Ultima VII: The Black Gate

aka: Ultima 7, Ultima VII - Die schwarze Pforte, Ultima VII: La Porte Noire
Moby ID: 608
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The Avatar sees a strange message on his computer screen. An unknown being who calls himself the Guardian claims that Britannia has entered a true age of enlightenment, and soon everyone, including the Avatar himself, shall bow before the new lord. At this moment, a moongate materializes, and the Avatar steps through it into Britannia. He emerges in the city of Trinsic, where his old friend Iolo tells him that two hundred years have passed since his last visit. A horrible ritualistic murder has just occurred - the body of the local blacksmith was found in the stables. The Avatar learns that a new organization known as the Fellowship has been recruiting more and more followers recently. The champion of Britannia must solve the murder and find out about the Fellowship's true purpose, while still pursued by the ominous warnings of the mysterious Guardian.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate features revamped graphics and controls. The traditional Ultima top-down view of the world now fills the entire screen, with other informational windows overlaid on top of it only when necessary. Both world interaction and dialogue are fully mouse-controlled. Objects can be physically interacted with by dragging them with the mouse. Objects can also be stacked upon each other, and some puzzles are based on this feature. Equipment screen utilizes a "paper doll" concept: equipped items are graphically displayed on the character. It is also possible to physically manipulate inventory items, arranging them within bags and other containers.

The tactical combat system of previous Ultima games has been replaced with a real-time system where only general strategies can be set and party members fight automatically, the player taking control of the Avatar alone. Combat pauses when the player accesses the inventory. Leveling up system is similar to the previous games, the Avatar's parameters increasing automatically once a sufficient amount of experience points has been accumulated. The Avatar and his companions must regularly eat in order to stay alive.

The game's world is vast, populated by many non-playable characters with their own schedules. There are more extensive dialogue trees and individual conversation topics compared to the series' previous installments. As in the earlier Ultima games, the player is free to explore Britannia from the beginning of the game; certain tasks must be accomplished in a specific order to conclude the story.

Spellings

  • 創世紀7:黑月之門 - Chinese spelling (traditional)

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 83% (based on 13 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 98 ratings with 8 reviews)

Yes, it's flawed. But so was Hamlet...

The Good
Ultima VII is a game that transcends roleplaying mechanics. If you play it for long enough, it very nearly transcends the computer itself...

Along with the vast size, endless characters, deep intrigue, and tough quests, all of which are present in many games, Ultima VII adds a freedom that sets it apart, even from others in the series. Living in Britannia, just about anything is possible, including some extremely lateral-minded (not to mention antisocial) activities. Want to rob a bank? Other games might throw up arbitrary obstacles. Here, the vault is yours, if you're tough enough to get there. Of course, there are always the consequences of obnoxious behaviour...

If you want to, you can live as a cook, as a farmer, a woodcutter, you can become a trader, pirate, or a priest. The people of Britannia live out detailed lives that don't just function as "onstage extras". The main game itself is an absorbing, difficult set of adventures that will take even a rabid gamer several months to complete.



The Bad
The (many) famed problems of Ultima VII are almost all flaws in the game engine. Britannia crashes at random and infuriating intervals. Food and money distribution among your characters is maddening. Keys and keyholes become a ten minute guessing contest. And the game is so wide open that it's actually possible to completely disrupt it by finding oblique approaches that circumvent key plot points. A patch to fix these things would improve the game even further.

The Bottom Line
Until the advent of online gaming, Ultima VII may be the most open minded game ever made. If you have the time to enjoy it, and can get past the mechanical problems, it's a uniquely absorbing and satisfying experience.

DOS · by Colin Rowsell (43) · 2002

One of the buggiest games I have ever played

The Good
The graphics were nice. I think this is one of the most sinister of the Ultima games. Even to the point of being gruesome, it does have a certain mystery about it. A very long game, with a great variety of weapons and characters to join your party. There are some old faces here, but there are many new ones too. This game did give closure to the mystery behind Quenton's death, and brought back the town of Vesper, which had disappeared off the map and never returned. It's also sad to see what had become of the gargoyles after the events of Ultima 6.

The Bad
The bugs. I restarted this game five times before I realized the reason why the Enchant spell wouldn't work was because a bug in the game prevented it from working after I played the add-on, Forge of Virtue. This was playing as a male avatar; the female had her won set of problems. Walls would disappear at certain times of the game, and very odd things were happening all throughout the game. The voice of the Guardian was irritation--it made me jump every time I heard it. I wanted to turn it off, but then you miss out on parts of the game if you do. The music wasn't that great--the same pieces are heard in every Ultima, and I don't consider that a good thing. The constant clouds floating about made the game run slower--if they were supposed to add a sense of realism, well, they didn't--I don't walk slower when there are clouds overhead. I don't feel like this game series has really broke any new ground since Ultima 4--you're still the Avatar in good old Britannia.

The Bottom Line
If you like the Ultima games, you'll like this game as well. Beware the bugs, and when something happens that you think shouldn't, well, you have probably hit a bug. You might want to ask someone else who's played the game if that's what happened to them, or consult a walkthrough, but believe me, when the walls start disappearing or spells stop working, it's a bug, not part of the game.

DOS · by OceansDaughter (106) · 2002

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.

DOS · by Nathan Kovner (49) · 2000

[ View all 8 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Fame and fortune await! Or at least a footnote DJP Mom (11333) Mar 19, 2008

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Ultima VII appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Armageddon

There is a high level spell called Armageddon which kills every person in the game except for yourself and Lord British. If you go back and talk to him he will exclaim "What have you done!?!"

Credits

  • If you sit through the credits then another option will be available to view quotes humourous quotes from the development staff. At the end of this the butterfly from the intro floats onto the screen then blows up, followed by an evil cackle from the Guardian, apparently uttering gibberish. However, it is simply a sound sample that is played backwards. When reversed, The Guardian says "I am the Pagan Lord", apparently an early hint at the sequel. A recording is available at the Ultima Dragons FTP Archive.
  • As an interesting testament to the credibility of the Ultima VII end credits, EA , far far later, actually took "Voluntarily rated MP-13 (for Mature Players)" logo from the game credits and put that to the The Complete Ultima VII budget release box.

Dead people room

There is a room in the mountains east of cove (can only be accessed with the cheat) where all the people who have been killed go. Most of them are alive and well and you can even talk to them.

Experience points

In case you're wondering, completing mini quests DOES give you experience! For example, the first mini quest you receive in Paws (the Serpent Venom thief story) when completed, gives you and your companions (ie. Iolo and Spark) 75 experience points. Even the very small mini quests which only involve talking to people and conveying conversations to other people "may" give you and your companions experience points.

Exult

There is a project called Exult out there on the web that will allow you to play Ultima VII on a Win9x machine. The only catch is you have to have the original files. The creators of Exult had to work from the ground up to make the game playable, considering the original source code to Ultima VII is not available to the public.

Fellowship

The Fellowship was was largely inspired by many "new age" religions and cults of the time, but most notably it was inspired by the Church of Scientology. Garriott's main inspiration was reportedly the infamous TIME Magazine Scientology article of May 1991. Among other things, regular Fellowship members don't know what is happening in the higher levels of the cult hierarchy, which is typical to cults in general. Batlin's character is very obviously inspired by L. Ron Hubbard's persona. There is even a "personality test" in the game.

Interactivity

The game is famous for offering a high interactivity; almost every item in the game world can be used. The option to bake bread has become synonymous for this.

Lord British

If you manage to kill Lord British (the black rock is handy for this) you will find in his corpse (amongst other stuff) a lightning bolt which acts as a missile weapon and is how he casts spells if you fight him.

References: Electronic Arts

The game starts with the quote:

"Avatar! Know that Britannia has entered into a new age of enlightenment...Under my guidance, Britannia will flourish, and all the people will rejoice! And pay homage to their new... Guardian!".

The Guardian is a character inspired by the attempted takeover of Origin Systems in the early '90s and hints at EA. This links is proven while playing: the three items that power the evil generators in-game are a cube, a sphere and a tetrahedron, the former EA logo.

Richard Garriott also sneaked in a more subtle reference to Electronic Arts. Take a look at the characters Elizabeth and Abraham for example. Just take the first letters of their names. Elizabeth and Abraham have a high-ranked profile in the fellowship (e.g. EA in the publishing business) and go around and perform seemingly helpful tasks (like dragging the Avatar to the shelter in Paws for resurrection every time he dies), but in fact they are murderers and are in a conspiracy to bring a destructive powerful-being, the Guardian, into Britannia.

It's unsure if the reference goes that deep, but Origin originally thought that EA might help it gain more profit and reach more gamers, but EA's counter-productive strategies ended up destroying what made Ultima special and thereby reducing sales.

References: Star Trek

Certain residents of Serpent's Hold bear a striking resemblance to the crew of the USS Enterprise in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, both in their names, their occupations, their characters and sometimes their appearance.

Here's a breakdown: * Lord John-Paul, Commander of the Keep - Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise * Sir Richter, second in command - Commander Riker * Sir Horffe, a Gargoyle raised by Human parents, Captain of the Guard - Lt. Worf, a Klingon raised by Human parents, Chief of Security * Sir Denton, a knight known for his ability to solve problems and puzzles, for being overly detailed in everything he says and for not being able to tell jokes that are funny, wears a full suit of armour all the time - Lt. Commander Data, the Android * Sir Jordan, a blind bowyer and tinkerer - Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge, the blind Chief Engineer * Lady Leigh, red-haired healer - Dr. Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer * Lady Tory, adviser and empath - Counselor Deanna Troi

References

  • In a series cross-over, there is a farm near Britain where the farmer would tell you about a craft that fell from the sky and the big cat man who appeared from it. Sure enough, in his field there was a Kilrathi vessel. If you clicked on it, it would play the Kilrathi theme from Wing Commander II.
  • In Gilberto's house in Trinsic you can find a book titled Struck Commander, detailing the adventures of a band of mercenaries that ride flying carts. Much like in Origin's Strike Commander.

Sherry

In Ultima VII: The Black Gate, you meet Sherry the Mouse (in Ultima VI) for the last time. She's nursing kids at the Royal Nursery at Lord British's castle and cannot be recruited.

SNES port

A fairly simplified version of this game was ported to the Super Nintendo console system. Although the same basic graphics were used, the game engine was changed drastically to be even more action oriented. The console version removed the companion NPCs (although they did appear as characters in the different villages) and featured the Avatar only who you controlled in a run-and-slash manner Legend of Zelda style. A great deal of the environment interactivity was removed, and the plot was also sanitized as well (instead of the grisly blood soaked ritualistic murder which the PC version opens with, in the console version you are simply told that the blacksmith was "kidnapped"). More information can be found in its game entry.

Soundtrack

The credits sequence started to go more and more movie-like towards the end, with usual disclaimers ("any resemblance... is purely coincidental", "no animals were harmed"... etc), logos of the technologies being used (Voodoo logos etc), and finally, "Soundtrack CD available from Origin". That was only added as a gag to make the credits look absolutely movie-like, but (because the game obviously has some pretty good music) people started asking Origin about the soundtrack album. Ultima VII: Part Two - Serpent Isle had same sort of credit display - but with a text "Soundtrack CD NOT available from Origin, so don't ask!"

However, Origin did eventually release Origin Soundtrack Series volume 2, which contains some of the tunes from both of these games.

Voodoo memory manager

This game used what Origin called the "voodoo memory manager". What this really was, was no memory manager at all - not even a DOS extender. It used memory beyond the first megabyte directly by popping the processor into flat 32-bit mode; since DOS couldn't access that memory directly, it was used to cache resources (mostly graphics) to improve performance. Needless to say, this "memory manager" was completely incompatible with any real memory manager, including any variety of MS Windows.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate programmer and MobyGames contributor weregamer:

A few years and a couple of jobs later, when Windows 95 was in early beta, I was part of a program where MS engineers working on it met with developers of entertainment and animation software. The engineer we met proudly proclaimed their goal that 100% of DOS games would run under Windows 95 by the time it shipped - "DOS Mode" would not be necessary. I sadly had to burst her bubble by explaining the "voodoo memory manager". She had a hard time believing it - I guess she just hadn't realized just how hard game programmers worked to squeeze performance out of machines in the bad old days.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #3 Hardest Computer Game
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #21 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • PC Games (Germany)
    • Issue 01/1993– #2 Best RPG in 1992

Information also contributed by Chris Martin, Fafnir, Indra was here, Itay Shahar, Ray Soderlund, Sciere, Terok Nor; weregamer, WWWWolf and Zovni

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Related Sites +

  • Bootstrike.com - Ultima VII: The Black Gate
    A dedicated site to the classic game - providing a host of walkthroughs, downloads and lots of cool add-ons and stuff.
  • Exult
    a project to allow people to play Ultima 7 on modern OSes such as Linux and Windows by reverse-engineering the game engine. You still need the original game to play.
  • Ganesh's Website
    Walkthroughs, tips, hints, cheats, trainers, backgrounds, wallpapers, desktop themes, music, mp3s, midi, hand-picked *very* funny jokes and much MUCH more! ALSO: U7 in Win9x, humor, lots of downloads!
  • UHS Hints for Ultima 7
    These hints will help you solve the game.
  • Ultima 7 in Windows
    Ron Windeyer has licked it! An exerpt .. "Thanks to a new and quite brilliant utility, Black Gate and Serpent Isle can be run effortlessly in Windows 95 and 98, with virtually any kind of sound card. With the latest addition (U7.DPMI) it is also compatible with Windows 2000, and possibly even Linux."

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  • MobyGames ID: 608
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Alan Chan, Ola Sverre Bauge, G. Ganesh, Jeanne, phlux, Paulus18950, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added December 22, 1999. Last modified February 13, 2024.