Ultima: Return to the Serpent Isle (also known as Return or Ultima Return for short) is a fan game set in the Ultima universe, in development by Team Return and led by Sergorn Dragon. It intends to revisit the Serpent Isle after the events of Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, and create a new story in that setting.
Unlike some other fan games or remakes, Return follows the canon of Ultima IX: Ascension, albeit with some minor alterations in order to craft a more cohesive background.
The game uses the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine and requires both add-ons (Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir) to be installed. The team's website has been up since February 2010.
While the landmass in itself will try to faithfully recreate the Serpent Isle, many changes will have occurred since Ultima VII Part Two. Also, due to the fact that the remake will be using a dual-scale scheme for the overworld and towns (similar to that of the Ultima games up to Ultima V, with one scale for the overworld and a different one for towns, dungeons, etc.), creative freedom had to be taken in order to accommodate everything on the world map.
Twenty years after the defeat of the Guardian, a Britannian expedition led by Shamino set out for the Serpent Isle in order to discover what has happened to this lost land and possibly establish formal relations with Britannia.
As a member of this expedition, the player will set out on an adventure that will change his life forever.
In order to create a game worthy of the Ultima name, Team Return has strongly revamped Neverwinter Nights 2 by modifying or creating new systems including:
- A traditional character creation system based upon Virtue Questions, with its own set of classes.
- A fully revamped character development and experience system more in line with the Ultima norm.
- A new free form skill system inspired by Ultima Underworld.
- Britannian Magic with the use of traditional spellbook and reagents along with an added Mana bar.
- A new sleeping system with various danger levels, and the ability to have a character stand guard.
- Individual food consumption for each party member.
- NPC Schedules.
- NPCs that can react to the actions of player and call the guards if needed.
- Boat travel.
And much more.
The premise of Return to the Serpent Isle was originally conceived in the early 2000s, and first served as the basis for a short-lived fan fiction at the Dragon Press that never lived past the first couple of chapters.
As many fan projects were being worked on the time, Sergorn Dragon began to rethink his premise for the basis of a fan game, and had written a very rough plotline and development doc by the end of 2003, albeit with no intention of actually starting a game project, due to his involvement with the French translation of Ultima V: Lazarus. As such the project never went past the concept stage at that point and by the time the French version of Lazarus was released in late 2006, Sergorn Dragon needed a break from Ultima which put the project on hiatus.
Sergorn resumed his work on Return to the Serpent Isle in 2008 and wrote an extensive design doc and plot document, with a more complete plotline and a very detailed background covering the history of the Serpent Isle since the original game.
The project was formally announced in December 2008 with a call on many sites for team members, and aimed to be crafted with the Dungeon Siege engine while making use of the Project Britannia framework. However development for this first year basically stalled, with new team members hard to come by and actual production with Dungeon Siege yet to begin.
By the end of 2009, it was decided to drop the Dungeon Siege engine and switch to Neverwinter Nights 2, due in no small part to the overland map system of Storm of Zehir, and the boat travel system that had been designed form Realms of Ultima; but also because the team felt the switch in engine would allow to craft episodic releases which would have been impossible with Dungeon Siege.
The official website went live on February 2010, announcing the new direction of the project. Since the switch of engine, more people have joined Team Return and development has been progressing steadily ever since.
As of October 2010, all major features have been coded and implemented into a unified system and Team Return is focusing on world building, dialogue writing and music composition for their first release.
While no release date has been set, Return will be released in an episodic format one chapter at the time, allowing players to keep their characters and continue the story where it was left of.
The plan is to release a complete version once all chapters are released.