Lord of Ultima Review
Free-to-play MMOs are all the rage these days, with titles like Farmville and Evony getting tons of people hooked on their virtual worlds. As a result, it’s not surprising to see Electronic Arts trying to horn in on the multi-billion dollar market with Lord of Ultima, a browser-based strategy/simulation title that gets a surprising amount of stuff right.
The game is really only connected to the Ultima fantasy universe in name only. After choosing a user name and portrait, players are assigned to a random continent and are given a city to manage. You’ll be walked through a basic tutorial that teaches you how to collect necessary resources (iron, stone, wood, food, and gold), and then you’re ultimately left to decide what kind of lord you’ll be. After you’ve gotten the hang of things, you’ll eventually be able to establish new cities around the continent.
Once you’ve leveled up your town to unlock most of the construction options, players are provided with a choice that will drastically affect their gameplay experience: whether or not to build a castle. These structures allow you to send troops out into the world to pillage your neighbors and steal their resources, but they also leave you open to invasion. If you ignore this option and just rely on traditional resource-gathering, you’re apparently not eligible for such attacks, though you can still send armies out to attack monsters and raid dungeons for extra loot.
For the most part, though, the biggest thing you’ll take away from Lord of Ultima is that it’s very much a waiting game. Initial building construction and improvements are relatively quick affairs, but later upgrades will require several hours (or in some cases, days) to accomplish. It’s the same story when you send out your troops to either raid a dungeon, attack a monster, or loot another city: you’ll have to wait quite some time before you can find out how they fared on the battlefield.
It honestly feels like defense is much easier to be successful at than aggression. If you’ve sufficiently leveled up your city walls, peppered them with appropriate warning/guard towers, and have a decent-sized city guard population, then repelling invaders is a breeze.
For me, the slow pace was great because it meant I didn’t have to frequently check on how things were going. So long as I had the build/recruitment queues filled, I could leave the game alone and just log in once a day and keep informed on my city’s development.
There are some ways to bypass the long wait times, such as hiring administrators to manage construction queues and acquiring artifacts that will reduce construction times or deliver bonus resources, but these all require you to spend diamonds in order to get them. Diamonds, in turn, have to be purchased from EA with real money. That said, diamonds are generally pretty inexpensive, but I could see someone dropping some serious cash on them if they decide to regularly speed things up in the game.
While these shortcuts and aids do provide some noticeable advantages over playing for free, you can’t use them all at once. Magical artifacts cost mana to use, so you’ll only be able to use a few at a time before you have to let your energy recharge.
Ultimately, Lord of Ultima is a solid (if slow) strategy simulator that’s got a bit for everyone. For those of us who enjoy concepts of trade and resource management, this is a welcome distraction for a few minutes a day. For those who enjoy attacking their neighbors and basically being the biggest kid on the block, there’s a lot more to do here… but it’s still going to be an adventure at a snail’s pace.