Ultima Online is a harsh, cruel game. Anyone not schooled in its ways will be swallowed up by the many predators (both monsters and other players) who spend days planning how to catch their next "newb". This is to be expected. It has been shaped and designed to be a game of extremes. There are clans of players who hunt not beasts and creatures of dungeons, but newer, weaker players.
Samurai Empire gives both the extremes of this game exactly what the wanted. More. More enemies, more land, more items, more possibilities. Those players who play in the clans of Trammel will be happy to have new hunting grounds, new weapons, and new abilities with which to experiment and devise newer, faster ways to wipe the proverbial floor with unexpecting players. The players who play for the RPG now have two more builds to incorporate into their "master character", their one character to rule them all. Most of all this expansion gives them both something new to fight about: more land plots.
The most valuable commodity in the universe of Ultima Online has nearly always been (and probably always will be) land. Players all want houses in which they can store stuff, hold meetings, pull scams, post vendors, and (most importantly) show off their rare items. The problem arises with the space on which to put the land. Eventually Electronic Arts will have put out enough expansions to make the amount of sizable plots equal the number of players, but until then land is a very valuable resource that is closely watched and even closer guarded.
With Samurai Empire, EA has brought a whole new experience. Or rather, the same experience with a decidedly more eastern feeling about it. Much the same as Age of Shadows added Necromancy and Chivalry, with SE comes two new schools of thought and learning: Ninjitsu and Bushido. Samurai and Ninjas are both played to the extreme stereotypes: samurai have a code of honor and are up-close warriors built on speed and ability, whereas ninjas are mystical beings with smoke bombs, mirror forms, assassination abilities and other cloak-and-dagger related items.
Despite the addition of these two new divisions in structure, very little has changed in-game. The interface is basically identical to its original form, and even combat is much unchanged. A few snippets were added of course, but nothing revolutionary. The two areas that did change noticeably are crafting and guilds. Crafting now has a few new areas to concentrate in, and new items can be made. More importantly, however, is the inclusion of a new guild system. The structure has been changed, allowing guilds to be more accessible and easier managed. Guild wars can even be set with conditions, allowing victories instead of simply fighting to a halt.
Overall there isn't much unexpected here. Nothing major will happen due to this release, and anyone not raptly interested in Brittania and its current affairs probably won't even notice this title. As Ultima Online expansions have been for some time now, only players of the game notice their release, and only veteran players need bother.
+ All the good additions of an expansion: classes, lands, monsters, and items
+ More of the same high-quality players are accustomed to
+ New music and sound effects surprisingly good
- Graphics still trapped in 1999
- Completely alienates new players
- Graphic and server bugs not uncommon
This is a game that has only one audience: players already in the world of Brittania. Anyone who has never played Ultima Online has absolutely no chance of grasping the momentous task of syncing with the various systems of the world. There is already a deep economic system in place, which will only momentarily be upset by the influx of the Samurai Empire items. There is no question of whether or not to purchase Samurai Empire. If you regularly enter Brittania, you probably already own it, and if you are not a veteran of UO, this isn't for you. Go have a much better experience with one of the shockingly good MMORPGs that released this year.
Reviewed by Greg Atkinson