Based on Ultima, the groundbreaking series from the 1980s, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is an expansive online role playing game that is free to download and play from the iTunes App Store.
The setup here is that the land of Britannia has been infected by a plague called the Weep, but humans from Earth are not affected. After creating your character – fighter and mage are your two choices – you are summoned to Britannia to help save the kingdom. You do this by taking on missions and exploring dungeons.
At the entrance to dungeons the game tells you the level your character should be in order to survive the adventure. It also gives you the approximate time to complete the section. Most are around 15 minutes. And before you begin a dungeon you establish your loadout, which includes equipping boost cards.
You'll see the avatars of other players on your map, and you can form ad-hoc parties with them to explore dungeons, improving your odds of surviving. As with other multiplayer games, though, your experience may vary. You'll be at the mercy of the whims of other relatively nameless players, and if they quit the dungeon before its completed you get kicked out, too, which means you don't collect any loot or experience. And Ultima Forever is still buggy enough that you may find it challenging to form and stay in groups. You may choose to go it alone.
Navigation and combat are as simple as tapping a location or enemy. Your character will have difficulty finding their way to distant destinations or if objects are in the way; travelling shorter, obstacle-free distances is easier.
Along the way you'll maintain and upgrade your weapons and equipment, which you do with the bronze keys that are the base currency of the game and which you earn during your adventures.
The keys, which also come in silver and gold, are also used to open the treasure chests scattered around. Use a more valuable key, and you get a chance at more valuable loot.
It may be free to download and play, but if you want to spend money playing Ultima Forever, you can. You can convert bronze keys to silver. But the only way to get gold keys, once you've used up the small allotment you get when starting the game, is to spend real money (or by playing promo and advertising videos). And the only way to do certain things in the game, like open up inventory slots, for example, is to use gold keys.
You can certainly enjoy Ultima Forever without paying anything, but it's too bad that the game tries so hard to get money out of its players. It would be easier to want to go back to Britannia if the game was less like one of those bandits waiting in the forest.
Platform: iOS (rated 9+); Developer: Electronic Arts.