The fine folks at MMORPG.com were able to preview Ultima Forever at GDC, and offer a very favourable opinion of the game, praising its meshing of hand-painted backdrops and 3D models and “easy to learn” combat system before diving into specifics.
On the eight canonical character classes:
The game will launch with two classes: warrior and mage. However they do plan to add all of the classic Ultima classes into the game such as Druid, Bard, Ranger, and Paladin. The warrior was all melee with attacks to the front, flanks, and even a backstab. The mage is the glass cannon of ranged damage. There were a variety of spell icons on the screen.
On the keys, the free-to-play games monetization scheme:
The bronze keys you can find almost anywhere from defeating monsters or smashing open barrels. These are used for basic loot repairs and can be grouped together to get the next level of key. Silver keys can be found through adventuring but are also available in the cash store. The silver keys offer better loot options. The last are the Gold keys which are for purchase and can help you in all manner of ways. They unlock cosmetic rewards, time rewards, and many other top level enhancements. These keys are tied to a loot system of Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Epic loot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a grind system, it is not even close. All of the game play we saw looked fun and keys were easily accessible.
On the Virtues:
This takes us into the eight virtues of Ultima is something that really set the series apart in the olden days. All of the virtues are programed into Ultima Forever. You have bars for each virtue and you can grow all eight or work heavily on a few. Some virtues are more valuable to have in certain cities. For example the people of Skara Brae find Spirituality as the highest of the virtues. If your spirituality is high then Sakara Brae will be particularly welcoming to you. The virtues are: Honesty, Spirituality, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Honor, Sacrifice, and Humility. There are lots of hidden tests in the game which will build up all of these virtues.
And on exploration:
The last thing the team wanted us to know was that there are loads of side quests and hidden areas in the game. We ran into a secret door during a dungeon which led us to a whole new area. The team felt very strongly about exploring the maps and opening up vaults to players.
All of which is good to hear, of course; it gives the impression that Mythic are treating Ultima with a measure of due respect, at least, if not crafting something that might find its own ways to appeal to long-time fans of the Ultima games.