Over fifteen years ago Ultima Online left its mark on MMOs forever. Now here we are in 2013 and EA’s Mythic Studio is set to launch Ultima Forever onto Mobile devices and eventually the PC. I demo we saw had the game on an iPad and in a word it looked addictive. The game is designed as a co-op MMO allowing up to four player dungeons. Ultima Forever really does look to change mobile gaming forever. Here is what we learned at GDC.
The demo we saw began with a tap movement system which also has smartpath to get around the dungeons and outside areas. You can interact with a lot of objects in the game. There are levers, traps, and gates. As you go through a dungeon there are checkpoints which allow you to respawn so you don’t have to go back to the beginning. The interface moved very well on the iPad and the look of the game is beautiful. The hand painted tiles stand out on the screen and it is easy to get around.
Next we watched the combat which was easy to learn. Tap targeting is there for your basic attacks and each player gets five abilities on the side of the screen to use. The game will launch with two classes: warrior and mage. However they do plan to add all of the classic Ultima classes into the game such as Druid, Bard, Ranger, and Paladin. The warrior was all melee with attacks to the front, flanks, and even a backstab. The mage is the glass cannon of ranged damage. There were a variety of spell icons on the screen.
The game is focused around finding different types of keys. The bronze keys you can find almost anywhere from defeating monsters or smashing open barrels. These are used for basic loot repairs and can be grouped together to get the next level of key. Silver keys can be found through adventuring but are also available in the cash store. The silver keys offer better loot options. The last are the Gold keys which are for purchase and can help you in all manner of ways. They unlock cosmetic rewards, time rewards, and many other top level enhancements. These keys are tied to a loot system of Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Epic loot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a grind system, it is not even close. All of the game play we saw looked fun and keys were easily accessible.
Dungeons launch from central hubs where players can meet up. There is also a chat system which has groups, global, and specific tells to friends. Along with this the game does have a Facebook interface so your friends will know when you are playing. The dungeons can range anywhere from five minutes to forty five minutes. The team was aiming for quick game play with still a bit of an epic feel for the longer dungeons. Now exploring the world and going to different towns, that is something completely different. The best part is you will be able to run dungeons with your friends, and the more friends you have the more compassion you build.
This takes us into the eight virtues of Ultima is something that really set the series apart in the olden days. All of the virtues are programed into Ultima Forever. You have bars for each virtue and you can grow all eight or work heavily on a few. Some virtues are more valuable to have in certain cities. For example the people of Skara Brae find Spirituality as the highest of the virtues. If your spirituality is high then Sakara Brae will be particularly welcoming to you. The virtues are: Honesty, Spirituality, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Honor, Sacrifice, and Humility. There are lots of hidden tests in the game which will build up all of these virtues.
The last thing the team wanted us to know was that there are loads of side quests and hidden areas in the game. We ran into a secret door during a dungeon which led us to a whole new area. The team felt very strongly about exploring the maps and opening up vaults to players.
Ultima Forever looks fantastic. As a mobile game it looks to turn the genre in an entire new direction. It has a smooth interface, very fun game play, and offers a lot of depth to a platform that has not had too many decent offerings in recent past. We are very excited to see Ultima Forever launch, even if it’s not a “true” MMO. It’s certainly something we’re all eager to play, and it may just live up to its predecessors’ legacy.