EA takes a crack at free browser-based sims games with Lord of Ultima.
Review of Lord of Ultima
The first part of the Ultima franchise was released back in 1980 and is considered to be one of the first RPG's for the personal computer. It was available for the Apple II, Commodore 64 and DOS. Eight sequels followed in the series, some with expansions. There were also four spin-off games, and an MMO called Ultima Online. Ultima Online was released in 1997 and was one of the first massive muli-player online games to hit the internet. Originally created by Origin Games, the rights to the Ultima world are now held by EA games.
EA released Lord of Ultima witht he intention to revive the classic series and by offering it for free they may have started something big.
Lord of Ultima - Its The Little Things
At first Lord of Ultima looks like a pretty basic civ knock-off, similar to Kingdoms of Camelot and Evony, but upon closer inspection you will see some distinct differences. It's these differences that really make Lord of Ultima an appealing game. The goal is to build a city and an army, then defend your city and conquer other cities. Some of the things that set Lord of Ultima apart from other fantasy based social sims games is that this game has a massive amount of buildings and types of army units. The Lord of Ultima city layout is also larger and more complex then other similar games.
For the most part, playing Lord of Ultima feels the same as playing any other browser based civ clone. Players build and build and build, then recruit and build and recruit and build...you get the picture. EA did add some attributes to different buildings that do impact the city. Putting a warehouse next to a sawmill for example, gives a bonus to that sawmill's production. There are similar bonuses for resources, for building speed and recruitment speed. These types of bonuses make the layout of a players city very important, allowing player to recover quickly from attack and to build and recruit faster then other players. Also, since the Lord of Ultima city layout is so large players can still recuperate after even after making a layout mistake. All-in-all this game hasn't added many new aspects to the genre but has enough unique features to keep fans of the genre coming back.
One of the biggest things this game has going for it is great 2d graphics.
Lord of Ultima does not really look like a browser game. With moving flags, spraying fountains and smoking chimneys, in fact it looks more like a mid 90's RTS. Despite it's excellent graphics, some of the cuts could go more smoothly. When an empty plot of land first gets built on, the move from empty plot to construction and then to the finished building seems a little choppy. The edges of the player's city also just drops off into a grey nothingness which is unappealing to the eye and really makes the game feel like unpolished. Even with these mild criticisms, Lord of Ultima is still a great looking browser game.
Lord of Ultima also has some decent music and ambient sounds but if a player doesn't care for them they can be adjusted or turned off completely in the games options. Many browser games are adding in options to adjust the in-game sounds but few, if any, have those options built in to the first release. Lord of Ultima gets a big thumbs up in my book for that. Growing with a game is fun especially it is in terms of gameplay but the ability to change basic options early on is fantastic.
Controls and User Interface
The graphic stylings are not the only throwback to the 90's. Moving around your city in Lord of Ultima is done by clicking inside the city and then using the arrow keys. This is the same type of movement controls used in most old school RTS like the Warcraft and Starcraft series. Player have seen it before and ease into using it. The user interface is similar to most RTS. The game board taking up the majority of the screen and a control panel on the left and another small panel across the top. It's nothing new but it's familiar enough that RTS fans can feel at home with this game as soon as they start playing it.
From end to end Lord of Ultima is a solid browser based sims game that offers more building options then most others. It should please anyone who loves sims game but if you are looking for something new and exciting in a sims game then you may have to keep looking.
Author's own expereince
Screenshots provided by author