Why I love Ultima but am worried about Shroud of the Avatar

I’m a big Ultima fan. My first Ultima game was Ultima IV back in my freshman or sophomore year of high school. It was my first expose to an RPG and it was awesome. The cool 8bit graphics. The cute midi sounds. But the story was epic. I kept a notebook with all of the things i found (there were no in-game journals back then). If you didn’t know how to do something, there was no internet filled with cheats. You had to figure it out or ask your friends if they knew. That was it. But i got through the game. I found all the hidden things. I replayed it 2 or 3 times as different character classes.

And never once did i own any property. I was an adventurer. Everything i needed was in my backpack. Some food, some weapons, some reagents. If i wanted a bed to sleep in or a nice meal, i’d find an inn or tavern. Those were the good old days.

After that, i played Ultima III, then Ultima VI (somehow I skipped Ultima V – i must have been pretty busy with school or something). Along comes Ultima VII (more than one of them even). Then Ultima VIII, then a retro pack with all the past games, so i played Ultima 0, 1, and 2. Still never quite got around to 5. Oh well. Of course i played Ultima IX. And finally a few years later, I even signed up to be a beta tester for Ultima Online.

Sadly, after a day or so, i couldn’t take it anymore. Running around digging for gold, chopping down trees, trying to build up skill points. It was kind of boring and i soon lost interest. I hear it got better. I don’t know – i didn’t bother to go back.

But now here we are, several years later (a decade perhaps?) and Richard is at it again. He starts a kickstarter for a new Ultima inspired game: Shroud of the Avatar. How awesome. Another chance to visit one of my favorite all time RPG series. Naturally i sign up so i can play the early beta a year before the game gets released. I follow the updates on a semi-regular basis. I don’t troll the forums for all the minutia (i have a day job now you know), but i keep up on what’s going on. And this is where things start to make me nervous.

For the last several weeks or months, all the talk and excitement has been about virtual property, virtual homes and castles and all the cool furniture you can put in your house. Really? REALLY? I’m an adventurer. I want to go out and slay dragons, rescue damsels, fight evil wizards and save the world. I don’t want to have to worry about bandits robbing my house, paying taxes on property in some city, keeping the grass mowed, and keeping up with the Jonses. That would completely suck the life out of this game.

I’ve played other games where you owned property. Most notably NeverWinter Nights and DragonAge. You don’t start off as a land owner, but if you get far enough in the game you end up with a castle and you have to take care of it. You have to pay for upkeep and defenses and workforce labor, and … those are pretty much the point in the game where i stop playing and move on to something else.

I sincerely hope that Shroud of the Avatar doesn’t require a home to be a fun game. If i can’t carry it in my pack, i don’t want it. It’s extra cruft that will hinder my fun, not enhance it. Having said that, of course i’m still going to give it a try, but the first time i’m forced to buy a house somewhere to continue progressing is the day i stop playing.