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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.
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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