EA has officially announced the next UO expansion, one of two secret Ultima projects that UXO was canceled in favor of. Samurai Empires adds Samurai and Ninja occupations to the game and includes a variety of Japanese inspired monsters, demons and other creatures. You can tell from the screenshots below that the game appears somewhat dated today, but it's somewhat amazing that it's still going strong after seven years. That's a time period equal to the gap between Wing Commander 1 and Prophecy!
Traveling around a mysterious Asian environment filled with exotic beasts, expansive dungeons and scenic housing areas, players can strive to become a fierce Samurai, dedicated to the art of Bushido and focused on learning new physical combat abilities. These skills include Lightening Strike, a ferocious and fast single attack with a 50 percent hit bonus; Whirlwind, where a Samurai's powers increase as the number of enemies he's fighting multiply; and Honorable Execution, which is an attempt to eliminate an enemy with a single attack.The game is scheduled to be complete in November and will retail for about $29.99 in the US. You can find the press release here. Slashdot also has some discussions on the new project.
Players also have the choice of joining the elite ranks of the Ninja, where they will concentrate on magical combat and stealth. The Ninja player will master many deadly arts that include Smoke Bomb, which they use to make themselves disappear. By using Animal Form, Ninjas can turn into seemingly harmless creatures like wolves and serpents, allowing them to move freely among their enemies. With the Mirror Image skill, Ninjas can confuse their enemies by creating up to four mirror images of themselves.