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Ultima Returns – EA Bioware Announce ‘Ultima Forever’ As Cross-Platform Free-To-Play Title For PC and iPad Later This Year

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My hopes aren’t terribly high for this, but any new Ultima is good Ultima… right? No? Ok then.

The original Western RPG Ultima, has returned to our screens – EA Bioware has today announced ‘Ultima Forever’ as a cross-platform, pay-to-win free-to-play title from the same label which houses their other free-to-play offerings such as Battlefield Play4Free and Need For Speed: World.

The official website for the new title can be found here where the splurge on the site triumphantly proclaims – ” The first great Western RPG has been lovingly restored in Ultima Forever,”.

Quite.

If by “lovingly restored’ they mean turned into a cartoony, micro-transaction driven heap of code – then yes, this is VERY lovingly restored.

The site itself has little information on the game, but the information it does care to impart details two classes; The Fighter (“Fighters are one-man armies, trained to engage multiple opponents with a wide variety of attacks”) and The Mage (“With a staff in hand and a spell on their lips, Mages are ready to engage in battle from afar. Use your magical know how to vanquish enemies and assist your allies.”).

Aside from that, the only other bits and pieces of note that are shown is art of the series’ infamous Gypsy character (presumably meaning that you’ll have to do the eight questions of morality shtick when you first generate your character to ascertain what a complete bastard you are) and a map of the world of Britannia which bears more than a passing resemblance to the map used in the antiquated (yet thoroughly fucking awesome when it originally launched) Ultima MMORPG, Ultima Online.

The Ultima series has long been credited as being one of the finest examples of the Western RPG.  First beginning with Ultima I, which was released on the humble Apple II home computer back in June of 1981, the series went on to span many instalments and was lauded for it’s alignment and moral systems that were introduced in later instalments such as Ultima IV and V.  The Ultima series has also served as an inspiration of sorts for a number of high-profile RPG’s and JRPG’s.  Indeed, Ultima III would inspire the developers behind premier JRPG Dragon Quest and the developer of that hugely popular franchise credit the Ultima series with opening their eyes to the creation of large, epic and open-world adventures with complex stories and interesting characters.

The brainchild of eccentric, yet brilliant software designer Richard Garriott, the Ultima IP was left with EA when he broke ties with them after the launch of Ultima Online.    Needless to say, ol’ Dicky Garriott won’t be a part of this project.   Instead, he’s stuck his nose to the grindstone at his new company named Portalarium who are in the midst of developing something very special indeed – their own spiritual successor to 1997’s Ultima Online, codenamed Ultimate RPG / New Britannia.

Portalarium also recently secured $7 million in funding for the project, which really can’t hurt their chances now can it?

The site is also taking beta-sign ups which will be validated through EA’s Origin service here.

I’m going to need a lot more info on this (especially pertaining to just how the cross-platform play side of things will function across PC and iPad) before I make a decision to embrace it cautiously or bombard it with vitriol, but on the face of it, the cartoony designs and free to play business model don’t exactly inspire confidence in me.  At this point i’m far more interest in what Portalarium come up with their ‘Ultimate RPG’ than this.

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Written by bitsnark

July 12, 2012 at 10:20 am

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