
See monster, enter war mode, click on monster, kick back and eat a donut while you
watch the two of you battle it out on screen.
This aspect of UO is a bit of a toss-up, as some people dont like the basic lack
of options when it comes to actually doing combat on-screen. For others though, this style
offers a degree of simplicity that allows them to spend more time worrying about other
gaming aspects, instead of mastering the hand-eye coordination required to be successful
in more complex combat interfaces. For myself, it neither adds or detracts from the
overall feel of the game.
The Good Summary:
Origin, always on the cutting edge, has outdone themselves in making a rich gaming
environment with regards to game mechanics and the overall layout of the world. The easy
to use player interface and high-quality graphics of the main screen are superb. The auto
patch feature, while not unique to UO, also scores high marks in my book. The on-line help
feature built into UO is another welcome addition. Though a bit lacking in some ways, you
can find many answers using the automated help system. If this fails, you can usually
contact a GM (though they often are not able to respond in a very timely manner) and you will
eventually receive the answers to your UO questions.
The Bad Summary:
If you are a hard-core role player who seeks to immerse yourself in a vibrant, on-line
persona, be prepared for some disappointment. Though UO has an awesome potential to be a
true fantasy universe for those who wish to play "in character" (i.e. behaving
in a realistic manner completely within the boundaries of the game world), UO falls
somewhat short of this lofty goal. (This can be attributed largely to the players
themselves, who often dont take the time to create a vivid persona and develop it to
any great extent.) While it is possible to make a living in Britannia while staying
"in character", it is not easy. Also, sometimes the lag and occasional crashes
can really detract from the game play elements. While the graphics are excellent, the
musical score can really get old after a while. Lastly, while I like the auto patch
feature, if you are freshly installing the game you should be prepared for an extended
patching session; bring along a burger and some fries and possibly a movie or good book to
read while you wait.
Tips for Beginners:
Youll want to make friends as soon as possible. Dont go adventuring too far
outside of town without a group of "trusted" PCs and when in doubt, RUN!
The world of Britannia is full of monsters, and even worse, players, just waiting to take
your head off. At first, youll be lucky to take any one of them on, but dont
with a little luck and training you should see your way through. Also, while I
normally wouldnt recommend hint books unless necessary, the official UO hint book by
Prima was and still is worth the $25.00 I shelled out for it. It will give you a lot of
insight into the complex and fantastic world Origin has created.
Last but not least, whether you seek out strict role-players as companions, or those
who role-play a bit more loosely, or even a group who views random Player-Killing as the
only way of life
the choice is yours. Youll find a wide variety of players and
wont like them all - so take what you like and ignore the rest. The world of
Britannia is only what you make of it, just as in real life.
Return to Reviews...