Ultima Online, like many
other games of recent, such as Magic: The Gathering, is planning
to expand beyond the confines of the standard fiction and flavor
of a medieval Western European society to include concepts and
themes of an Asian origin. The Samurai Empire expansion, which
will include a new landmass filled with new monsters and home to
two new character classes--samurai and ninja--will be the second
major deviation from traditional Western European medieval period.
The first was the inclusion of technological based creatures and
fiction from the previously cancelled project Ultima Online 2,
which was bundled under the Lord Blackthorn's Revenge expansion
As each year passes, Ultima Online must continue to grow and
evolve in order to remain competitive with other games on the
market as well as prevent the experience from becoming monotonous
and lackluster. The addition of the Samurai Empire is a necessary
step for the future success of Ultima Online as the limitation
of an expanding product to a singular mythos will soon find the
availability of original content scarce. The repetition of new
landmass, monsters, and items without a major shift or addition
to the features of the game will quickly leave players unimpressed
and looking for another game. This expansion will provide the
developers a fresh and untapped source of content on which to
base future additions.
Long term players of games such as Ultima Online, which will
soon celebrate its seventh year in operation, and Magic: The
Gathering, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, are
heavily invested in the fundamental medieval and fantasy elements
of the product and the impending addition of content based upon
another culture is seen as a violation or betrayal of that which
is held dear. Both Ultima Online and Magic: The Gathering are
games that each spawned a whole new genre of gaming and the veteran
players of each game feel as stewards charged with the responsibility
of maintaining what made the original game great.
When the technology based creatures, such as Golems, were added
to Ultima Online, there was a sizable backlash from the players
who felt such technology did not belong within the game. Technology
is the antithesis of what is commonly recognizable as a medieval
experience and its continuing presence has altered the game in
a very significant way.
While the content of the Samurai Empire will feel very alien
to many players whose only knowledge or experience with the medieval
Asian culture is through Hollywood efforts, it is important to
realize both medieval experiences existed simultaneously, although
separated by great distances. The unique nature of Ultima Online
and its ability for quick travel will result in an amazing opportunity
to observe how people will react to the blending of these two
very distinct cultures. It will be interesting to see how players
reconcile the differences.
From the map provided, it appears the new landmass will be
just as diverse in terrain as the original Britannia, which is
always a good sign. Each type of terrain provides a unique opportunity
and environment for specialized creatures and it is hopeful that
full advantage of this opportunity was taken.
The large mountain range on the eastern side of the map is
very reminiscent of Mt. Fuji and its prominence on the island
continent leads one to believe it will hold a similar significance
to the islands natural inhabitants as Mt. Fuji does to the Japanese.
Such a prominent feature leaves this editorialist wishing for
an over the shoulder camera angle to see the profile of this
great volcanic mountain.
When looking closely at the map, one will notice a great many
islands ranging from rather large to dot sized. Hopefully, each
of these islands can be visited via boat or water creature with
perhaps a chance to encounter some points of interest along the
way or at the destination. Islands full of surprises encourage
the adventuring spirit in all of us. Booked passage yet?
Creatures of the Feudal Lands
Hai Riyo. What is a new land without its dragons? The
Hai Riyo is an exciting blend of controllable ferocity and elegant
design. This creature is the answer to the call for a dragon
mount and it flies no less!
The Fan Dancer is a creature of servitude as a guardian.
What she guards we can only imagine and dream it is worth the
challenge of her defeat. It is likely she will employ many special
abilities used by the Samurai or Ninja in her defense.
Lady of the Snow. Our undead beauty of the darkness. One
will not wish to cross her path in the dark of night else find
yourself still frozen in the dawn light. Deep cold and the ability
to freeze her victims are probably the weapons of choice.
Customized Housing Upgrades
With the expansion comes a whole new range of walls, floors,
and building components. This is by far the most exciting feature
of the Samurai Empire and other decorators are sure to agree.
The draw of designing in traditional Japanese architecture or
finding a contemporary blend with existing Western European design
Among the types of new houses listed, farms and castles stick
out. When one thinks of a farm, one envisions a location where
plants and/or animals are grown and harvested for their resources.
With that in mind, could farms be a new housing type to allow
players to grow new types of resource bearing plants? Breed animals?
Let us hope.
Castles. The traditional castle is a massive structure associated
with veteran status and great wealth. It is not certain the castles
mentioned for the Samurai Empire are the traditional Western
European castles that currently exist in game. It is more likely
the expansion will include the traditional Japanese version of
castle, which is far more compact, though no less luxurious.
What type of castle do you envision?
While the land may be unfamiliar and its creatures difficult,
fear not for one will be able to train in the arts of the Samurai
and Ninja to combat these new evils. Each character class provides
a new twist to combat and unique special maneuvers that will
change combat forever.
The Samurai are warriors of honor and strength. It is
likely they will be comrades of the Luna Paladins and fight on
the side of noble good. Their ability to fight multiple opponents
at a single time will greatly increase their defensive nature,
but at what cost? What is the Samurai's weakness?
Ninjas are the shadows and the flashes in the periphery.
They go unseen and unheard until it is too late. Ninjas will
be the masters of deception and will give the Assassin a fighting
chance in this new arena. Best watch the animals and the shadows
lest you fall to the trickery of this new breed of warrior.
The Land of the Feudal Lords, the Samurai Empire, is an exciting
new world to explore filled with a vast landscape and adventures
to be hand. The treasures and spoils of conquest and experience
are up for grabs. The ship awaits, are you onboard?
~ Patrick Conners
Swamp Thing of Stratics