VOICES EDITORIAL: Adding an Asian Influence to UO with the Samurai Empire
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 pack.

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 is irresistible.

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?

Character Classes

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
VOICES Editorialist