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I still really like the old school feel of the UOR era, it had the best PVP. Recently I have been having fun on a few of the custom era shards and have found the changes to be very exciting. I think the quests have been the best addition that has been added to the game
Without a doubt the first year when everyone was a peasant except and elite few. Even when we could barely walk through town due to server lag ... it was wonderful. Every time you left town to gather resources your heart would race knowing a PK attack was inevitable and you should not push your luck too long. This had the benefit of driving up the cost of resources and lowering their availability. Black pear was impossible to find. There were no user run vendors. You had to stand in town and sell your wares to other players at the busiest times of the day. You couldn't single player your way through, you had to cooperate with others and work as a group to survive. It was exciting, new, social and wonderful.
I saw this UO era description on Reddit and decided it was worth a repost:
A lot comes down to era if you ask me.
The base game and T2A had basically the same art style and the monsters of this era are my favorite. Most of the tiles too.
Third Dawn brought us 3d models. I am one of the few who REALLY liked these. It let non-humans use equipment and could have made the entire mobile system much more dynamic. Unfortunately the models had to run on old computers (for that time period) so they were kinda crap. The fact that these simple models got rendered as is to make sprites for the 2d version gave us some of the first serious art clash.
Samurai Empire and Age of Shadows were vaguely similar in style. Both seemed to be trying to go back to the old look with a new twist. Not as good as the old stuff, but worthy.
Mondain's Legacy... this one is weird. The 3d mobs here had given up on dynamic equipment and such but were actually pretty good looking. The elves themselves look great, as do the paperdoll images for their weapons. My sticking point is that the equipment animations, particularly armor, look absolutely horrible and the backpack art for the armor isn't much better. The armor designs are great, the weapons are pretty good but somehow the rendered ML armor sprites came out as the most unnatural looking thing in the entire game.
Kingdom Reborn/Enchanced Client.... so much wasted potential. They should have given us new models for the mobs so we could have shared weapons when the gargoyles came out. Instead we got a complete waste of time: a new 2d client. It actually turned out pretty decent looking in the end but didn't do anything fundamentally differently than the old client. My problem here was randomly giving perfectly good monsters totally different character designs. Hydra weren't supposed to be rainbow colored, exodus juggernauts didn't have legs and so on. So many things were changed for the sake of change I just can't use it.
High Seas the ships are awesome but a lot of this one deviated from the base art style heavily.
Stygian Abyss. Not quite matching the old art but at least managing not to clash. Actually from here on to now they've seemed to have gotten better at matching old styles. What's weird is that didn't really pick one to go with... some of the new stuff looks like it could have come from the original CD and other stuff looks like Third Dawn.
All in all what I really like is the almost Lego or Minecraft style system for piece work buildings and environments. That's what disappointed me about High Seas, the ships looked like paintings, not modular game pieces. Still great, but not what I would have done. I think that's what gives the game it's edge. It's a lot harder to reuse the pieces of a WoW scene to make something totally different.
My only problem with the game being 2d is the limitations of the paperdoll system vs models and the wasted potential of Third Dawn. A lot of the game art is really good and when people complain I think it's because they've seen a lot of the clashing stuff juxtaposed. 95% of it fits together okay but you can get some really awkward looking screenshots.