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If you haven’t heard, Ultima Forever is an Ultima MMO coming to iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and iOS platforms later this Summer 2013, developed by Mythic Entertainment and published by EA. It will hit other platforms like Android and PC later on, and potentially console downloadable services as well, but that hasn’t been announced.

Fully titled “Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar”, the game is a remake of Ultima IV, but takes the series in a drastic new, modern direction. The base game is being built upon Ultima IV (although set 21 years into the future), and will update, improve upon (well, your mileage may vary), and add many new features so as to play like an all-new title.

The illustrious 30-year legacy of the Ultima franchise continues with Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar. Return to one of western gaming’s most beloved series and become the Avatar. Set twenty-one years after the events of Ultima IV, the world of Britannia is slowly being engulfed by the Black Weep. It is a faceless plague that consumes the spiritual, instills fear in the valorous and corrupts the honorable. Lady British has called forth for heroes like you to help save the world before it is consumed by the endless dark. It’s up to you and your fellow players to help save the land. Delve into this expansive saga as you search for a cure to the Black Weep, and meet many of Britannia’s inhabitants along the way. Choices are a big part of the experience in Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, and decisions should be made wisely as they may have a later impact. Meet hundreds of other players in city hubs, form parties, and set forth on grand adventures. Explore dungeons to uncover the cause of the Black Weep, and take down enemies in fast, explosive combat. The rewards are great, with the chance to uncover rare items and treasures that unlock your fame and fortune. Become the Avatar and save Britannia from the Black Weep! • Play the ultimate mobile RPG for FREE • Enjoy hundreds of hours of quests and dungeons • Embark on epic adventures across a vast open world • Explore dungeons and defeat enemies in fast paced, co-op action combat • Personalize your adventure with special abilities, epic gear, and cosmetic items • Choose your actions wisely, as every choice may have a later impact • Experience immersive storylines as you help Britannia’s inhabitants

 

The game looks pretty nice graphically. No longer an 8-bit sore to the eyes, the graphics have been completely redone in a modern style with beautiful hand-painted backgrounds and 3D models. Layered on top of that is an updated UI and Inventory build, new quests and quests with different timelines than the original set far in the future that will give new perspective on events, and all-new gameplay elements, among other things.

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The biggest new feature, of course, is the fact that this will be a Massively Multiplayer Online title with action-RPG gameplay (yes you read that right), allowing you to group together with your friends and complete quests and dungeons as a unit. As such, you will see people adventuring in your game world as you’re playing, and can chat and team up. All-new stories and quest-lines abound, which will ensure that both veterans and new-comers shall be enthralled with this new version and have something to look forward to (or at least that’s the idea).

EA plans to pack the game with content to give it a long shelf-life. To that end, numerous amounts of loot and equipment abound, and the game features a complex leveling system that belies it’s portable nature. You’ll also have your reputation, honor, honesty and other attributes to keep track of and build upon too.

Of course, as is often the case with online games today, especially MMO’s… some of this will come at a cost. No it’s not a subscription, but it’s the dreaded Freemium model. Those who are annoyed by the urging of videogames these days to get you to buy something as you play, will most certainly be turned off by this feature. In particular, the keys you find in dungeons will always be “low-level” and thus give you low-level loot for the chests that you do have access too. The high level keys? You guessed it. You’ll need to pay for the rarest ones. You’ll also need to pay to unlock “frustration-removers” like more ability slots.

Loot can also only be found in treasure chests, which require a Bronze, Silver or Gold Key. Gold Keys can only be purchased with real money, whereas Silver Keys can be purchased with ten Bronze Keys in-game, or purchased with actual real money. Instanced areas trigger the Action RPG combat, with clicking and tapping to target and attack enemies and area-of-effect damage placed on a cooldown. You can also perform more advanced attacks like backstabs or flanking in order to take out tougher enemies. And thanks accelerate if you are working with three other friends.

As is often the case with the many, many, many free-to-play MMORPG’s that exist these days, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether these nickle-and-dime schemes completely tarnish your childhood memories, or whether the updates to the gameplay, story, graphics, and overall modern remaking is enough to get into the game regardless. There is always the chance that EA could still put in enough content to make the game worth playing even if you never buy anything… but that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt. So “not bloody likely”. But that’s the reality we currently find ourselves in, alas…

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That being said, there is a huge audience of gamers who never played Ultima, and probably couldn’t even get into it even if they tried thanks to the outdated graphics. To them GOG is of no help, cause the game is too old (1985 on PC, 1990 on NES/Sega Master System) to appeal to them. In that way, this game may be able to satisfy modern gamers and give them a touch of the classic Ultima world and story.

Ultima Forever will be released this Summer, and supports cross-platform play between the iOS version and the upcoming PC and other platform versions (Yet to be announced).

If this game drastically turns you off as an Ultima vet, then you’ll surely want to back  Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues Kickstarter-funded videogame that is the true spiritual successor to Ultima, as Lord British (aka Richard Garriot) himself doesn’t have anythign to do with this new EA game. In fact Lady British is due to Lord British having the rights to that title. If you want a game that is more in the style and feel of the original Ultima, then this is definitely the title for you. Shroud of the Avatar has already met it’s $1,00,000 dollar goal and has exceeded it! There are still three days left for you to back the project, so that amount will certainly increase! Right now the project has a whopping 18,205 Backers!

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