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Ultima VII: The Black Gate (DOS)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Nathan Kovner (49)
Written on  :  Jan 10, 2000
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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Summary

Lord British's Masterpiece! An extremely immersive and detailed world.

The Good

Ultima 7 is one of the most memorable games I've ever played. Just looking at the box gives me shivers. I don't know why, but the slate black box Origin gave U7 seems to convey it's depth and intrique, but that's probably only because I was really excited bringing it home from the store.

What makes Ultima 7 great is it's rich, detailed world, and its relatively non-linear plot that gives the player free roam to explore that world. It's true that just about half of RPG's before U7 gave the player this freedom, but only U7 detailed its cities and wilderness with enough personality for me to care.

To me - the meat of U7 is it's sidequests. Once the Avatar arrives in a city and starts talking to the people, sidequests will be revealed - not through a paper thin "I lost my sword, I think Mr. X may have stolen it," but through mysteries and city issues that everyone in town has a unique opinion on. It's the rich dialogue that brings the cities, and Britannia to life.

Each city is unique - U7 tempts the player to travel for it's own sake. Much of the main plot involves chasing around a brother and sister duo from city to city, a weak but forgivable way to ensure the player gets to every city. The plot's pretty darn interesting for a fantasy RPG - an organization, The Fellowship, has brought much of Britannia into it's fold, and the Avatar must investigate it to decide it's merits. The Guardian also makes his first appearance - he's genuinely scary when he jumps out to tell you something when you least expect it, and gives you the feeling you're being spied on from overhead. It almost makes you feel that from the Isometric prespective you're seeing things from the Guardian's point of view. Creepy...

A final note - the interface, a paper doll inventory system, makes organizing your party's equipment pretty fun. You can move around just about anything you want - steal books for reference, move Lord British's fork to his knife place, or put a pair of lady's stockings on.

The Bad

Well, for an RPG, combat pretty much sucks. It's basically point and click, and the animations make it pretty hard to tell exactly what's going on. Plus, you get wacked in the back of the head by your archer, Iolo, a bunch. But that wasn't really the focus of the game - and it was still important to build up your stats so you could travel to more dangerous places.

It had a lot of show stopping bugs - the patch fixed many of them (I think). U7 had it's own memory management program, Voodoo, which made it extremely difficult to run.

The Bottom Line

This is not an RPG for those who like to watch their stats grow and keep tabs of experience levels. It's for those who want an epic adventure. The story is great and has plenty of twists, the dialogue is top-notch, and the game world is the most detailed I'd ever experienced. If you think you CAN get it to work, I'd suggest you force yourself to play U7.