|Ultima Online - Retroview|
Ultima Online - Review
By: Paul Johnson
| Battle System
| Replay Value
| Time to Complete
The online version of the famous Ultima series, made by Ea/Origin/OSI, Ultima Online (Uo) is the original MMORPG. Released in 1997, it is the longest running Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game out there. With the most dynamic skill system out there and the most diverse playerbase out there Uo is one of the 5 mammoth MMORPGs.
Character development is the only pure skill based system out there. You use a skill, there is a chance of raising it. With values representing your skill ranging from 0.0 to 100.0 and anywhere inbetween you can have quite a customized avatar. You can even raise your character without fighting (!!!! Goodness forbid !!!! =P). There is a limitation, however. You cannot have more than 700.0 total skill. If you raise a skill when you have that much skill another skill goes down. Thusly you cannot have a uber (Extremely powerful) character with 100 in all skills. But, like life, this has a downside. Uo is guilty of being way too easy to raise your character if you play it right. What makes this possible is the Power Hour system where for an hour your skills raise alot faster than normal. This system recharges every 12 hours. I won't go into detail about how I got such skills in such time, however, as it would ruin the game for you.
Player interaction isn't as advanced as in some other MMORPG's, although it gets the job done. Using the same talking system (Slightly altered, of course) as Ultima 9 Ascension where the text appears above your avatar's head it gets pretty bad in certain areas (Britain bank comes to mind). You can also put *'s between the text to show that you are doing that thing, also known as emoting. *Continues to type* is an example that fits this situation.
The battle system is also pretty basic for MMORPG's, but so was the way for the original RPG, right? You simply double click on the enemy while in war mode and use bandages on yourself if you're a fighter. If you're a mage then you cast spells. However, the monster AI has been improving recently, making fights much more interesting if you fight some of the newer monsters.
The interface is very user friendly. With easy, draggable items like your paperdoll, inventory, map and health bars for yourself, your friends and your enemies. In the game itself you move by clicking and holding the right button and pointing it in a certain way from your avatar. The closer to your avatar you are the slower you go while the further away the faster. Modes of alternate transportation include the use of moongates, horses, boats and the spells recall and gate, all of which add to the fun.
Hunting in groups is literally non-existant in this game, unless you're in a guild. Although you can get together in a group and there is a nice number of dungeons and hunting spots for you, nobody that doesn't know you isn't willing to group for you. On those rare occasions that you get together a group of warriors for a raid on Khaldun or other dungeons then you have alot of fun.
PvP (Player Versus Player) fighting is at an all-time high on this game. Although Uo will go down in history as the game that gave PvP a bad name, I won't go into that as that is the past and this is now. This is the only game in which PvP is even close to being balanced. It's quite a sport in this game, although some people can ruin the fun. If you plan upon PvP'ing, then get and Order/Chaos guild instead of Factions, as fighting is alot more civilized and rez-killing (Killing you again and again as soon as you get ressurected) isn't as common.
With the recent move for the new 'Scenarios', this game is finally beginning to roll on the storyline category. They're still tweaking and perfecting their scenario making and such so I shouldn't go into detail here in case they make a drastic change. Lets just say so far they're pretty fun although they pollute the market with useless rares.
This game is fairly bug-free. It has it's share of lag (Network latency. A slowdown in the game pretty much), but it isn't much. One of the only bugs that I can think of is that short spears will appear in your left hand and you will swing with your fist but still do the damage of a short spear (Purely aesthetic bug.)
The music in this game is nice, however it causes a nice deal of lag so most people with dial-up turn it off and just play mp3's behind it. I for one keep the music on because I have cable, although.
There is nothing more original than this game, simply because it is the first of it's kind. This game is as original as FF was, as original as the original Ultima and a whole schlew of others. It may not be the best, but it is the first.
The visuals are well polished sprites and nice back grounds. Some of the monsters look correctly malformed (Ratmen for example) but they fit the job well. With an extremely customizable appearance with clothes that can go over armor you can be picked out of the crowd pretty easily. For example: I always ride a blue ostard (a mount like a horse but kinda reptilian/birdlike) with iron heavy archer (mix of plate and chainmail), a baby-blue cape, body sash, boots and kilt and with my good ol' short spear.
Items in this game aren't very dynamic or special in that matter. There are only 6 (7 if you count demon bone as a separate category) types of armor: Leather, Studded Leather, Ringmail, Chainmail, Platemail, and bone armor. And there are only 3 categories of weapons: Fencing weapons, Swordsmanship weapons, and Macing weapons. You can get magic items however they're the same as the old weapons. There are 4 types of magic for weapons and 3 for armor. Added power, added accuracy, added durability, and added magic effect for weapons in order of most powerful to least. You can have all for on one weapon. For armor it is added defense, added durability, and added magic effect.
The challenge of this game cannot truly be rated. It all depends upon how hard you want to go. If you are one of those 700 skill dexers with maxxed armor and weapons with chock full of potions and you have a severe deathwish you could go fight Ancient Liches in Khaldun (I've actually heard of people doing this) or you could just settle for demons on fire island. If you're a mage with a deathwish you could go to Hythloth and hunt Balrons. Or you could stick with Ogre Lords. It all depends upon your sanity (Or insanity in some cases).
Overall this is a nice game. Theres no real negatives other than being to easy to raise your skills.