Sometimes you want your villain to have a face. Perhaps it’s Voldemort, Thanos, Zod or some creepy dude with a villainous “muahahaha” laugh. Then, there are the villains who have no faces. In the case of Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (Free), you’re up against The Black Weep. No, this isn’t a group of Templars; rather, it’s a vile sickness – much like Resident Evil’s T-Virus – that turns its infected into headless-undead abominations. You’ve got to become the Avatar of Renown and save the world. Let the hero’s quest begin.
This top-down MMO isn’t really about story. The canned tale is in place solely to give you a reason to party up with Facebook friends or stragglers to fight through the dungeons of Britannia.
When you check out the world map, you’ll notice that there is a wealth of dungeons that become available as you level up.
But hold the phone. This is a freemium game. You know what that means, right? Pay wall and IAPs.
Oddly enough, there’s no discernable pay wall in this game. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to commit to some level grinding, dungeon crawling action every so often. But if you’re up for an MMO, you’re probably used to JRPG grinding already. I know I am.
Navigating through Britannia is as easy as tapping where you want your character to go and he/she will follow your finger. There’s no messy d-pad or other pesky control mechanism to clutter the HUD and block you from seeing the lush landscape and the attractive medieval architecture.
NPC interaction is also fun since it’s directly tied to leveling up. Sometimes NPC’s will send you on the typical fetch quest. They may be searching for a lost friend or ask you to find some special herbs to heal the sick. Then, there are the NPC’s who have come to a crossroads in their life. They’ll ask you a question and depending on how you answer it, you will be rewarded with various virtue points. This in turn boosts your reputation within the town.
Combat is as straightforward as navigation. You see some green slime, an archer or a giant Hodor-looking character out of Game of Thrones moving towards you and you just tap on it to launch an attack. Players can also activate one of their special abilities for stronger attacks. Fighters generally attack up close, while Mages can attack at close range or from a distance. As a mage, sometimes the character will run up to the enemy and launch the attack up close – even though you intended to launch a ranged attack. It always sucks when this happens. Weapons and armor are both subject to damage. The more they get damaged, the weaker they are in combat. Whenever your wizard runs up to an enemy, you’re basically asking for your staff or wizard robes to be ruined.
In order to fix weapons, you have to spend keys. Bronze, silver and gold keys represent the in-game currency. Bronze keys can be converted into silver keys, but gold keys can only be found or purchased. You can also sign up for random promotions from commercial sponsors in order to get “free” gold keys. When you open treasure chests, you will have the option to use one of the three types of keys to open it. Gold keys will reward you with the best loot. However, you can get by if you only use silver keys. You can also revisit earlier dungeons in order to farm more bronze keys to convert into silver keys.
While most early dungeons can be fought on your own, it’s always best to find a party of at least three players. Usually if you stand outside a dungeon, you can hang around for a few people to join your party or someone will request that you join their party. Party members can advise you on what to do next through the text chat or give you some extra advice on solving a dungeon puzzle. The dungeon puzzles aren’t too hard, but there are rooms that require a two to three person party to get to a special treasure chest.
Unfortunately, the party system does have some nagging issues. Sometimes the characters disappear off the screen and all you will see is their name floating around without a body. Then there are times when players will lag out. Also, like any other party-based game, there are those players who tend to just drop. If you get booted from the dungeon, which actually kicks you out of the game entirely, you’ll have to start that dungeon over from scratch.
For optimal enjoyment of Ultima Forever, it’s best to play on an iPhone 5. Party members may still lag out and disappear, but you’ll have less frame issues. For the freemium price, I’m all on board for this Ultima MMO. When I’m in a solid party, I can’t put this game down. There’s too much to do and tons of reasons to go back into old dungeons and farm for better loot. Hopefully, with subsequent patches the frame issues will slowly disappear.