Do you remember Evony? That was, and still is, the slow-speed Facebook game without Facebook that made news back in 2009 with ads featuring scantily clad models looking fetchingly towards the audience and saying something like “Come save me, milord!” The problem was, of course, that there was no such maiden in the game. The game consisted of a fairly mundane building game where you build various buildings in your town, usually taking minutes or hours to complete, then build troops to attack other players’ cities. That was pretty much it. Oh, you could buy items, for real money, to get more resources or build items faster, and it was a good idea to join groups of other players for mutual defense, but at its heart, all you did in Evony was build and attack.
And yet, for all its deceptive ad campaign and simplistic game play, Evony was actually something of a success. So like anything that succeeds on the internet, it has spawned a host of imitators. Caesary, Lords Online, Heroes of Gaia, and likely dozens more I haven’t even heard of, all of these are games that duplicate Evony’s basic format with just a tweak or two. Considering that Evony itself wasn’t really much of a game, it can hardly be considered surprising that the copies of it aren’t any good either. And now we can add another entry into the Hall of Bad Copies: Lord of Ultima.
Make no mistake. Lord of Ultima is Evony. The game play is identical. You start with a Level One Town Hall and a pile of resources, which you turn into a number of production buildings that get you more resources that you turn into more buildings. Some of those buildings let you build troops that you can use to defend yourself or attack other players. For the impatient, there’s the store that lets you buy items for real world money to make things go quicker. It’s all the same.
Except that unlike Heroes of Gaia and the other Evony clones, Lord of Ultima stakes a claim to something special: The Ultima legacy. Few games are as remembered or as beloved amongst old school gamers than the Ultima games. Ultima IV was one of the most revolutionary games of its generation, and any game calling itself Ultima has a lot to live up to. Does Lord of Ultima?
No. Not even close. For one thing, there’s barely any connection between Lord of Ultima and any of the old Ultima games. You can build a Trinsic Temple or a Moonglow Tower, both referring to cities in the original Ultima games. There are the occasional Virtue Shrines you can use on the world map. And that’s it. It has to be one of the laziest and least convincing adaptations of existing source material I’ve ever seen.
So Lord of Ultima fails as an Ultima game. How does it do as a Evony clone?
Not that bad, actually. I’m certainly no fan of the basic Evony game play model, but there are a few innovations that a kind of nice in Lord of Ultima. For one thing, there are resources scattered around your cities. Placing buildings next to the right resources makes them produce more. So you have to balance which resources you want to emphasize and what you’re willing to get less in. Compared to Evony’s “build what you want where you want it” model, there is at least more strategic thinking required in Lord of Ultima.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of random dungeons and monsters for you to raid on the world map. That way it’s possible to get use out of your armies without having to jump other players. Indeed, between the better building part of the game, the generous protections from other players, and the existence of computer controlled targets, it becomes possible to play the game as a single player kingdom management simulation. Well, at least it is until you run out of building space. Then you have to conquer someone or quit the game.
Ultimately, Lord of Ultima is a terrible Ultima game but a decent Evony clone. If you like Evony, you could do worse than to play Lord of Ultima. But if you’re a fan of the Ultima series, you should stay as far away from Lord of Ultima as you possibly can.