Isn't Ultima Online, hereafter referred to as "UO," that game that came before all other games, back in 1997? Yes. Yes, it is. So why would I promote such an old game when so many more advanced games have come out since then? Basically, because not only was UO the first MMO ever, but it was and still is the best of all games at being a true sandbox style MMORPG.
I've played many other games since UO such as EQ, EQ2, AC, SB, DAoC, WoW, SWG, Eve-Online (Best Sci-fi Sandbox game ever), CoH/V, FFXI, LoTRO, SWTOR, STO, AoC, Rift, Runescape, etc. When I first started UO I was disappointed and surprised by the isometric game perspective. Now I can't imagine playing it in any other form. Even though the graphics are very old school, I feel that the most important factor in a fun MMO is not the graphics or world theme, but the gameplay and community you play with. It doesn't really matter how awesome the game looks if the mechanics or community are lacking.
Ultima Online has a great balance between risk and reward, unlike many newer games. If you get killed in UO, you can lose almost everything you worked hard for! Only a small handful of items remain in your possession when you die, such as runebooks, spellbooks, and the clothing new players start with. Everything else can be taken from you by thieves or murderers. Another amazing feature of UO was the housing. You can buy a standard house, like a keep or castle, or you can even design your own! Here are two custom houses I designed recently:
The sounds of UO are one of my favorite features, whether it be the mortar and pestle grinding of alchemy, the hammering of carpentry, or the music. Ah, the music! You can really feel a sense of immersion just from the serene music of the wilderness, the tense music of a dungeon, and the excitement of the battle music! Or perhaps the sudden gloom of being dead and a ghost, trying to find a healer or a res, so you can get back to your body and possessions before they have decayed. Unfortunately the official UO servers have all transformed over the years into a very dumbed down version of the original UO. The original rule set of the game was far superior to what it is today. In the beginning, there was a single world, now known as Felucca, where your very life and belongings were almost always at great risk. You could be stolen from right in town, tracked down and murdered in the wilderness, or worse yet, deep inside a dungeon. These days, UO has a twin parallel world, called Trammel, which looks exactly like the original world of Felucca, yet has a care-bear-land rule set similar to more modern MMO games: No attacking other players, no stealing, and basically little risk whatsoever. Trammel is complete and utter nonsense, incapable of producing the rush of adrenaline that comes with taking risks and engaging in combat with other players.
So now I play UO on a free shard called
because it emulates the original game with a few more modern custom additions and enhancements. In other words, this shard (server) has all of the best features of the old school UO and none of the aforementioned crap that you find in newer games. Another really nice thing about it is that there is only one owner and he is the sole developer/admin/GM. A common problem with most other UO free servers is having rogue GM's with their own power tripping personalities or admins who hook up their friends with unique items, clear away trees for favored players to place housing, or even create custom, private islands in return for dollar bills. The owner of this shard is not corrupt in that way, which makes the shard even more awesome. The shard has been online since mid February 2014, with a steadily growing population, yet there's still plenty of nice real-estate available.
If you've played UO before and you want to experience it again, come join in the redemption of Ultima Online! If you haven't played UO before, then you are in for a treat!