I’ve been working away at it all month and finished Ultima 7 again for the second time in my life a couple of days ago. It was already quite an old game the first around but that was still 15 years back. Given some prior knowledge, I was surprised just how much time I’ve had to invest in it this month to make it to the end. It’s a whole lot of gaming on just 6 floppies. I thought I’d share a few thoughts at any rate but I’ll try to keep it brief as I could go on for some time.
By far my favourite elements were exploring Britannia and talking to all of it’s residents. The writers did a great job bringing the world to life and it really stands up to this day. Ultima 7 is something of a natural progression from Ultima 6 but the RPG elements ended up toned down to such a degree that I’d say they almost get in the way of the rest of the game. Ultima 6 struck a good balance between RPG & adventure and I think it was arguably a better game for it (although Martian Dreams is my personal favourite with that engine). That said, the combat in U7 is toned down so much that it rarely gets in the way so it’s a minor quibble. The one thing that did wind me up with combat was how the same enemies respawn if you walk back over the same spot again – I really don’t need to fight the same dragon again just because I took a step in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t recommend giving a staff that shoots fireballs to one of your party members either unless you want to see some serious collateral damage.
I do like how the world is open from the start to the player and I spent the first half of the game randomly exploring all the towns only picking up on the main plot much later on or in passing. It’s detrimental to the overall storyline which doesn’t get going properly until much later but the way you discover things for yourself naturally works really well. It made it a good game for dipping in and out of but Ultima 7 didn’t truly hook me until I’d been playing for many hours and the plot kicked into life. Serpent Isle took the opposite approach with a far more directed progression and plot.
I’ve been playing the original DOS version and have run into a number of occasional bugs and quirks. e.g. the time my magic carpet didn’t quite make it to the ground on landing (due to an attacking snake) so no one was able to get back on it again! I soon learned to keep regular save games. I’ve still seriously enjoyed playing this one again. It’s such a seminal game and nothing else plays quite like it. I enjoyed it that much that I’ll probably going to carry on going with Serpent Isle in January.