Lord of Ultima

Lord of Ultima - Browser (2010)

This entry is part 18 of 22 in the series Ultima

Essentially a clone of city-building browser games like Evony or TravianLord of Ultima is a city-building real-time strategy game that takes place in a land called Caledonia, which arose after the destruction of Sosaria. It was developed by EA Phenomic (formerly Phenomic Development), a German development house best-known before the Electronic Arts acquisition for their SpellForce series.

For people who have stayed away from these free-to-play browser games, Lord of Ultima plays essentially like later installments of Sid Meier’s Civilization, where you create and develop cities by building add-on structures that provide various benefits, for the purpose of acquiring resources and training a powerful military force. Other people are doing this as well, and you can interact with other players by communicating, trading, going to war with them and forming alliances. Players compete for a high score, and through the cooperation of alliances, a particularly powerful player can reach the “Lord of Ultima” rank. The eight virtues figure into the game as sort of a resource used to upgrade particular aspects of your cities and troops, and city layout and planning is a large part of the game strategy. Lord of Ultima is free to play, but like all games of this sort, you have the option of paying money for an advantage. Money gets you Diamonds, a resource that can be spent in an in-game store for special items that give you an advantage over more frugal players. People willing to pay can essentially steamroll other players, though the game does use a ‘mana’ system for activating paid-for artifacts which curbs this potential abuse a bit.

All in all, it’s a decent game. It’s certainly rather better designed than utter garbage like Evony, as it involves some strategy and thought, particularly in city design. It remains, however, just a clone of other similar browser games. It’s designed to hook people with the ‘free play’ aspect and then drain you of small amounts of cash slowly, playing on the human brain’s inability to intuitively correlate the money loss of multiple tiny payments with single larger payments. People who pay will be the people who win, and ultimately your money went to a glacially-paced time-waster with no real goals to accomplish. Like Evony, it even sells itself with cheesecake imagery; Phenomic wasn’t exactly above this before their acquisition by EA either, as the covers of their SpellForce games will attest.

But the most damning part? This game has nothing to do with Ultima other than a few names. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The Ultima aspects of this game seem to be drawn essentially at random from a list of names and places that EA provided, a way to use just another old piece of IP that Electronic Arts had lying around and nothing to use with. Sierra putting the Ultima name on Keith Zabalaoui’s dungeon-crawler to try to get more sales with branding is one thing, but the very existence of Lord of Ultima almost seems like it was purposefully designed as a slap in the face to Ultima fans and the people at Origin who worked so hard bringing worlds to life.


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