There's something enjoyable about progress. Building a village, a town, and filling it out until it's a city. In Lord of Ultima, you are a lord, not some filthy adventurer. Your peasants do the grinding, the building, and the levelling, while you get to watch the gold roll in.
Lord of Ultima is a very slow game. Like Solium Infernum or Neptune's Pride, you're forced to wait for hours and hours to see the fruition of your plans. Unlike those games, there are thousands of strangers playing with you. It's a free, browser-based strategy game that might just remind you of The Settlers before you think of the Ultima games. Lord of Ultima gets off to a lively start as the nice tutorial lady hands out free resources and teaches you how to upgrade your buildings, recruit soldiers, and lay out your walled city, but soon grinds to a crunching halt.
Much of the play on the square grid you call home revolves around resource production. You need stone and wood to build, you need metal to recruit soldiers, you need food to feed them, and gold to go swimming in. Resource buildings get bonuses for every raw material clustered around them, and working out how to best utilise your scattering of resource squares is a deeply satisfying gaming pleasure.
You won't want to wait for them to trickle in, though – Ultima is very much a game about going to play other things, then rushing to check on your stockpiles the next day.
Aside from city planning, you need to worry about the other players. After a week of protection, your city is open to attack, but you'll need little more than city guards to weather the smattering of noob farmers that will batter feebly at your gates. If you want to turn the tables and dish out a hurting, you can build a castle, which enables you to plunder other cities, but also leaves you open to sieges. If you don't break a siege, the attacker takes your city, so your best bet is to set up a second city, and build a castle in it.
The cash shop isn't as intrusive or needy as we've come to expect from the free-to-play model – a fiver gets you five hundred diamonds, and just ten of those can buy you five hours worth of resources, or speed up building queues by a few hours.
Lord of Ultima fits snugly around your gaming schedule. Find yourself waiting in the spawn in TF2? Queue up some buildings. Stuck on an infuriating puzzle in The Whispered World? Take a pause and recruit some soldiers while you're looking up GameFAQs.
The massive resource boost after a good night's sleep is a pleasant reward for eight hours enforced AFK, though you sometimes feel like playing but can't, simply because your build queue is full or you've not got enough resources. No matter – there's enough to do to keep you coming back every few hours.
A passive pleasure, Lord of Ultima is the perfect strategy complement for an action-heavy gaming regimen.