Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar Preview

Joystiq is offering a preview piece on Mythic's Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, a free-to-play action-RPG set 21 years after Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, and it's clear that the writer wasn't particularly impressed by what he's seen. Here's a snip:
The Black Weep's arrival prompts Lady British to seek out heroes. Your goal is to find the source of this malevolent force and figure out a way to stop it. The story leads you to various combat-heavy overworld locations, which you can tackle alone or in a group of up to four (co-op play was showcased in our preview). Virtue-aligned towns, which double as massively multiplayer social hubs, present you with Quandaries that, when solved, strengthen your character's connection with the Eight Virtues and feed into character progression.

Though Ultima Forever is not entirely without a familiar franchise vibe, I felt the game was somewhat generic. Paint-by-numbers Ultima, if you will. The thing that dazzled me about the original games was the feeling of openness and freedom. You weren't just exploring the world, you were writing your own story within it.

That's what's lacking in Ultima Forever. You've got your virtues, you've got tarot cards, you've got a Lady British presiding over the land. There's a story that ties to the fan-favorite Ultima 4. Yet there's still this anxiety. The world feels empty and lifeless. You're not exploring, you're picking destinations off of an overworld map.

With Ultima Forever, it seems Mythic has carefully colored inside the lines. The series fared well at first with Ultima Online, but the MMORPG was eventually outpaced by competitors. Recent efforts like Lord of Ultima and now Quest for the Avatar speak to a game that old fans of the series never knew. At a time when the demand for open-world RPG games is at a high, EA seems reluctant to cash in on fan nostalgia with a competitor to the likes of the Elder Scrolls or The Witcher franchises.
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