Ultima Online

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Ultima Online, or UO for short, was one of the first MMORPGs on the market, as it was released on September 25, 1997. The game is without a doubt the longest running MMORPG and the first ‘mega popular’ one. Like the rest of the games in the ‘Ultima’ series, Ultima Online is set in the ‘Ultima’ fantasy universe. With 9 expansion packs and countless content updates, UO is still one of the most unique and content rich MMORPGs out there.

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Free Trial Length: 14 Days
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Playerbase: Low
Graphics: Low Quality
Type: MMORPG
EXP Rate: Medium
PvP: Open PvP / Factions / Guild Battles
Filesize: 2,300 MB Installed [5GB After Installed]

Pros: +Enormous amounts of content. +Regular updates. +Massive game world. +Solid player housing. +Unique Skill based Progression.

Cons: -Learning curve is off the charts. -Graphical glitches. -PvP is item dependent. -Declining playerbase.

*No Credit Card Needed! It may say you need one, But you don’t*

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Overview

Ultima Online Overview

Ultima Online was the first ‘popular’ MMORPG and its success has helped fuel the growth of the entire industry.The game recently got a huge graphical overhaul with the ‘Kingdom Reborn’ expansion pack, which made the game a bit easier on the eyes and a bit more competitive with other pay to play titles. Even though the graphics have been overhauled, they’re still far from pretty. Perhaps the game’s most interesting aspect is that there are no set classes and instead the game has a unique skill based progression system where players can pick and chose the skills they want for their character. Skills can be quickly forgotten and relearned, which makes every character incredibly dynamic. The sheer amount of content in this game is simply mind boggling, as the game has both a massive game world and an extremely rich crafting / resource gathering system. The game’s biggest drawback though is the learning curve, as the game itself does little to ‘ease’ newbies into the game. Ultima Online is certainly one of the most unique MMORPGs out there and if you can spend some time figuring the game out, you won’t regret it.

Ultima Online Screenshots

Ultima Online Featured Video

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Full Review

Ultima Online Review

Ultima Online (UO), brings back quite a bit of memories. It was the first MMORPG I’ve ever played and it was the game that turned me into an MMORPG gamer. The first thing I’d like to point out about UO is that the game has truly survived the test of time. It was launched on September 25, 1997 as one of the first MMORPGs and has since released 8 expansion packs, a boat load of free content updates and another expansion pack titled ‘Stygian Abyss’ on the way. The only other pay to play MMORPG with a comparable history of longevity and success is Everquest, but Ultima Online is still a good year older than it. To put things into perspective, Ultima Online is sort of the ‘Pong’ of the MMORPG Genre. Just as the success of Pong led to the huge growth in the video games, the success of Ultima Online led to the explosive growth of the MMORPG genre. Enough with the history lessons though, let’s start talking about the actual gameplay.

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Welcome to Britannia

Ultima Online is set in the fantasy world of Britannia. The game world is absolutely enormous, as it has has 6 different ‘worlds’; Trammel, Felucca, Ilshenar, Malas and Tokuno. You’ll start your adventure in UO by first creating your character. The character creation process isn’t anything special. It’s perhaps impressive when compared to a ‘free to play’ title, but in the realm of ‘pay to play’ games, the character creation is actually quite disappointing. Players can chose from one of two races, Humans or Elves, and customize their character’s hair and facial hair. That’s it. On top of that, both of the game’s races are almost identical. After you actually log into the game, you’ll be presented with a fairly short yet informative tutorial. It’ll teach you the very basics of the game, but that’s about it.

Upon finishing the tutorial, you’ll be thrown into the game’s world in the town of New Haven with absolutely no direction. This is perhaps Ultima Online’s biggest flaw; the game is terrible at easing new players into the game. Luckily though, a lot of ‘veteran’ players tend to hang out at New Haven, so it’s very easy to find assistance if needed, but players will need to actively seek help if they expect to get anywhere in the UO, as the game simply has so much content and things to do, it’s easy to get lost without some guidance. I suspect most players will be turned off by the game’s lack of direction.

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Are we still in 1998?

Perhaps Ultima Online’s biggest failure is its inability to ‘keep up with the times’. The game looked great back in 1998 when it launched, but has since failed to keep up with their competitors. Great looking 3D games like Dark Age of Camelot and Eve Online completely put Ultima Online’s ancient graphics to shame. In order to try and keep up with their competitors, the folks at EA released ‘Third Dawn’, in 2003 which was meant modernize the game with a new 3D engine, but unfortunately the game’s 3D was so piss poor that players shunned the update and stuck with their old 2D client. In 2008 the folks at EA tried once again to push their new 3D client in the expansion pack ‘Kingdom Reborn’ but although the graphics were vastly improved over ‘Third Dawn’ a good deal of players are still using the 2D client, and with good reason. The ‘Kingdom Reborn’ client still has quite a bit of 3D bugs / glitches. One such glitch occurs when walking in and out of ‘gates’, or portals, as it sometimes leads to the entire screen turning black and distorted. I’ve actually talked with quite a few players in the game, and they’ve also reported similar problems, so it certainly wasn’t just on my end. Even with Kingdom Reborn’s new graphics, Ultima Online still cannot even begin to compete graphically with newer MMORPGs. The graphics actually look a lot like the new Runescape HD, which isn’t terrible but its certainly not good.

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Skill Based Progression Done Right.

One thing that distinguishes Ultima Online from other pay to play games is its unique skill based progression system. The game has absolutely no ‘levels’ and instead has a unique system where players can build their character in any way they like. The system is rather quite simple but also ingenious. Every character has a maximum of ’700′ total ‘learnable skill points’ and players can work on improving any of the game’s 55 skills up to a maximum of ’120 points’ into each. Even though there are 55 different types of skills, the maximum ‘learnable skills’ cap makes it so players can really only specialize in a handful of them. The two most common character builds are 5 skills with 120 points into each or 7 skills with 100 points into each. Sure players can distribute points differently, like 72 points here, 15 there and 29 there and so on, but it would result in a weaker character. The skills though aren’t just ‘allocated’, they have to be learned. In order to improve the ‘Swordsmanship’ skill for example, a player would need to use a sword in battle against an enemy or if a player wanted to improve their ‘Blacksmithing’ they would need to physically craft weapons and armor. An interesting twist to this system is that if a player wants to learn a new skill after he has already reached his maximum ’700′ total ‘learnable points’ he can do so without re-rolling a new character simply by adjusting his skill growth settings accordingly. It’s actually really simple to do and allows players to easily ‘change’ their characters without having to make a completely new character. The beauty of Ultima Online’s skill system is that it really allows players to build their character in a nearly infinite different ways. I’m surprised that more game’s haven’t used this system, as I find it a lot more flexible than the generic ‘level based progression’ system that most MMORPGs employ today.

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Crafting Galore

Ultima Online is perhaps the most diverse MMORPG I’ve ever played. It’s the only game that truly offers players things to do besides fighting, PvE and PvP included. The game currently has 10 unique trade / crafting skills ranging from Cooking to Tailoring to Alchemy. UO probably has the most extensive crafting system of any game in terms the number of cratable items. Some of the game’s best weapons and armor can only be gained through crafting, which makes crafting skills extremely important. The only real drawback to the game’s crafting system is that players can’t be both fighters and crafters, as the game has skill caps. Because of the skill caps, the only effective way of using crafting skills is to make an entirely new character dedicated solely dedicated to crafting skills. This system, although unique, sort of discourages players from experimenting with the game’s extensive crafting system, as they’d need to create an entirely new character.

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REAL Persistent World Housing!?

Player housing has been an idea that a lot of MMORPGs have experimented with, but few have succeeded with. Ultima Online is one of the only games that truly handled player housing exceptionally well. Pay to play games like Dark Age of Camelot and Asheron’s Call have toyed with the idea with limited success. Free to play titles like Wonderland Online, Nostale and Stoneage 2 have also taken a crack at the player housing idea but have largely failed. Player housing works so well in Ultima Online because houses are placed in the game’s persistent world, rather than a special ‘zone’ designated for housing. The fact that player homes are actually a part of the game world makes the system incredibly attractive because there’s nothing quite like having a home right next to a major city of owning a home on a lush beach. Houses are also 100% customizable, which means that players are free to let their imagination run wild. The game’s built in house customization tool is incredibly powerful and easy to use so designing a home is actually quite fun, especially since the whole world can see it.

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Free Trial Limitations

Ultima Online has perhaps one of the best ‘free trials’ of any pay to play game. It only has a handful of restrictions which most likely won’t affect new players anyway. The biggest restriction is that trial characters cannot own a home, but odds new players won’t be able to earn enough money to buy one anyway. Another small limitation is that trial account users can’t venture into dungeons in Fellucia or travel to the ‘lost lands’, but no new player should be going to those places anyway and they’re just a few of the thousands of hunting areas in the game. Aside from that, players are practically free to experience everything the game has to offer and 14 days is plenty of time to decide whether to subscribe or quit. On top of all this, the free trial doesn’t even require a credit card, which may sound obvious but the truth is most free trials require them.

Final Verdict – Fair

Ultima Online, even though innovative, just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with more modern MMORPGs. Content wise, Ultima Online easily has the most content of any MMORPG, but it lacks the presentation, playerbase and ease of newer ‘pay to play’ titles.

Screenshots

Ultima Online Screenshots


Videos

Ultima Online Videos

System Requirements

Ultima Online Requirements

Minimum Requirements:
OS: Windows 2000 /XP /Vista
CPU: Pentium 3 1.0 GHz or AMD Equivalent
RAM: 512 MB
HDD: 6.0 GB Free
Graphics Card: 64 MB 3D Graphics Card. (GeForce 3 Class card or better)

Recommended Specifications:
OS: Windows XP / Vista
CPU: Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz / AMD Equivalent
RAM: 1.0 GB or more
HDD: 8 GB Free
Graphics Card: 128 MB 3D Graphics Card. (Geforce 6200 or better)

 
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