Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Ultima VII – Now Available at GOG.COM

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 29, 2011

It doesn’t matter that I already own these games. I’m buying them again. I think this is the third time for Ultima VII part 1. This is perhaps the fastest purchase I have ever made from GOG.COM. Or rather, it would be, if the website wasn’t acting kinda slow. I doubt it’s because of this release, but I can fantasize, right? An overwhelming demand for a 20-year-old game finally brings the mighty GOG.COM to its knees on bandwidth?

Ultima-Freaking -VII Complete Edition

I have long maintained that this is my favorite RPG of all time. I should probably put that to the test sometime soon and do a complete playthrough again.

Why am I purchasing this game yet again? Besides having them pre-configured to run in DOSBox (I’ve experimented a little with playing them in Exult in the past with fine results), I guess it’s just my way of signalling, “Hey there, games industry! I am willing to spend money on games like this, even if they are ancient! Make more like it!” Although if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I’d say modern RPGs are probably closer to Ultima VII‘s design than to any other RPG of the era. I mean, look at the laundry list of features:

* Minimal stats, and the only really meaningful stat is Level. I remember hearing that a programmer (the lead programmer?) confessed that the Dexterity stat was literally meaningless – it had no effect on anything the game, but they left it in because the roleplayers wanted it.

* Real-time combat. Combat is just practically non-interactive.

* A really big, involved story. This was probably the most story-heavy game of its era.

* The conversation system was sort of a transition between the older Ultima keyword-style approach and the modern dialog tree.

* A minimal UI. To an almost annoying degree, as you had to click on something to get any information about it.

A key part that has gotten a little lost on modern RPGs is:

* A highly interactive world. I haven’t played Skyrim, but Ultima VII puts Oblivion, Fallout: New Vegas, etc. to shame in terms of interactivity.  This doesn’t just mean the ability to pick up objects and carry them around with you!

Anyway, it’s considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time, so well worth your consideration. It’s aged quite well, IMO, which is saying something (I can’t say the same about Ultima Underworld, released at about the same time, though I love it as well). These were the games I was most excited about seeing from GOG.COM, and now they are here.



Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

  • Groboclown said,

    I remember getting hold of a beta version of Ultima 7 part 2 before it was released. It was buggy and incomplete – one part of the story instantly moved you to a completely different part of the story, but it didn’t matter; I loved it all. I bought the actual game as soon as it came out. I still have it on floppies, but the disk sector holding the intro video is corrupted.

    So, I agree.


  • Lilith said,


  • McTeddy said,

    You know… I feel like starting trouble and losing all respect at this site today…

    I didn’t enjoy Ultima 7!

    It was the first PC RPG that I ever played… but between the combat, the UI, and my dad “Putting Away” the copyright protection answers, I developed a strong distaste for that particular Ultima. Even going back now with my old-school obsession, I still struggle to enjoy the game.

    I will still knowledge that it had a great story and one of the most immersive worlds I’ve played. I will happily admit that it deserves a place in gaming history. I will absolutely not put down anyone who likes it.

    But this is one Ultima game that I’ll pass on buying. Quest of the Avatar on the other hand…

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Don’t worry, McTeddy! I’m right there with you. I didn’t enjoy Ultima 7 either, but I only played it more recently for the first time. Some how I missed it when it first came out.(Though to be fair, that was easy to do back before the internet. If you didn’t physically stumble across it in one of the rare stores to sell PC games, you had to rely on word of mouth from friends . . . )

    I found the combat wholly unsatisfying (press C and then double-click, or T to pause and then click once on an enemy). Combat just auto-resolved itself, with no input from you or strategy involved beyond what you had equipped yourself with before hand. And I was never a fan of the whole Avatar story-line. (I know “Boo!” “Hiss!”)

    I was also always annoyed by the Lord British “author avatar” of Richard Garriott. It felt a little too “wink-wink/nudge-nudge”. The fact that he is immortal (well . . . supposed to be immortal) is part of it, but Lord British is also quite – dickish – in the Ultima games.

    But I don’t know if I can fairly judge Ultima 7 or not, since I’ve found if I didn’t play those old games back in the day when they were released I often can’t seem to enjoy them when I try them for first time in the current day in age. I guess because I lack the nostalgia necessary to grease the squeaky wheels of their design faults.

    Oh, and Rampant, you should definitely try Skyrim. It has swallowed the poor CRPG Addict whole who thinks, quote, “it may be the best CRPG I’ve ever played”. Bam! I have to agree with him. You can do all those old interactions like you can in Ultima 7 – you can chop wood, run a lumber mill, cook, mine for ore, smelt ore, blacksmith, craft, pick ingredients, mix potions, grind mill, etc. etc. – and that isn’t mentioning the NPCs that feel real and the damn near perfect dungeon design that now includes puzzles both clever and taxing to the mind. So give it a whirl, just, uh, clear your calender first. CRPG Addict is still missing in action . . . .

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    When I first played it, it was on 5.25″ floppies. My virus scanner somehow thought the disks had a boot sector virus on them – probably a false positive caused by copy protection or some nonsense – but I sent the disks back to Origin for “fixed” copies.

    I have *never* completed Serpent Isle (let alone the expansion) due to a showstopper bug that prevented a certain event from ever firing. I’ve had it as a goal to go back and finish the game someday. Someday I shall…

    Maybe after I finish a couple more older RPGs on my list.

    I am holding off on Skyrim for a little while – at least until after I get back from Thailand in the middle of December – so I can focus on a couple of other games I’m playing and some game dev work I’m doing. I’m not holding out on any sort of principle or anything. I’ll most likely get to it once nobody cares anymore. Too many games, too little time…

  • Bad Sector said,

    I played a bit of the game the first time a couple of months ago while i was in London using Exult (mostly because DOSBox is *way* too slow for my netbook and when scaling up 3 times the game’s resolution it matches the netbook’s native one so i had crisp pixelly graphics :-).

    I still find the weird perspective a bit nauseous, but i liked the storyline – as far as i could go at least. I wishlisted the game on GOG for when i’m not as financially challenged as i am now :-).

    Btw, the GOG site seems to work fine over here.

  • Demiath said,

    I bought Ultima VII as soon as I saw it on GOG, but since I don’t have previous experience with the series it’s probably the case that I would be more interested in the game if it had less of a focus on story (which, as the above post implies, is something we get in modern games anyway) and a stronger emphasis on stats and on combat.

    As for Skyrim, it really is quite a breath-taking achievement. Yes, it has quite a few of the exact same flaws as Oblivion and Morrowind (and Daggerfall and Arena, for that matter), but this time around there’s really no need to judge the game on the merits of its RPG-ness at all. Unlike TES1-TES4, the gigantic game world in TES5 is so detailed and immersive that simply experiencing it is more than enough of a game in and of itself. The RPG elements which do happen to be in there as well are just icing on the cake, really – which also means Skyrim is my favorite game of 2011 without necessarily being my favorite RPG of the year.

    On the other hand, at least in the AAA category there’s not much else to choose from since The Witcher 2 left me cold and the well-intentioned and Dragon Age 2 was narratively engaging but had too many gameplay flaws…

  • Xian said,

    I was another that didn’t care for Ultima VII. I still have it on a Collection CD and the original floppies. The combat was the turnoff for me, only being able to directly control the avatar where the previous ones you could control every party member. I enjoyed the story and the interaction with the world, probably the most immersive experience I had with a game at that point, but never could get over the lackluster combat.

  • Calibrator said,

    Forgive me for this lenghty posting but it will be the last for quite some time…

    U7 was always my favorite CRPG. And in a sense it still is, even though I didn’t really play it in the last fifteen years or so. Well, I tried it in Exult but back then it crashed very often so I gave it up again.

    I never really got warm with TES-Arena, even though it surely had a more “boobalicious” cover artwork. It was the primitive little brother of Ultima Underworld, way simpler and very repetitive (at least to the point where I stopped).

    I also had major technical problems with Redguard on the Voodoo3 I had. This was really making me angry, as they had a brilliant pirate setting and they will surely revisit that sometime in the future.
    One probably needs to accept that Bethesda has some of the best designers but worst coders in gaming history…

    However, starting with Morrowind I absolute loved the Bethesda titles – and it was a blast, even though the dungeons and the wilderness got pretty repetitive thanks to their block design. Sometimes I also had the impression I was playing in a database instead of a game but it was an ambitious project and succeeded on many levels: The design for example was more creative in many places than Oblivion, which was way more Tolkien-esk. It was also very dark in tone, with deadly cults etc.

    Oblivion is clearly an obvious crowd-pleaser regarding the visuals but it was the more polished product and I never had major bugs except the odd quest not working. With 200+ quests or so this was negligible, though.
    Still, it was 2006 when it was published and the game market was still a bit less brutal than it is today.

    Now I already have way more than 100 hrs. on Skyrim and while it is – as a whole – the best game Bethesda put together it also has a horrific amount of major bugs and glitched. I understand that it had to make the christmas business and they had to keep the launch date. I also understand the large day one patch but I apparently nobody ever played the thing very thoroughly on consoles even if they are raking in the most profits.

    Yes, this is the first Bethesda game I didn’t play on the PC as I didn’t bother with modding on Oblivion and I don’t like installation and tweaking orgies anymore. My nice 46″ TV also had a word in this, too 😉

    However, even though Skyrim is built on the Oblivion-foundation (plus the usual licenses libraries like Speedtree etc.) they still manage to put up a piss poor programming performance and I ran into numerous really *bad* problems on the PS3 version now. Ranging from quest bugs (really, Bethesda?) to massive slowdowns after some time thanks to memory leaks and cache overflows(?) to four PS3 freezes (I had to switch off the console).

    Coming back to Ultima 7 I have to admit that it had a lot of its own problems ranging from their “creative” memory manager to other, less technical problems. I had no freezes, though, and finished the game with the release day version like Morrowind and Oblivion.

    But: Twenty years and we still have the same shitty procedures – better graphics but even more problems?

    Read the Skyrim forums to really get into low mood. The new PS3 patch introduced more questions than it answered etc. Some people already fantasizing of sueing the company…

    I’ll continue on the day one patch level, live with some problems and will very likely be able to finish the game – but this game is the final nail in my mainstream gaming career!

    I’m so fed up with such massive bugs, especially on consoles, that I won’t get the next console generation – especially after the current disaster (overheating X360, PSM hack, PS3 always getting the worst ports etc.). And the mainstream PC market with their DRM requirements are already boycotted for the most part.

    Yes, besides my game backlog there are still a handful of interesting new titles (indie or sub-mainstream) that I will support but I’ll withdraw myself from many layers of the gaming world, including magazines and most websites, as I think this business sucks more and more.

    In fact I started with something that I always really wanted to do properly: Photography.
    And now, some nine months later (and a lot of money *not* spent on PC hardware & games, by the way) I have found something inside myself that I lost with games: I’m feeling content. And I create something myself – and it’s not a “level” for fellow geeks or something like that.

    Yes, Skyrim is eating up my spare time and steals it from my new major pasttime but I know this: It will probably be the last time I was so annoyed and pleased at the same time by a cruise like this. I give the proper time it needs to finish it but I won’t enter the next ship.

    So, what I basically am saying now is: I wish you well. Do what you feel will give you the most pleasure. Try something new for a change, too!

    Live long and prosper.