#230 Ultima VII

Posted: 26th March 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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771st played so far

Genre: Role-Playing
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1992
Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Origin Systems

The Ultima series of games rather intimidates me. The first game in the series was still fairly primitive, while as an MMO Ultima Online is more of an outlier than you’d expect from the genre. However, that game also shows that the series becomes pretty simulationist, focused (at least for some time) on a world that exists on its own that you exist in. I don’t think it goes too far when I say that it influences the development of open world games like those of the Elder Scrolls series.

So having recently read that really, Ultima VII almost becomes an adventure game with a combat engine that may not be as good, I’m curious how that translates. Time to suit up and become virtuous as the Avatar.

Our Thoughts

Ultima VII was released in two parts. To keep things focused, I mostly played the first part, although I tried the second part and saw the way it reest your stats and inventory – something that I thought was done quite well in the end.

Unlike most RPGs, Ultima VII doesn’t have a lot of combat, and what it has isn’t that inspiring. You click, I’m sure there’s some spell casting I could do at some point, but I barely remember it. What I remember is going all around town, trying to find a murderer and seeing what else is going on in this town. People live their lives, doing their things and moving around their towns. They feel fairly realistic, or as much as they can be, and the game focuses on keeping the interactions possible.

One feature that’s important in both genres is the inventory. And man, it feels clunky. It’s bags in bags, your inventory literally starting in your paper doll, and things can overlap and get lost. Realistic, perhaps, but normally I interact with my inventory in 3D and have a better idea of what’s where. It feels like it’s trying to be too clever, but gets in your way instead.

One of the big features of this era of Ultima games is that it’s about the virtues, showing that you’re a good person and the right hero. Not much of that came across here so far, but as a lot of that is usually hidden anyway, I wonder how badly I messed up so far. It still is enough to make me move careful around the world, pretty much the result you want.

Final Thoughts

A bunch of the mechanics in Ultima VII are pretty iffy, with the inventory being especially awkward. Even the fan based engine updates didn’t fix much of that for me, although the world became a lot easier to explore. It feels like there’s much more hidden in there. However, it feels like it would have been a better adventure game, though, with the combat segements feeling like they’re there because they have to be, rather than because they fit into the game.