At 20 years old, Ultima Online is finally doing what its EA-backed handlers at Broadsword once said it would never do: It’s going free-to-play.
Game update 99, Endless Journey, should be live right now if all goes well with this morning’s patch, meaning new and returning players can jump right in without paying that monthly $13 subscription. They’ll have the same number skills, the same access to dungeon content, the same access to Felucca (PvP), and the same access to chat. On the other hand, they may eventually want to give that sub a go, since without it, they won’t accrue vet rewards, can’t place or co-own houses, can’t place vendors, can’t place auction safes, can’t farm champ spawns, and can’t participate fully in live GM events. They’re also limited to just two characters.
If you’re planning on coming back on an ancient account rather than a brand-new one, do note that your account may not be ready yet. “The transition for closed accounts to Endless Journey accounts has begun and will continue over the next 24 hours,” Broadsword said in its server-up message a few minutes ago. “We appreciate your patience as we work through this process. You will not be able to login until the account has been processed.”
All accounts will automatically be granted all past expansions up through Stygian Abyss – note that doesn’t count the booster packs like High Seas or the most recent expansion, Time of Legends. And Broadsword has said it’s still working out just how much storage freebie accounts will have. Definitely check the list of what you can and can’t do as a freebie player.
You may also want to pick up the new “deluxe starter pack” Broadsword released today. If you can afford the hefty pricetag, it might be worth it for a newbie as it takes care of most of the stuff you’d need right off the bat, including basic runes to all the hotspots, full spellbooks, a suit of armor, and 100,000 gold (which is not a lot, but it’ll get you by as a newbie). It’s buyable from the in-game cash shop for 2000 sovereigns (worth $19.99). Again, it’s nothing you can’t put together during play, but it would make coming back much simpler (especially snagging that armor, which is pretty damn nice – yes, verging on pay-to-win territory). Here's the whole list of what's in it.
A Runic Hunter’s Atlas that allows recalling to a variety of hunting grounds friendly to the training adventurer, complete with location descriptions and tips
A full complement of full spellbooks for all magic schools including Bushido, Chivalry, Magery, Mysticism, Necromancy, and Ninjitsu
A Token of Skill Alacrity that allows you and your party members to experience an increased rate of skill gain for an entire week. This token is bound to the character that purchases it.
A Deluxe Journeyman’s Armor token that outfits the adventurer in a starter set of human/elf or gargish leather armor providing 70% in all resists, +15 Hit Points, +17 Mana, +17 Stamina, +30 Lower Mana Cost, +6 Hit Point Regeneration, +6 Mana Regeneration, +10 Stamina Regeneration, +5 Strength, +5 Dexterity, +5 Intelligence, and 100% Lower Reagent Cost
A Community Collection Point Award token that can be redeemed at the Moonglow Zoo, Vesper Museum, or Britain Library for 500,000 points
A Dungeon Point Award Point Token that can be redeemed for 100 Blackthorn Dungeon points, 1000 Dungeon Crystal Points of Despise, and 1000 Covetous Points
A direct deposit of 100,000 gold into your currency account
All items are account and shard bound.
If you’re going back, check out our catch-up primer from last fall when the game dinged up to 20. Probably the most important info is that no, you won’t be ganked unless you go to Felucca (and without Felucca bonuses, there’s no reason for a F2P character to go there but PvP anyway). If you’re looking for a server to play, you need to know that Atlantic is by far the most heavily populated, but it also has an inflated economy and limited housing space, so you may prefer to start on a more medium-size server like Great Lakes (you can always pay to transfer later).
And finally, someone always asks in the comments whether it’s worth it to go back. I think that it’s something every MMORPG player should at least try, especially now that it’s free, but I have always been honest about the difficulty of starting up – old MMORPGs, especially sandboxes, can be confusing because they won’t hold your hand; worse, it can be hard to break into the community, find information on outdated websites, or carve any kind of foothold in the economy. While part of this patch does add a ton of information and basic introductiony goodness to the game for all the newbies, I strongly urge you to join a newbie-friendly guild sooner rather than later. On the bigger servers, I would expect guilds to be rolling out the red carpet for potential new recruits, and there’s so much loot floating around the game that gathering some basic kit shouldn’t be difficult.
Our detailed 2016 tour of the game still holds up as well, with the exception of the section on the business model, of course.
And here’s a quick look at our UO coverage from the past couple of years!
Want to see it before you download it yourself? Drop by OPTV tonight at 8 p.m. EDT as MJ streams it from a newcomer’s perspective!