Windows - 1997
Description of Ultima Online
The Big One
Origin has finally released Ultima Online (UO). This game is expected to be the biggest and grandest online role-playing game ever to be released. "What is UO all about?", you ask. Pull up a stool and I will tell you. UO is a role-playing game that can only be played over the Internet with thousands of other players. You load the game, create a character and use that character to interact with the world of Sosaria and its inhabitants. Most of the people you run into will be other players from around the world. They will be exploring and looking for adventuring companions just like you. Together you can fight monsters, explore dungeons, create guilds and own property. "Is it fun?", you ask. Yes, its great fun ... when it works. Origin, in my humble opinion, really dropped the ball on this game. Instead of waiting and releasing a flawless product, they put it out way too early. Because of this early release, many nasty bugs are still lurking in UO's code.
Installation and Character Creation
First off, you must own a credit card to play UO. Do not buy it unless you have a credit card. The game costs around 60 dollars. It comes with a free month of play and costs 9.95 per month afterwards. When you install UO, you will have to pick a size to install on your hard disk. The small installation is 261MB and the large installation is almost 500MB hard disk space. I tried using the small installation on my PC but the game would freeze during the opening movie. I grudgingly installed the large installation and it works fine. This is a huge chunk of space for any game to take up. Next, you have to log onto Origin's registration site and fill out your account information. Be forewarned that once you open UO and register it, you may not be able to return it at the store you purchased it from. This is because the registration number that is on your UO CD can only be used once. Be sure to check the return policy of the store you buy this game at before you purchase it. If the store will not take back your game, you have to call Origin at (512) 434-Help. It seems to me that the Guardian is writing the return policies for Origin these days.
Once you register UO, it is time to get to the fun and create a character. All characters have three statistics. They are: strength, agility and intelligence. Also, you begin with three primary skills that define your character. Characters can be created by picking a template or designed by the player. A template will automatically allocate points to your statistics and pick your skills. A warrior template will give you a high strength and agility. Also, your starting skills will be Arms Lore, Tactics, and Parrying. You are still able to tweak point values when using a template. Most players will find it more fun to create their character. I created a warrior/tailor. This allowed me to fight and also to make my own leather armor for myself and to sell to shop keepers. There are endless possibilities. Some skills that are available are poisoning, hiding, cooking, animal training, mining, bowyer, camping, stealing, and magery. There are many more. You can customize your character's appearance. You can pick from many hairstyles including a mohawk or ponytail. You can even change a character's hair color and skin tone. The character creation and customization in UO is one of the best that I have seen in a while.
Playing the Game
After creating a character, you have to pick a city for your character to start in. Once you are in the game you can begin exploring by using the mouse. Clicking the right mouse button and holding it will allow you to move your character wherever you point the cursor. Left-clicking the mouse on an object will give you information on it. If you left-click on a character you will get his/her name. If you left-click and hold on a character you will see the characters current health points. The interface is simple and easy to use. You are also able to create macros that allow you to do things quickly. I suggest that you create a macro for any skill that you use often.
There are many ways to make a living in UO. You can be a blacksmith, assassin, thief, baker, tailor, alchemist or an animal trainer. There are many more classes that I have not listed. You can also be a combination of any of the above classes. The best part about UO is that you can do whatever you want when you want. The only obligations you have are the ones that you make. For instance, I belong to a guild. Whenever I need help, I can go to my guild brothers. Of course, whenever the guild is involved in a war or expedition, I feel it is my duty to help out.
Interaction is a major part of UO. You will often have to talk to other players and non-player characters (NPCs) to get information, trade or learn skills. You communicate by typing whatever you would like to say and hitting the enter key. You also can yell or whisper by using the appropriate punctuation before the sentence you wish to say. Currently, I find that there is not much role-playing or interaction going on in UO. It is not uncommon to walk down a street and hear characters discussing the point value of their fencing skill. This seriously detracts from the suspension of disbelief for me. Also, many players are very suspicious of other characters due to the high crime rate. Of course, Origin has no control over this but I felt that it is important to mention this because it is a role-playing game.
Combat in UO is simple. You enter into war mode by pressing Alt-C and click on the monster or character you wish to attack. This is very similar to Diablo. While I understand that real-time combat is sort of a must for an online game there is not much strategy involved. Even archers have to resort to the shoot/run/shoot approach. The combat system is not bad, it is just not that great.
Eventually you will die. This happens when your health reaches zero. Death is not permanent in UO. You are given two choices when you die. You can either be resurrected on the spot and suffer losses to skill points and statistics or you can play as a ghost. If you choose to resurrect on the spot you will be alive again but with only one health point. Be warned that if the monster that killed you is still around it will try to kill you again. Also, when you are resurrected, you will not be holding any of your possessions. You will have to pick them up one by one from your dead body. If you decide to play as a ghost, you need to find a shrine or a healer. If you do, your character will be resurrected without any losses. The problem is that by the time you do this and return to your body, there is a good chance all of your possessions will be gone! This happens because a large number of players tend to loot dead bodies. This is why it is important to meet trustworthy companions. This way, if you die, you have someone to stand over your body until you find a healer. Both of the above methods have their advantages and disadvantages. The only time I ever use immediate resurrection is if I am travelling alone and I am fearful that my body will be looted.
The Good and the Bad
I have spent many hours playing UO in the last few weeks. There are times that I think it is the greatest game that I ever played and times when I want to smash the CD and mail it to Richard Garriot's (the creator of Ultima's) house. Ultimately, you will have to decide for yourself whether this game is for you. The following is a list of bad things and good things that I have encountered during my course of playing.
Some players, myself included, have run into a bug that causes the game to crash when you enter combat. This usually results in the death of your character. To avoid this bug, as soon as I start playing I find a remote spot and go into combat mode. If the game crashes at least I am safe until I log back on. I have found that if the game does not crash the first time you go into combat you will be safe for the entire session of play. This bug is my major complaint with this game because it really detracts from my enjoyment.
There are times when you will lose you connection to the game server. When this happens your character will still be standing around in the game world for five minutes. This leaves your character wide open to thieves, murderers and monsters. I am not sure if Origin is to blame for this or if it is the fault of the ISP.
If you happen to be on a part of the game map where monsters spawn at there is a possibility that you will find yourself surrounded by creatures without any warning.
Certain game elements such as the economy and notoriety need to be fixed.
When the server you are playing on crashes you lose any progress you have made since the last backup. The server backs up frequently.
This game does not come with a manual. It comes with a reference card and an install guide. To learn how to play this game you have to go to the official Ultima Online web site and read the online manual. I have copied the entire contents of this online manual into a Microsoft Word 97 file. I will gladly e-mail this to anyone who would like a copy. My address is Fredq@erols.com
There are always monsters to fight. This was not the case during my first week of play. A patch has fixed this problem.
The game masters will often try to spice up the game by unleashing hordes of monsters close to town or with special quests.
There is nothing like playing with real people as opposed to a computer AI. When more players begin to actually role-play, this will be the game of choice.
Origin is constantly releasing patches to fix this program. The good part is that when a new patch is available, it is applied to your game as soon as you log on to UO.
Is this game worth it?
At the beginning of this article I said that the game is great when it works. I can complain about UO until I am blue in the face but I continue to play it every night. I have had the game for three weeks and I have played it every night since then. The last game that I played so consistently was Ultima 7. There are nights when I play for hours without a single crash. There are also nights when my connection is dropped during combat and I log back on to find that I am dead and without possessions. In spite of these sore points, UO has an addictive quality that is hard to come by in games these days. It's one of those games where you find yourself at 3:00am saying to yourself, "one more monster and I'm off to sleep".
Even though I love to play UO, it is hard to recommend to people in its current state. If you are an Ultima fan and have a lot of patience, then rush out right now and buy it. If you are a casual gamer who is not willing to suffer through the bugs, then look elsewhere. The best advice I can give to anyone considering this game is wait a month or two before purchasing it. By then, maybe all of the bugs will be fixed and UO will be the online role-playing game that it was intended to be.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
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