EA is turning off the lights at Ultima Forever, the multiplayer role-playing game for iOS devices.
So farewell then, Ultima. The title of developer Mythic and publisher EA's new entry in the series, an iOS-exclusive, free-to-play MMORPG-lite, is Ultima Forever. These words you can visualise chiselled on a gravestone. Make no mistake; this game has the surface of a vibrant fantasy, but it is a grasping and shallow product.
The free-to-play business model is entirely to blame for this, because Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (to give its full title) is a game built around several principles that flow from it. Critics of free-to-play often focus on the money side of things, but really the specific amounts matter little. Ultima Forever rips you off with its keys, for sure, but it is their impact on how the game actually plays that ruins it.
This is a game built for idiots. The critic Ian Bogost once mocked up something called Cow Clicker to illustrate the banal absurdity of most freemium mechanics, and Ultima Forever is Cow Clicker with a beard. Everything is straightforward to the point of absurdity. Combat comes down to just tapping on enemies constantly. It really does. There are special moves, and you can move around to score backstabs or avoid attacks, but 99% of the time this is soul-crushing, mechanical drudgery. Go into a dungeon, tap furiously for 10 minutes, leave.