Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar preview: return to form

The land of Britania is about to come to iOS, thanks to EA and Mythic Entertainment. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar marks the Ultima's first time on mobile devices and returns players to a beloved time in the series. Ultima Forever will take place 20 years after 1985's Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, widely considered one of the best games of the series. Lord British has ascended into the stars, leaving his daughter, Lady British, to take Britania's throne. The object is to, once again, become the avatar, as in Ultima IV. For the demo, I was taken on a tour through one of the game's many dungeons. Before entering from the overworld map, I noticed a pop-up that helpfully estimated how long the dungeon run would take. This particular one lasted about five minutes and featured much of the classic Ultima gameplay, including avoiding traps, opening chests, and fighting off monsters and sorcerers by using the touch screen. Chests would yield different contents depending on the key used. Impatient players can jump into the online store and buy gold keys to discover rare items, though lesser bronze and silver keys can be converted into gold when collected in-game. Keys dropped at a decent rate during my time with the game, so there doesn't seem to be any sign that the game is holding out for microtransactions.

Dialogue choices often result in consequences

While this particular dungeon quest was short, Ultima Forever will feature longer dungeons that feature scripted events and cutscenes. With Mythic now home to many former BioWare employees, the BioWare touch will be noticeable, as this game will feature over 130,000 lines of text. Later, I was taken into a town to help build up my character by talking to townspeople. Each conversation would bring up a dialogue tree, with each response building up a different aspect of Ultima's Eight Virtues. One thing that rang a sour note to me was that each dialogue choice specifically labeled which Virtue would be affected. This doesn't leave me with so much incentive to answer honestly, as I could simply keep responding with the answer that would raise the Virtue I wanted. "As you're playing through the game, depending on how you play, the Virtues will map differently," senior producer Carrie Gouskos told Shacknews. "Depending on what you do, how you act, the things you say, and who you talk to, you will create a different strategy for who you are and how you develop your personality." Beyond shaping your character, Virtues also craft your reputation. Many towns will emphasize one Virtue over another. If you enter a town without having built up the Virtue they value, you'll run into several restrictions. Villagers may receive you with more hostility and several items and shops will be closed off. One might wonder how faithful Ultima Forever will be, in light of series creator Richard Garriott carrying on with his own take on Britania's lore. Gouskos pointed out that not only was the team comprised of developers that grew up with the Ultima series, but that they had also reached out to Garriott, himself, who has freely offered his counsel to the development team. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar can be played alone or with online co-op. The game is set to hit the App Store in July.