Ultima Online Renaissance
|a game by||Origin Systems|
Ultima Online Renaissance is an update to Ultima Online with a few new features, some which have been requested for a long time. Having had some rather heartbreaking experiences with the game before, when I was playing the last update, I was rather worried that I’d spend yet another batch of sleepless nights tossing and turning with nightmares about lag and K3wLD00dz harassing my poor tailor at every step. Well, I sort of did again. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the biggest change, and that which warrants all the fanfare and new packaging, solves the eternal problem UO has always had: PK vs non-PK play. They have split their worlds into Trammel, a world where newbies and others are safe from Pks, and Felucca, a "dark facet" where PKing still happens. Felucca is pretty much the same as the old game servers, Trammel is a mirror. You have the ability to travel between these facets via "moonstones."
Other changes include an overhaul of the housing system, a new party system for adventuring in groups, changes in skill management and some cosmetic changes to the login screens.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Gameplay is essentially the same as it has always been, though the addition of the party system has made adventuring a lot more fun, as you can share Karma and Fame with the members of your party thereby gaining experience from taking on much larger Monsters than you’d be able to on your own. The party system also makes communication easier, and has a groovy little feature where you can allow party members to loot your corpse when you die, to avoid losing your stuff to scavengers. This, in addition to the new PK/Non-PK split makes adventuring for a new, low-level or casual player much more enjoyable. You still get the thrill of not knowing whether there’s an Orc or an Ettin around the corner, but at least you know it’s not going to be some antisocial nitwit who’s going to rain Corp Por all over you for the heck of it and then nab your hard earned goodies.
The new interface changes on the login screens (which actually came out in a patch a long time ago) are nice and make character creation a lot easier for new players, who may have no idea whatsoever where to put all their allotted points for each type of character.
Lag is still a nasty, awful problem, especially in towns. They seem to have fixed a lot of the annoying rubberbanding, and instead you just move verrrrry slowly when your screen is filled with useless chatter from 30 people, but it’s still a pain and compared with the way lag is handled by other games out there, just simply doesn’t measure up. I would imagine that they actually did fix most of the previous lag problems they had, but added all new ones with the addition of the new world.
Many of these changes are designed to make the newbie experience better. From what I understand, before the PK split, there were newbies buying the game, logging on, and getting PK’d within an hour of starting their characters. Enough repeats of this experience and people were canceling their brand new accounts right and left. Considering how many subscribers they were already losing to other games, this had to hurt. The way UOR is packaged now is very much a promotion for new players -- especially players who may not be familiar with RPGs or online games. The new startup screens are designed for this and the way that in-game tutorials work (as such -- they’re still not great) reflects this new strategy as well.. As a new character, you have the option of going to "Haven" a town exclusively for newbies where you won’t get killed and where you can practice your new skills. Haven also has several new player "companions," volunteers who will answer questions and provide guidance to new players.
Same old stuff -- the same top-down 2D view, with items so terribly small (when you’re running a decent resolution) you can barely see them sometimes. They also still have that annoying business of putting everyone’s chatter above their character’s heads. I really hope they fix this stuff in the 3D version.
Nothing new. The music still cuts out and comes in at bizarre times. Footstep sounds still have to be turned off unless you want them obliterating useful sounds.
Same as the previous release of Ultima Online:
Minimum: P200, 32 MB RAM, Windows 9x, 2 MB PCI video card (DirectX supported set to 16-bit color), 16-bit sound card (DirectX supported), 383 MB hard drive space, 4x CDROM drive, Microsoft-compatible mouse, 100% Win95/98 compatible, and Slip/PPP or direct connect at 28.8kbps or better with 32-bit TCP/IP stack.
Recommended: P2 233, 4 MB PCI video card (DirectX supported set to 16-bit color), 650 MB uncompressed hard drive space, 8x CDROM drive, and Slip/PPP or direct connect at 56.6 kbps or better with 32-bit TCP/IP stack.
The playguide is still, unfortunately, less than useful except for specific instructions on how to move and manipulate the environment. The only changes they made to it are to describe the new worlds and the new newbie process.
The game is essentially the same as it’s always been -- this update is pretty much a collection of patches and isn’t terribly new. However, it fixes many of the long-standing problems the game has had from its early days. These new changes make the game much more playable for new characters, casual players, or those who like the economic aspects of the game. The party system and related fixes have also made it a rather more social game, rather than a haven for individualistic troublemakers. The way this update is packaged and the specific updates included are obviously designed to draw in new players, people who have perhaps never played RPGs or online games before, as it touts the "worldwide community" aspect of the game, which is really old news to anyone who wasn’t born yesterday. They’ve got a lot of competition out there, but they still sometimes act like they’re the only game in town. I still have a soft spot for the game, especially the backstory and the fabulous economic system, but for real adventuring, there’s no reason to go back to it if you’re already into something else. The new fixes are great, but still, it all seems just a bit "too little, too late." Origin has learned from its mistakes, but I don’t think they’ll see any real benefit to this knowledge until they finally come out with UO2, the 3D version, which is slated for release... eventually.