Review by Matt986634

Reviewed: 09/09/02 | Updated: 09/09/02

A game that has stood the test of time

Ultima 7 is truly a game that has stood the test of time. It has been about 10 years since the game's initial release and people are still playing, talking about, and enjoying this great game. After 10 years I have also finally gotten around to writing a review of it, so lets get to it.

Installation / Ease of Use:

If any game deserves this category to be taken into account it is Ultima 7. Back in 1992-1993 I bought the core game, the Forge of Virtue add-on, and the hint book for about $75. Despite the fact that I met all of the game requirements (DOS 5.0, 386 processor, first generation soundblaster ISA card, 2 MB RAM), I could not get it to run to save my life. After fooling with boot disks and altered autoexec.bat files for a few days I took the game back.

My next foray with Ultima 7 came when Origin / EA released the complete Ultima 7 gold edition saga. Although I knew that the game did not support Win 98, its selling price was only about $15 so I bought it anyway. Surprisingly, the game ran pretty well under Win98 DOS. All that was required was a DOS reboot, manually loading a mouse driver, and configuring the game. Although this setup lacked sound support, the game ran pretty well and I was able to complete it twice.

Today Ultima 7 runs fine thanks to a front end program called Exult. Since this is not a review of Exult, I will stop right now by saying search for it on the web and use it if you want to play Ultima 7 on modern equipment with full support. Score: 5 / 10 (without front ends or other tweaks)

Audio / Video:

Ultima 7 looked and sounded great back in 1992. In fact, I can only remember one game from the early 1990s that looked and sounded better. Graphics are done in 256 colour SVGA and the majority of the game's music comes in the form of rather nice MIDI tunes. There are a few simple sound effects and some nice voice acting thrown in as well. Score: 8 / 10

Gameplay:

One of Ultima 7's nicest features is the amount of interaction that is possible between the player and the game environment. While playing as the Avatar, it is possible to cook with fire, turn on lamps, hunt wild game, and even rob the Britain mint.

Inventory management is done through a windowing interface. Hitting the ''I'' key opens up a window depicting the player character as a ''paper doll.'' At this screen the player can drag an item onto the appropriate spot to equip it (helmet on head, sword in hands, etc.), or open up containers like backpacks or sacks to view their entire inventory. Although one's inventory tends to get extremely cluttered through the course of the game, I felt this was nicely done.

The combat system in Ultima 7 can be described as chaotic at best. Although the player can choose different combat strategies, these seem largely irrelevant. Either the Avatar and his companions maul the opposition, or they get decimated. The Avatar's companions can also harm each other, so think long and hard before you buy that shiny new triple crossbow for Iolo.

Unfortunately Ultima 7 contains a couple of very bad bugs. Early un-patched versions of the game are reported to have a horrible glitch in the inventory system that results in the deletion of keys. Personally, I never ran into this problem. Another bug often occurs when the player reaches the murder scene at Minoc. This particular bug can be overcome by reading a FAQ, finding out what you were supposed to see, and getting the item the player was supposed to recover from an alternative source. I also ran into a bug in the Tetrahedron and had to use the hack mover cheat to progress. Although the bugs in Ultima 7 can be worked around, they have the potential to ruin the game if one does not know about them in advance. 7 / 10

Story:

The story line of Ultima 7 is excellent and is the game's real crown jewel. Early in the game the player is presented with four seemingly disconnected topics: a murder that must be investigated, the disruption of the magical ether, the rising popularity of an organization called ''The Fellowship,'' and the presence of an entity known only as the Guardian. The bulk of the game consists of trying to find out how, if at all, the four points mentioned earlier are related. Along the way there are a multitude of minor quests that can be accomplished if the player wishes to take a break from the main story line and help out the citizens. Simply put, the story line in Ultima 7 is the best I have ever seen in a game. Score: 10 / 10

Conclusion:

Although Ultima 7 may look and sound a little crude by today's standards, its story line cannot be beat. Today, the hardest obstacle to actually playing this gem is probably finding it, as it is out of print and EA is not lax on copyright issues. Tracking down a copy of the game might be a pain, but it is well worth it. Score: 9 / 10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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