I’ve only ever positively associated two franchises with the word “Avatar.” The first is the fantastic animated series on Nickelodean (watch it if you haven’t yet, seriously), and the second is Ultima. It was never quite as huge an RPG franchise as Final Fantasy, but it’s got more than enough die-hard fans to justify an iOS rekindling. Hence the upcoming Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar.
For those unfamiliar with the series it’s essentially a fantasy action RPG set in the same world (Britannia) but with ever changing threats. Each game also stars a legendary hero known as The Avatar. Hence the title. Ultima Foraver is set over twenty years after the events of Ultima IV with Lord British stepping down from the throne and his progeny, Lady British, taking over. The land is once again in peril and once again in need of The Avatar. A horrible disease referred to as “the Black Weep” is slowly consuming the land; turning people into monsters, ugly-ing up the countryside, and generally being a nuisance. Players must combat the Weep while also conditioning their character to become the next Avatar if Britannia is to have any hope of survival (Spoiler Alert: the series has currently already crossed into double-digits).
Ultima Forever is going to be an online RPG, but without all the rampant ganking found in Ultima Online (thank goodness). The focus this time is on co-op, with up to four players able to team up to take on an assortment of the game’s dungeons. Dungeons that scale in difficulty, depending on the number of participants of course. The number of players can also have an effect on what areas can be accessed as certain locks and other puzzles require a specific number of people present to interact with them. Combat itself is also a bit more involved with position playing a key role. Attacking from the sides and especially the back will typically do more damage, and many enemies incorporate attacks with specific hit zones that can be avoided with enough practice. And as one would expect there’s going to be loot aplenty. But this is looking to be more than a mere dungeon crawler, however.
As I’ve mentioned, there’s an emphasis on turning each player’s character into The Avatar, and to do that they need to master the Eight Virtues. Each Virtue has its own meter that fills up based on the dialog choices a player makes as well as some of the quests they complete. Once they’ve mastered all eight (no easy task as it requires building up a good reputation in all of Britannia’s many towns, among other things) they can throw their own little Avatar parade.
Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is still a few months away with a predicted Spring release, but it’s already looking pretty sharp. And it’s going to be free-to-play, so I expect to see a lot of would-be Avatars running around Britannia when I load it up.