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Lord of Ultima is a browser based Empire building strategy game, akin to Travian, but to the umpteenth degree. Very very loosely based on the Ultima universe (Some names get thrown around), the goal of Lord of Ultima seems to be building cities and armies, so that you can build more cities and armies. There is a quest system thrown in, some dungeons you can raid, and bosses you can kill to gain artifacts to make your journey faster. The game is based off of microtransactions, so those willing to throw cash at “Diamonds” will receive bonuses and get rewarded, and thereby have a competitive edge.

I have not paid for Diamonds, and have no intention of doing so. So I can’t speak as someone who plans on tossing some cash at the game. Having been playing for a couple of weeks now, since the game came out of Public Beta and went live, my early impressions are fairly mixed.

City Building and empire building can be fun, and it’s a nice passive way to game. You can set up the timer, go to work, come back and do it again. The game itself plays FAIR, there’s definitely some lag and slowdown issues, and the servers seem to go down a little more than I would like, but it’s more or less acceptable in terms of performance. I do have some complaints with the gameplay itself however.

1. Repetitiveness: Ok, so I’ve built my 5th city, and it basically seems like I am building my cities so I can… build more cities. Larger armies allow me to tackle higher level content, but the content itself is all the same, just with bigger rewards. Attacking a level 1 dungeons doesn’t require anything different than a level 4 dungeon, except more troops.

2. What’s the goal? Even after doing some research and reading the forums quickly for information on the “endgame”, information on this is spotty at best, and nonexistent in the game itself. The tutorial just tells you how to get set up and running, which is fine, but it doesn’t tell you what your motivation is, what’s going to happen, or how best to prepare yourself for it. Apparently shrines are going to pop up on the continents. And people battle for them. Or something. Something in the game itself that told you about this impending apocalypse and how best to prepare for it and what you might want to do when it happens seems like it might be a good touch.

3. Seems to be a fairly set way to do things. While looking at the forums, I also stumbled across people’s city plans. The experts of the community who have been playing since Beta have already determined the mathmatically best way to set up and operate cities for optimum performance. If you don’t do this, you’ll generally be extremely handicapped competitively. Not only does this ideal setup involve destroying all the natural resources in your town, it just ends up being very generic and boring. In fact, people just complain and insult other people whose cities they conquer if they are not set up this way. What’s the challenge in following a cookie cutter building plan? Or the fun, for that matter? This of course also just means the people are the most meticulous and have the most time to devote to setting things up in this one way will be in a much better position.

4. The game doesn’t really prepare you for PvP or combat. The tutorial gets you up and running, but again a major component of the game seems to be the ability to conquer other people’s cities (and defending your own from raids or being conquered) you can “opt out” of some of this by electing not to build a castle in your empire, but again, the game does a very poor job of explaining the advantages/disadvantages each path brings, and I suspect that those who choose the path of peace are in for an even more boring experience. But those who unwisely enter the realm of PvP and watch as their hard work for the last several weeks gets annihlated by those more experienced doesn’t seem like a lot of fun either.

So, as much as I have loyalty to the Ultima name, and I want to see the game be successful, I only play when I am at work – I have no intention of paying for it, and I am not sure if even a couple weeks the game will hold my attention. It just seems to take more time to play as you go forward without any sort of return in fun. While I find it a huge step forward from Travian, the game is still missing some key ingredients that would make me recommend it to anyone. Though, at free, it’s certainly worth a try. I haven’t hated it, but I certainly haven’t loved it.

http://www.lordofultima.com

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