Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 11.13.58 AMSome companies like to release their games and apps in a market outside of the United States, to test the waters, gather feedback, and see how it performs. It's basically standard operating procedure for network-intensive games on the App Store.

That’s just what EA has done with Ultima Forever [Free]. Lord British is currently enjoying a soft launch in the Canadian App Store, with a worldwide launch expected by mid-June. As someone who currently lives in the Great White North, surrounded by hockey players on mooseback brandishing hockey sticks and maple syrup-filled squirt guns, I figured I’d give it a try. I was always a fan of the Ultima games, and this is the closest we’ll come to an Ultima Online 2 at the moment.

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Character creation is pretty straightforward, with not too much variety. You have two slots available, and the game gives you a series of four questions, which dictate your personality. These four questions are always the same, and in the interest of science (well, gaming), I decided to go through each of them multiple times and see the outcomes. Sadly, after picking the same answer to all four questions twice in a row, the game gave me two different traits. Perhaps there’s something running under the random number generator that shouldn't be, or this is an intended choice. Either way, it seemed weird that choosing to turn a beggar in for his crimes, and telling a thief’s children what he did wrong, both resulted in a Compassion trait. Odd. Of course, you can skip all this and choose have a trait randomly assigned to you from the outset.

The game is billed as cooperative, with dungeon level requirements and estimated times to complete them, but in the amount of time I played, I came across, at the most, five players. This is hardly enough to warrant a conversation, much less embark in a dungeon. Perhaps this is an issue of a soft launch, and clearly not many people had downloaded the game as of yet.

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There are some weird oversights, such as the inability to buy or sell items, as there are no vendors in the world of Britannia. Oversight? Or design choice? I guess we’ll see. There are also some missing textures and character models, which are most noticeable during a conversation, as portraits appear at the bottom of the screen.

The combat is fun, if overly simplistic, and a lot of the boss fights tend to descend into a simple pattern:

  • Tap on target to attack
  • Stand still while autoattacking
  • Move away when boss gets close
  • Repeat from step one

As it stands, Ultima Forever is a fun grind, but missing aspects that are commonplace in many RPG games, and currently has a very limited social aspect. When the game is launched worldwide, hopefully the majority of these issues will be addressed. You can discuss your feelings of Ultima Forever in the forums, perhaps find some people to group with, and let us know what you think of the game. I’ll be sure to have a review ready for its full release.

Canadian App Store Link: Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, Free

  • JJE McManus

    I so want to play this game. Even tried recruiting some pals over Memorial Day.
    And it comes to pass there's a $ to repair mechanic. Bull also shit!

    So I'm out, no sale. Messaged all those people I went and got excited.
    Sure I'll wait until the reviews come out and I'll read them all. Just maybe they will change my mind but I kinda doubt it.
    Really unhappy.

  • LordOfLetterbox

    No mention of your armor and weapons always breaking and needing keys to repair them. I will assume this preview was written up with less than two or three hours of game play. That mechanic is the gut punch that cripples the entire game.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Hence, "First Impressions." ;)

      • LordOfLetterbox

        Oh yeah I did not doubt that fact and I think it's a very accurate first impression. It's just a shame the ruined a potentially good game with a poor freemium system. I don't blame developers for trying different ways to make money on free games, but I am finding usually their first efforts into freemium isn't that great. Forgive me if Mystic has tried freemiums before.

      • LordOfLetterbox

        *Mythic

  • B30

    It's free and has an EA logo on the icon, oh horror! I'll pass.

  • Rothgarr

    I love the Ultima series and still log in to play UO once in a while. I can't wait for this to come to the U.S. I'll reserve judgement about the IAP until I play it for myself -- everyone went nuts when they learned Real Racing 3 was freemium and here we are months later and I'm still playing without ever having felt pressured to pay...

  • marc0313

    IF ANYONE IN THE US WANTS THE GAME, RESPOND TO THIS COMMENT. I MADE A CANADIAN ACCOUNT, AND IT'S THE ONLY GAME ON THE ACCOUNT.

    • Joe Cervasio

      I'd love it, thanks!

    • disqus_4yskaLXUdK

      I am anxiously waiting for the U.S. release. :(

  • airwa1k

    I haven't hit a pay wall yet but the breaking weapons and equipment isn't great when it's costing gold keys to fix which are rare.

  • twick

    May I suggest removing "Lord British" from the article. If I recall not even his character is in this game. There's a Lady British.

    • James D Paterson

      Indeed, my mind was still harkening back to the good 'ol days. It'll be corrected for the actual review.

  • Morgan01

    No mention of you armor and weapon degrading. In order to repair them, they cost keys. Gold, silver, and bronze keys are essentially the game's currency. Of course, eventually, key drops are not sufficient to maintain your equipment, let alone open chests. Fork over real money and keep buying keys to play "this" title.

    Money grub!

  • Gamer_Kev

    Though a huge fan of the original Ultima games, I haven't been holding out much hope for this game. With EA's current track record and no involvement (to my knowledge) on Richard Garret's part, it's hard to get excited about this game. Can't help but feel this is going to be nothing but a cash in using a famous name.

  • lapin

    The game's actually pretty fun to play but there are two things That I should mention. There are slowdowns sometimes and UI IS HORRIBLY SMALL.