New Ultima is More of the Same

Ultima Online: Age of Shadows
Reviewed On
Available For

Bringing Ultima Online out of the shadows? Don’t think so.

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of PvP (player vs player) games. I avoided the previous Ultima Online releases due to their lousy reputation for being a PK (player killer’s) paradise. I did not even consider playing the game so I could do this review until I read that there was a 40 hour ‘young’ status during which you could not get Pked AND you get a free month (I can play 40 hours in a month no sweat!).

Imagine my surprise when I found my character dead at the hands of another player who he could not even scratch well before 40 hours were played. Then I find out that it is either 40 hours or your skills get to a certain level. Jeesh they must have sent out a server wide message "Bluebie (PvPers name for those of us who do not enjoy killing other players for fun) just became fair game!"

But all this aside, I believe that I garnered enough experience in the game to write a somewhat decent review of it, though I am also equally certain that those who love this game will fry me in their comments on this review.

So I load up the game, get myself an account and fire it up; as I have read that there is an in game tutorial that will familiarize new players to the system. When prompted for a choice I choose 3D though have no idea what the 2D option would do. Get into game and all I see is a tiny window in the middle of my desktop. My desktop is 1280 x 960 and this window was less than 25 percent of that size. The window can be enlarged but your view of the game is still a small fraction of what I have become used to with other online role-playing games. PLUS you are in third person perspective which means you are looking down at your character as they do their stuff in game. It is not possible to see things in the distance due primarily to the third person perspective but also made worse by the tiny play area so you can not see dangerous monsters or other players in your area.

There is a dialog box telling me that some Mongbats (hehe flavor of old time Ultima?) have stolen the gold he was to give me and I need to kill the Mongbat to get it back. It also tells me that there are two of the nefarious Mongbats in this room that I can attack. It ends by saying equip your weapon. . . . Ok so I rummage through the manual and figure out how to equip a weapon. I equip it and wait for instructions on what to do next . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . Ok I rummage through the manual yet again and figure out how to fight. You need to go into your ‘paperdoll’ (2D image of your character for equipping stuff and a bunch of tabbed options for various game functions one of which is the combat mode toggle) go into battle mode and then double click on the opponent as per the manual . . . Hmm it brings up a nice health bar for the Mongbat but no attack . . . rummage through the manual yet again and nothing . . . figure I will run over and try to kill the Mongbat and as I get closer I get a screen saying I can not attack this Mongbat try another. Not a biggie as there were two there so I go to attack the other and get the same message. Run around and find another room with two more Mongbats neither of which I can attack. Run around some more and head up a flight of stairs in search of more Mongbats and find myself in the main game world with no option to go back down the stairs I just went up and no gold.

Tutorial over. I went to every message board I could find and left E-Mail for tech support and never did find a way to get back into the tutorial. Tech support told me to go into the ‘tutorial options’ in the paperdoll screen but I found no such tab. So I am a stranger in a strange land and no idea what to do next and no gold to do it with.

I wander past an NPC (nonplayer character) and see text over his head and a quest box comes up. I accept the quest and am off to fight baddies on the front. There is no ‘chat box’ like in other online role-playing games. Conversation is handled by way of text coming up over a character’s head. Which is fine until you get into an area with more than two people who are talking and it very quickly gets confusing as to who is saying what to whom.

Any how, my warrior is now off and running in the world of Ultima Online: Age of Shadows.

Unfortunately, without a decent tutorial my first few hours in game were pretty much trying to figure out how to interface with the game world. I found that I could resize the window and while the game play area did not get any larger I had space to put the Map screen, paperdoll screen, inventory screen and even had space for the quest screen. Just wish I could have moved that game play screen from the upper left hand corner. I like to play with my game in front of me not off to one side of the screen.

Movement is accomplished by using the right mouse button. There is a gauntlet on screen pointing in the direction you will go when you press the right mouse button. To travel you need to keep the right mouse button down and move it ahead of your character and he will follow. He will run faster if you keep the gauntlet way ahead of the character. There is the option to have the cursor control keys move your character, with up moving forward and right and left changing direction; however this results in extraordinarily slow movement and response from the interface. If you move this way you will quickly get the feeling you are maneuvering in molasses. Seems this may have been a last minute addition to please those of us that do not like point and click movement.

I still could not get myself to automatically attack monsters without getting up close and personal with them. I never realized how much I have become used to spotting objects in the distance and examining them as you get closer. This is not possible with the third person view and you do not actually see things until you are almost on top of them, and far too late to run from danger. There is also no way to figure out if you had a chance of defeating a monster other than trying it and seeing how you fared and remembering to stay away from the ones that ate you. Guess I got used to the "examine or consider" feature of all other similar games.

Now this is no biggie for you while you are ‘young’

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