Can Ultima Forever be a Worthy Entry in the Legendary Series?

My answer to Rowan Kaiser's question would be "probably not", but in case you're interested in reading the thoughts the writer put in his latest entry in Joystiq's WRPG-focused weekly column, you'll be glad to know that his analysis is more articulated than mine. Here's an excerpt:
But my alarm bells started ringing when I saw that only two classes were available in the game: Fighter and Mage. Character class in the middle Ultima games (IV, V, VI) was intrinsically tied to its Virtue system, which was equally connected to the game's geography, as well as individuals. Eight classes, eight virtues, eight towns, eight dungeons, eight recruitable characters. For example, a Bard was associated with Compassion and the town of Cove, with Iolo joining your bard.

The entire point of Ultima IV was to have your character embody those virtues, by either being or recruiting that class, by acting according to the virtue (for Compassion, donating to the poor), understanding the town of Cove in order to learn about the symbols of Compassion, and in proceeding to the associated nearby dungeon to cleanse the evil from the area. That formal symmetry gave Ultima IV power. It wasn't just "collect the seven runes to save the universe!" as so many games had, it was a structure that gave both the game and its world structure. In an interview with, creative director Paul Barnett suggested that there would be more classes to tie into those virtues, although they might lie behind a paywall.

That's the second major warning sign for me: Ultima Forever is going to be free-to-play. How this is going to work is unclear at this point, but the most common form of F2P is to withhold continuous play without payment. This may work in some genres, even RPGs, at times, but not with Ultima. This series relies on the player having time and space to explore and understand the world. Time/action limits make that difficult, if not impossible. This kind of gating seems possible, according to the Kotaku preview: "The entire game can be completed for free, although it would take you a long time" says Barnett there, although he continues to describe it more as taking shortcuts than being simply blocked off: "kill the necromancer to get the rights to go and have my boat made ... or I could give them a buck and just have the boat." Yet this still implies a linearity that's at odds with the core of Ultima IV.