Ultima 7: The Black Gate
Developer: Origin Systems | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Release Date: 1992 | Genre: RPG / Adventure | Website: n/a | Purchase: GOG
Ultima 7: The Black Gate is without a doubt one of the finest computer role playing games ever to be released. The improvements on Ultima 6 is tenfold as is the depth, storyline and playability. The game starts out with a message on you’re computer from your arch nemesis, the evil being known only as the “Guardian”.
Following his threats you return to the world of Britannia via a red moon gate. Upon arriving in this world you are greeted by an old friend of yours and find out that due to the differences in time between the two worlds that it has been almost 200 years since you last walked the soils of Britannia. Much has changed and not all is for the best. Not only do you have a murder on your hands as soon as you step out of the gate, but with the add-on “Forge of Virtue” you’ll also find that some lunatic has brought back the Isle of Exodus from the bottom of the ocean and is planning on re-uniting that foul beast with it’s dark core. As you might have guessed by now, you’re visit to Britannia is not going to be a holiday and once again it’s up to you to take on the role of Avatar and come to the rescue of the people.
The first thing that will strike you about Ultima 7 is the amount of detail and interaction that is possible. Britannia really is a living world populated with citizens, both good and bad, and each has his or her own agenda and motives. Nothing is as it seems and it’s going to take some thinking to crack to mysteries that will confront you. The graphics in the game are really superb and no other game before it has had this much scenery. Houses are filled with everything you’d expect to find in them and not only that, but chances are that you’ll be able to use each and every item as you could as well. Baking bread, making clothes, constructing you’re own sword and much more is possible. Just about everything can be interacted with as well, clocks tell time, chickens produce eggs and hunting animals will reward you with meat. The quest you embark on is huge, but fortunately you won’t have to go through it alone. Along the way you’ll meet up with old friends that will join you as well as make some new ones. You’ll also learn magic and wield powerful weapons.
The sound in the game is quite cool and sets the scenes perfectly. Moody tunes in a dungeon, or a sea shanty while roaming the oceans ensure the perfect mood for wherever your travels will take you. You also have the Guardian pestering you now and then or laughing at you in full speech. The interface is very easy to use and everything is mouse controlled with a few keyboard hot keys to make life easier. The world you travel through is huge and getting lost is actually possible. This is one of those games that you’re not going to complete in a hurry. If you have been a fan of Ultima since day one there is a lot here to be excited about and if you don’t know what the fuss is about this is the perfect place to start. The game eases you into the world of Britannia and before you know it you’re dealing with serial killers, dark conspiracies, treachery and soul shattering decisions.
Excellent as the game is, it’s not without problems. Those with slower computers is going to have a tough time running this beast at a decent speed, but the rewards are definitely well worth it. Occasionally the game managed to crash on me, but that’s usually due to me trying something stupid. The greatest thing about the game though, apart from the superb story, is the open endedness. Although there is a definite plot to follow and some events follow a time line, the amount of sub quests that you can take is unbelievable and just doing all these already add weeks to the playing time. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from robbing everyone blind, getting every possible spell and magical weapon and start laying waste to the place. The forge of virtue does add some new items, like the shade blade Arcadion, but it’s the Black Gate that’s going to take up the bulk of you’re time. Missing out on this game would be missing out on a piece of history and any RPGfan simply must have this in his collection. The best part though, is that this is only part one in a two part series. Spend some time in Britannia, just don’t be surprised if you never want leave.
*Review originally published January 1997.
- OS: Windows: Windows XP or Windows Vista
- Processor: 1.8 GHz Processor
- Memory: 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
- Graphics: 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
- Hard Drive: 2GB HDD