Ultima Online is a fantasy MMORPG set in a sprawling, persistent world, long considered a turning point in the development of the genre. Play as you like with an open ended skill system, exploring the a world, fighting other players, sailing the high seas, and developing your professions to sell sought after goods.
|Publisher: Electronic Arts
Type: Fantasy MMORPG
Release Date: September 24, 1997
Pros: +Open-ended skill system. +Player housing. +Enormous, persistent world.
Cons: -Dated graphics. -Clunky user interface. -Heavy grind for all tasks.
Ultima Online Overview
Ultima Online is a fantasy role-playing MMORPG and largely considered the first commercially successful game of its kind. Players customize their character by choosing a profession before entering the world, but are not limited by their starting skills. A completely open skill system allows players to customize their character by performing corresponding actions, i.e. to level hiding practice by using the skill. Explore an enormous world with the freedom to go wherever you choose without constraint. Scavenge through labyrinthian caves, fighting monsters and bosses to increase your skills and obtain rare treasures. Beware of other players, combat is brutally fast and you can lose all of your gear if killed. Settle your own property by purchasing a home, and set up shop outside your doors to sell valuable goods collected from your travels. Or, purchase a sailing vessel and explore the high seas in search of adventure and treasure.
Ultima Online Key Features:
- Open ended skill system - 58 skills and 720 skills points to be allocated, with skills capping at 100.
- Robust Professions - gathering and crafting play an enormous role in UO’s in-game economy, turning players into successful merchants.
- Enormous Persistent world - explore an expansive world with various environments and carve out your own piece of land by settling a home.
- Brutal PvP - engage in combat with other players, but beware when you die your corpse is lootable and you may lose all of your acquired gear.
- High Sea Exploration - purchase your own ship and set sail for the high seas in search of treasure and adventure, but beware of monsters that lurk beneath the water.
Ultima Online Screenshots
Ultima Online Featured Video
Ultima Online Review
By, Sean Sullivan
Ultima Online, the godfather of the modern MMORPG, is swept up by mythology and nostalgia. In 1997 my dial-up internet could barely connect to email, let alone a massive multiplay world. It wasn’t until years later that I delved into Lord British’s pivotal game. Even compared to today’s enormous library of MMO’s Ultima manages to stand out. It offers unparalleled freedom with no right or wrong way to play, and no GM to ban you for tricking credulous players. As the first widely popular MMORPG Ultima Online has longevity and genre influence that few other games can claim. It also has some of the best concept artwork with a level of detail that paints its own story. I had played a close parallel to the 1997 version of the game, but numerous expansions later have modernized its presentation. So, I’m delving back into the legendary world of Ultima Online.
A Simple Character
Launching the game for the first time you’ll be prompted to create your character. It’s important to note that while you pick a profession nothing is necessarily permanent. You can change your character’s stats by performing corresponding tasks at any time. So a warrior may start with 30 strength, 30 healing, etc. but giving up your chain mail and broadsword for wizard books and a copy of Lord of the Rings will level up your wizardry skills. As should be expected, character creation is simple with enough customization to make you feel distinguished—not that it matters in Ultima Online’s top-down environment. I made a human warrior with a face that looks like the smell of sulfur perpetually lingers by his nose and a devious mustache to swoon the ladies of the night. Choosing to start in New Haven I was ready to embark on a classic adventure.
Ultima is a game about choices, and following the American dream there is no locked career path to choose from. There are 58 different skills, with 720 points to spend between them (when maxed out), and each skill caps at 100. Between combat skills, crafting skills, creature skills, and more there’s quite a few areas to choose from. Typically, one toon will specialize in a role because you’ll only be able to max out seven skills. Although you can mix and match, and create a menagerie character with unsuspecting attacks. But for the first timer, I recommend following a more traditional path, though I’m sure most players resubscribing to UO are veterans rekindling an old flame.
By default all skills are set to accumulate experience as you perform corresponding tasks, i.e. if I spam bandages on myself I’m going to increase my proficiency in healing. But you can turn skills off or lock them. Opening your skill tab you’ll see an arrow next to each skill, and clicking it will scroll through your three available options: up, down, and locked. As you build your character you’re going to have to isolate which skills you want to level, as there are a limited number of skill points and they are reallocated based on the tasks you perform. If I’ve spent 720 points and then decide to level another skill, I’m going to lose skill points in one of my capped areas if they’re facing down. It’s not something to worry about right away, but as you grind up skills and determine what character you want to play it will become an important factor.
I typically create a generic warrior at first, because I always start by grinding skeletons until my fingers bleed. And then I make a wizard, considering they’re expensive thanks to a resource dependency, and later maybe a thief if I’m willing to test my luck robbing players blind—a satisfying experience when successful. With six available character slots you can create a new playstyle with each avatar, perhaps crafting or taming beasts in addition to your spear-wielding warrior. And each pursuit will send you down a different path, that can be refreshing and rewarding in its own right, though some are intrinsically more difficult than others.
The Ol’ One-Two
Before you can start smashing skeletons into bonemeal your War/Peace button must be toggled. Once engaged in war mode, all subsequent actions will be aggressive. It’s important to remember to regain your senses in peace before conversing with NPCs, unless you wish to incur the wrath of the guards. I accidentally attacked the wandering healer while grinding skeletons; I cheesed it quick before he could pulverize me with a spell.
As should be expected from a 1997 game, combat is simple at face-value. Moving up to your target you click to open hostile negotiations and begin attacking once in range. As a warrior there aren’t any skills to worry about beyond knowing how to bandage yourself and having sufficiently grinded up your skills to handle your enemy. Other classes pose a far more intricate challenge, particularly a caster who relies on reagents to dish out spells. Or you can tame beasts with the art of fine persuasion, recruiting them to aid you in toppling foes. For players who don’t enjoy the stinking breath of the undead, stand back and unleash arrows into the monsters. There’s no right or wrong way to play and mix and matching is a viable option—sometimes being needed.
But to be perfectly clear, you MUST love to grind to succeed in UO’s combat. Hours are spent scavenging caves, collecting reagents and potions, as monster corpses lay scattered around your simply rendered feet. It is old school leveling at its finest, dedicating yourself to a repetitive task for minor rewards that ultimately culminate in a sense of accomplishment. It’s why new players habituated to the current models rehashed by MMORPG’s will likely Alt + F4 from Ultima Online; only the hardcore need apply.
Like A Painting
Ultima Online has not aged with grace, (it's a little wrinkley) and many younger players who missed Ultima in its prime will view it as an artifact belonging to a museum. Although thanks to a number of expansions over the years it does look much cleaner than its original incarnation. If you can picture yourself playing Diablo I, then Ultima Online won’t offend your eyes. I rather enjoy the simple top-down worldview. There’s enough detail in cobblestone roads, and the foliage of forests that Ultima’s age never deterred me from the game. As long as you don’t zoom in too far the details remain crisp enough. But Ultima Online’s main aesthetic appeal is its music. Composer Kirk Winterrowd created a soundtrack that sparks the imagination with tales fit for a Tolkienesque universe.
The Fighting Pits
I’ve never felt more helpless PvPing than while playing Ultima Online. Veterans will slice you up without remorse. Typically they’ll be wizard-wrecking your day, and making you consider resubscribing to World of Warcraft. Most modern MMO’s have done away with the brutality imparted by death in Ultima Online. If you’re killed by an enemy your goods are forfeited—you can lose everything—making PvP a careful consideration before engagement.
I often rolled into caves and dungeons with three friends, and every now and then we would spontaneously decide to gank somebody who appeared weak. Since player models can’t walk through each other we would try and box the player in and slaughter her mercilessly. But due to my freshness, and the game’s mechanics we often failed, and looked like pleb commoners. PvP is exciting, and unforgiving as momentary decisions can turn you into a lootable corpse. Veteran players always made me feel embarrassed, and I leaned towards dueling rocks instead of flesh and blood.
Gathering resources and crafting in Ultima ought to be listed on a resume as a sign of dedication and perseverance. It is not easy. Ore lies scattered around the base of mountains and can be harnessed with a pickaxe. Starting from level 0 I spent hours picking away just to level slightly. And you’ll need a pack mule if you plan to stay out mining for a substantial amount of time. Without a beast of burden your pockets will quickly weigh you down with gratuitous amounts of ore.
I had planned on becoming a blacksmith, smelting ore to craft armor and weapons. But again, it takes serious time. There are plenty of crafting guides online with tips and tricks for any profession (such as using a Crystal Ball of Knowledge) and I highly recommend consulting Wikis before pursuing anything. It’s worth noting that there are instructors for most professions that can level your skill for a price, helping to alleviate some of the tedious grind—unless you’re hardcore, then by all means. I always filled the pockets of George Hephaestus, the Blacksmith Instructor, with coin to level the craft to 50, before giving up all together and returning to the caves to grind harpies and collect potions.
Of course, if playing on the official server with all of the expansions and refined experience isn’t for you, there are plenty of private servers to choose from. And it’s through private servers that the game not only doesn’t hold your hand but shoves you into the wild without remorse. They’re typically populated by veterans who always manage to make me look foolish whenever I find the urge to grind for some more houses. Private servers have the added advantage of allowing you to macro your way to victory, spamming skills so you wake up in the morning with 100 anatomy.
Final Verdict - Excellent
No one can deny the overwhelming influence Ultima Online has had on the modern MMORPG, setting a standard for all subsequent games to be matched against. Even today, veteran players long for the freedom and open-ended nature of Ultima’s world, a game that is as brutal as it is rewarding with emphasis on world building and mystery. I can’t recommend Ultima Online to the modern player who hasn’t played it before. The UI combined with dated graphics and a sandbox system may seem overwhelmingly daunting, and make the newcomer question what all the fuss was about. But for those who still revel in the nostalgia of a simple but immersive world, Ultima Online still stands in a league of its own.
Ultima Online Videos
Ultima Online Links
Ultima Online System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Celeron 1GHz or Duron 2.0GHz
Video Card: GeForce FX 5200 or Radeon Xpress 1200 Series
RAM: 256 MB
Hard Disk Space: 1 GB
Ultima Online is Linux compatible
Ultima Online Music & Soundtrack
Ultima Online Additional Information
Developer(s): Origin System (1997-2004), Electronic Arts (2006-2014), Broadsword (2014-Present)
Prouder(s): Richard Garriott
Designer(s): Raph Koster, Starr Long, Rick Delashmit, Ralph Koster
Composer(s): Kirk Winterrowd
Other Platforms: Linux
Beta Release: August, 1997
Release Date: September 24, 1997
- Ultima Online: The Second Age - October, 01, 1998
- Ultima Online: Renaissance - May 4, 2000
- Ultima Online: Third Dawn - March 07, 2001
- Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn’s Revenge - February 24, 2002
- Ultima Online: Age of Shadows - February 11, 2003
- Ultima Online: Samurai Empire - Novemeber 02, 2004
- Ultima Online: Mondain’s Legacy - August 30, 2005
- Ultima Online: Stygian Abyss - September 08, 2009
- Ultima Online: Time of Legends - 2015
Development History / Background:
Ultima Online was originally developed by Texas based development company Origin Systems. It was spawned from the mind of Richard Garriott (aka “Lord British”). The original development team also included Starr Long, Rick Delashmit, and Ralph Koster. The game released on September 24, 1997 and was met with immediate success. Within six months of release the game reached 100,000 paying subscribers. Garriott left Origin Systems in 2000, leading to speculation as to his in-game character’s disappearance. He has recently partnered with Starr Long to collaborate on a new game called Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. Development of Ultima Online has changed hands numerous times over the course of its life. From 2004-2006 Electronic Arts handled development before purchasing Mythic Entertainment in 2006, and leaving Mythic to devleop the game until 2014. On February 06, 2014 deveopment was handed over to the newly created studio Broadsword, who announced a new expansion titled Time of Legends to be released sometime in 2015.