Ultima Online: Rennaisance

The best way to throw $120 a year down the drain?

Released september, 1997 by Origin, Ultima Online was the first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game). For those of you who are unfamiliar with RPGs, an RPG is a Role Playing Game, so in otherwords you play a role through your character. The standard RPG has you either choose a preset character class (such as Warrior, Mage etc.) or create your own character class, however the latter is far more uncommon.

In Ultima Online you have the choice of three presets, either a Mage, Warrior or Blacksmith. Alternatively, one can create their own character class by choosing up to three skills and balancing the three character attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence). At this stage the game is looking like your standard RPG, and nothing too exciting. However, once you have created your character and you enter the world your eyes open wide and you hold your breath in utter... dissappointment.

"Ugh..." was the only word that escaped my mouth at this point. The graphics were so outdated it was ludicrous. Despite the fact the game was created in 1997, Origin just hadn't bothered releasing a modernised version in over four years (note that Third Dawn's graphics are still old and outdated and not altogether better than the normal version). "Why?" I constantly asked myself as a dribbled through the dull "newbie" tutorial and constantly shook my head at the fuzzy 4 year old graphics and tinny 2D Music.

I continued into the game with slight sceptisim, but optimistic hope for overwhelming gameplay. I finished the tutorial, once again dissappointed at the dullness of it, and continued on. I met a few older players who helped me get to, basiacally, the capital city of Ultima Online, Brittain. Now being an RPG, I rigidly stuck to my persona, and even spoke in proper Ye Olde English. I entered the "town square" (an area outside the bank I dubbed town square because everyone hangs around it), and began speaking in Ye Olde English, and as I had taken a Warrior character I decided my persona would be that of a mercenary. I offered my services to anyone interested (not knowing at the time that I was horridly weak, but that is besides the point) and I was not met with a return of in character responses, but a storm of normal speech. What made this breaking of character even worse was that over 50% of it was slandering and ridicule - on Ultima Online, Newbies are not welcomed by the majority.

A few kind souls offerred their help and harried me away from the "town sqaure". They told me of how few people on Ultima Online stayed in character, and that even fewer hire "mercenaries". So they pointed me in the way of the graveyard, equipped me with a better sword and armor and departed. So now I head off down a path towards the graveyard bitterly dissapointed. So far I had been bored out of my brain, then my vision of the RPG (in character acting) shattered. Still, I pressed on, I could not judge the game without playing it completely.

Upon reaching the graveyard I began slaying zombies, skeletons and wraiths. This was increasingly dull, as the game is an overhead perspective, much like Diablo. Unlike Diablo, however, one does not even need to click. One click on a monster will initiate an attack, and after that the attack carries itself out, blow after blow exchanged by you and the monster. I continued on, thinking that perhaps this could still have the appeal of Diablo.

Next I learnt about skills. Skills replace the experience system in Ultima Online. Rather than having levels, there are simply skill percentages. You are always at one of two stages in your skills, non-grandmaster or grandmaster. You start off at non-grandmaster (obviously) with a low percantage (around 30-40%) in three skills. You can have a total of 700 skill points, so each character you have can Grandmaster in seven skills (which you traditionally choose to work on from the beggining). As for your attributes, Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, they do not raise like your skills, but instead raise by carrying out actions that utilise one or all of these attributes (for example, attacking a monster constantly may eventually raise your Strength or Dexterity by one). Skills, on the other hand, I simply raised passively. For example, attacking a creature raises swordsmanship constantly, using magic raises magery constantly. This completely takes the fun out of levelling up, as all I required to do to get better at swordsmanship was click on a monster once, then I could walk away, do something else and come back.

Ultima Online is not an RPG, the RPG elements have been warped and twisted out of recognition or completely eliminated. Do not buy this game if you want to play an RPG. I do not reccommend this game to any RPG fans, and wouldn't even reccommend this to Diablo fans, for it lacks the queer appeals of Diablo. It is, however, an addictive game, wanting to become grandmaster of your skills nevertheless, and the accumulation of money is more or less the driving force of the game. The game can be marginally fun at times, however it is fairly costly and very time consuming, you can spend an entire day working towards something and not even reaching your goal. Overall, Ultima Online is a hard game to review, it is incredibly lacking in some aspects, all the while mildly entertaining in others. As a last note, hostility towards Newbies and the utter uselessness of Orgin's moderators really drags the game down.

My reccommendation: save your money and buy something modern (or wait for Final Fantasy XI).

Final Verdict:

Graphics: 1/5
Sound: 1/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Playability: 3/5
Overall: 2/5