The first great Western RPG has been lovingly restored in Ultima Forever – return to the Ultima series in BioWare’s new cross-platform action RPG. Accept the challenge from Lady British and save the land of Britannia. Play as the Fighter or the Mage and travel alone or with friends, restore virtue and become the Avatar!
From EA’s newly announced Ultima Forever
Hah! Lady British!
This seemed to be a pretty thinly veiled attempt to create popular support for the return of Richard Garriott de Cayeux to the arms of EA, where he could take over and revive the Ultima series of games, primarily by being able to set his planned Ultimate RPG in the Britannia setting. As he put it:
“What essentially makes an Ultima an Ultima is the principles of design,” Garriott explained. “And I’m very confident that when players sit down with this new world they will very quickly recognise that, whether or not we end up doing any deal with Electronic Arts.
“This is clearly the spiritual successor of the Ultima series,” he said.
Or, as he put it before his attempt to woo EA:
I can’t control EA plans for the word Ultima. But we all know that only my team can create the true heir to my previous work.
This expression of fondness was tempered not just by ego, but also by complaints about the sports game mindset at EA, on which he laid the blame for the failure of Ultima VIII to beat Diablo to market, which made me wonder exactly how serious he was. Still, at the time of these expressions, Lord British said he was talking with EA about the prospect.
EA just never got the memo.
EA, in response to all of this, said that they were not involved in any talks with Mr. Garriott de Cayeux, at which point somebody somebody from Portalarium stepped in and explained that the constrains of the time-space continuum do not really apply to Lord British, so that the fact he had at one point in the past… in our sense of time… broached the subject with EA meant that, from his perspective, he was always and eternally involved in such discussions. Or something like that.
But the fate and future path of the Ultima franchise was still in play.
And today we know why EA suddenly got up in the face of people remaking Ultima IV a while back. It was because they planned to remake it themselves. Lord British and his expressions of fondness were but a vain hope.
And so Ultima Forever has been announced.
Get it? Ultima IV. Ultima For-ever. So smooth.
Though, oddly, it somehow changed from “Quest of the Avatar” to “Quest for the Avatar.”
Apparently the Avatar got lost somewhere. They must have based the game on one of my 25 year old save files, since I never actually finished the game, and I was clearly lost.
And just in case you thought that EA was only pissing in Garriott de Cayeux’s cornflakes with the whole “Lady British” thing quoted at the top of the post, they also seem to be intent on breaking some key aspects to the old game by introducing class choices up front rather than having the game select your class based on your sense of the eight virtues. (Which did, I admit, essentially become “picking your class” once you figured out what was going on. But the first time it was a mystery!)
Oh, and you can choose from two classes. I am not sure how that and the name change fits into the context of “lovingly restored,” but welcome to the real world.
Anyway, the Lord British upshot of all of this is that, with EA’s renewed interest in milking the Ultima franchise, it seems that his Ultimate RPG might well be cast as the spiritual successor, but it will likely have to be developed in a new setting.
Edit: Oh, I suppose if you wanted to reading something more serious about Ultima Forever, maybe with a quote from EA, the article at Ars Technica might serve. Though there really isn’t much to say about it at this point.