A world in turmoil. Preview

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A world in turmoil.

Certainly the first thing that must be mentioned in this preview of Ultima

Online 2
is that the game is no longer called Ultima Online 2. Whether

this has anything to do with Richard Garriot’s (the creator of Ultima,

known to fans as Lord British) recent parting of ways with EA and Origin is

not really known. Origin claims it has nothing to do with his leaving, but frankly,

I’m not so sure.

Either

way, the game is now called Ultima Worlds Online: Origin. Although all

the press material still referred to UO2, Origin Inc. execs showed me

a quickly made mockup of a potential box design with the title “Origin

prominently displayed. But let’s have a look at the game and leave all the politics

behind, shall we?

To say that there are a lot of changes would be putting it mildly, but the

most obvious change is in the graphics. Gone is the isometric display of Ultima

Online
in favor of a 3D world. The graphics are more advanced than those

in Everquest, but you see your

avatar from behind, like in Asheron’s

Call
or Ultima IX.

You still have tremendous control over the appearance of your avatar, just

like in Ultima Online, and the new 3D graphics are quite impressive.

One of the most talked about developments in Origin is that Todd McFarlane,

the well-known comic book artist turned toy company executive, was hired as

a consultant to design some of the monsters and characters in the game. His

contributions are readily apparent in the creatures, which feature all sorts

of interesting horns and uncountable numbers of teeth.

The changes only get more startling from there. Some parts of the Origin

world have acquired a distinctly technological flair, like a floating cloud

city made of steel mesh and stamped metal plates. Britain’s ancient enemy, Lord

Blackthorn (a McFarlane redesign), sports a new ‘millennial’ look, complete

with cybernetic enhancements.

Even the sacred Ultima map has changed quite drastically. The new world

is flooded and divided into a number of islands, like a post global-warming

version of Britannia. Truly, this is a departure from old-school Ultima.

And this is part of what the name change signifies. Origin Systems Inc. wants

to emphasize that Origin is no replacement for the world of Ultima. In

fact, they plan to continue full support of Ultima Online even after

Origin is released. They are once again trying something new, something

that may have rankled the venerable Lord British.

As for me? Being a die hard Ultima junkie, I can’t wait. Unfortunately,

I have to. Origin is due out in the spring of 2001.

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