Electronic Arts is reviving the Ultima franchise in the guise of a free-to-play title.

The cross-platform Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar will be developed by BioWare, and will sit under EA’s Play4Free banner.

According to BioWare, the game is strongly influenced by one particular Ultima game, released in 1985.

"It is Ultima IV," said BioWare Mythic creative director Paul Barnett.

"We've taken Ultima IV, and then we've re-imagined it. We've basically taken the Batman reboot option. The Spider-Man reboot option."

Forever will feature an isometric viewpoint, hand-painted backgrounds, and 3D characters.

"Every generation deserves an Ultima," said Barnett, "and we're giving this generation the best BioWare Ultima that we can."

Beta sign-ups for the title are open now via Origin.

Ultima creator Richard Garriott will not be involved with Ultima Forever, but is developing a title that appears to be a homage to his prior work, called Ultimate RPG/New Britannia.

His company has secured $US7 million (AU$6.9 million) from investors for that title and other undisclosed projects.

The history of Ultima RPGs stretches back to the ‘80s, and much of what is now considered standard in the RPG genre was pioneered by the franchise.

The last “pure” Ultima was 1999′s Ultima IX, although a number of spin-off games have followed.

MMO Ultima Online, launched in 1997, continues to be updated.