Kickstarter backer here, quite displeased.
SOTA reminds me of the recent Elder Scrolls Online, which was a cardboard imitation of the genuine article. Shroud of the Avatar is a run-of-the-mill MMO clone, thinly draped in Ultima IP. If you enjoyed Ultima IV, V, or VII, and hope SOTA will scratch that itch, look elsewhere.
The gameplay here is nothing like the legacy titles. Instead of a handful of high-level quests that you have to investigate and resolve on your own in a sandbox world, SOTA leads you by the hand through a predictable series of escalating kill/fetch/talk quests. You might as well play any other grindtacular MMO. You'll speak with a hundred bland NPC quest-givers. You've done this before. It works exactly the same way. You shouldn't care.
I've been a dedicated player of Asheron's Call, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Rift, and Guild Wars 2 (among others). That's not to say I hold these games as ideal. It's to establish the fact that I'm familiar with the genre and can say with authority that SOTA has very little to offer that you can't find in any mainstream MMO. You can hate those games but still agree with me that the gameplay mechanics and the content of SOTA are basically interchangeable with any competitor.
Ultima V was the very first computer game I ever played, at 7 years old. It took me 20 years to beat without cheating. I played Ultima VII on-and-off when I was a teenager, though I think it also took me 5 or 6 years to complete. I grew up playing Ultima. I have a good sense of what is Ultima and what is not. I've also played a lot of other games. SOTA has almost nothing in common with those games.
I'd say the combat in SOTA is a straight-up clone of the Guild Wars model (or whatever game pioneered that style). It's a standard "manage your cooldowns" experience. You've been here before. Same with the NPCs, the interminable crafting, etc. SOTA wasn't designed as an artwork, it was designed as a treadmill for people who are nostalgic for the legacy games.
The "story" really doesn't enter into it. I'm sure Richard Garriot et al. have invested real effort in crafting an authentic Ultima plot. It doesn't matter: it's been diluted very thoroughly by the generic MMO million-minor-quest task tree. Imagine I invented a truly brilliant soup recipe, but then I watered it down to 30 parts-per-million. I'm basically serving a bowl of water with a single droplet of flavor. In SOTA, you're not going to experience the unique flavor you came here for.
For a fraction of the cost, they could have made another top-down isometric game, the experience of which wasn't entirely controlled by the need to create an elongated treadmill.
Hell, Realm of the Mad God is a better successor to the old Ultima games than SOTA. I'm going to go play it, for free.