Ultima Online 2
Technically, it was going to be called “Ultima Worlds Online: Origin”, but we all know what it was. This was announced way, way back in 1999, only to be cancelled in 2001. It was to be very different from the original Ultima Online, not least in terms of setting. Ultima has always been the poster-child for medieval style fantasy, up to and including being the only series that’s allowed to do ‘thou’ and ‘dost’ stuff without being given a slap. (Looking at you, Two Worlds.) Ultima Online 2 however was pretty much steampunk, with worlds of magic and a technology clashing courtesy of a magical time compression cataclysm apparently imported from Final Fantasy VIII.
Looking back, it’s probably most interesting for how much it tried to duck away from things that had made Ultima Online interesting in the first place, from cutting out player combat except in designated arenas, to greatly reducing how much characters could learn and thus how powerful they could get. It was also to be far more focused on group play, supporting up to 30 players. Its 3D also allowed for a, for-the-time, pretty good looking world, albeit a very glum one in most of the available shots. It’s a little reductive, but it’s not hard to see that if UO was a game designed around classical MUD concepts, Ultima Online 2 was set to take on the growing success of Everquest. And, to judge from this video, Dance Dance Revolution. Seriously. There must be something in the water…
There were other cancelled Ultima related games too of course, though generally too early in development for anything of note to remain. Here for instance are the scraps of an Ultima Underworld 3 design bible. There were also plans for a third Worlds of Ultima type game, finally using a better engine than the Ultima VI one that powered Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, and dubbed “Arthurian Legends”. Not sure what it would have been about. Robin Hood, probably. Its connection to Ultima proper is casual at best, and only a few scraps remain, mostly in this interview.
Torn had a pretty short life, really, going just a few months from world premiere to cancellation back in 2001. It had something of a Planescape Torment vibe to it, focusing on a wandering character cursed to bring bad luck wherever they went, though in an ever so slightly cheerier world. In terms of systems, it was going to use the Fallout SPECIAL system in a fantasy setting – the world of Torn – only in a semi-real time form rather than pure turn-based. Beyond that and a bit of lore, fairly stock “Order vs. Chaos” stuff really, not too much is known. Officially, the game was axed because it wasn’t going well and wasn’t going to be done fast enough to pull Interplay’s financial chestnuts off the fire in time. While that has been contested, it’s tough to get too excited about the only footage floating around.
SPECIAL did ultimately get its fantasy debut in a game published by Black Isle, the deservedly forgotten Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader. It was an alternate history affair combining medieval history with demons, in what can best be summed up as “Great idea, weak game.” But since it came out, there’s no need to dwell on that here. Onwards, to a somewhat familiar face!
Nope, not that one – CD Projekt’s rocket-powered rise from RPG rags to riches – but a whole other more action/adventure focused take on the same world from the mid 90s. Eurogamer has the full scoop, so I won’t go on about this one too much, but it was to be a far more action/adventure focused version of the story with just a few basic RPG elements. It may still have had a significant impact on both the series’ international success and the later CD Projekt version though – creator Adrian Chmielarz claims to have coined the translation of ‘The Witcher’ from Wiedźmin. “I don’t want to sound like ‘heyyyy, I’m that guy’. All I know is that at least he claimed that I was the one who proposed the title.”