Ultima VII: A murder most foul

(This is part of my journey playing through Ultima VII. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

u7Sometimes I really wish I could send messages back to my teenage self in the late 80s/early 90s consisting of advice on what games to play.  Information about current and upcoming games were really limited to whatever I might encounter in the store and in gaming mags.  Looking back, I know I missed out on a lot of so-called “classic” games like Final Fantasy VI and, well, pretty much every Ultima game.

Really, I wasn’t even aware Ultima was a thing.  I played one of the Ultima Underworlds at some point, but that was just a dungeon crawler and didn’t indicate that it was part of some larger franchise.

Thus, I’ve really been meaning to get to the Ultima series for one of my playthroughs.  I now own all of them, 1 through 9, but I’m going to start with 7 due to many sources telling me that it was the best of the series.  I hear good things about 8, too, but 7 was a smash hit in CRPG terms, with a sequel (VII part 2) and an expansion for each part.  Thank GOG.com for giving me all of that in one go.

While the manual to the game is this huge beast, I’m glad that there’s also a shorter “reference card” that’s a six-page document giving all of the basic controls and leading you through the first few minutes of the game.  I’m happy to see that Ultima VII is entirely mouse-driven, so let’s see if we can get the hang of it!  I must say that I’ve been looking forward to play this since putting it on my personal schedule a couple of weeks ago.

ul1Ultima VII has one of the trippiest game openings I’ve ever seen.  It starts out with this saccharine-sweet title screen.  Look!  Rainbows!  Butterflies!  Happy music!

And then the screen goes all fuzzy and this fellow pops out to say hello:

ul2He’s the Guardian, or so he says, and he’s fully voiced.  He’s there to say hi to the Avatar (which I guess is me) and to say that a new age has hit Britannia — one that he intends to rule.  The Guardian doesn’t strike me as overtly evil until he starts in with the standard maniacal laugh before the screen fuzzes again.

Also, Britannia?  How long did it take you to come up with that name?  Were Australianna and Finlandnnia and Mexicannia taken?

ul3You don’t say.  For one thing, I’m now playing a character who’s playing the game inside of the game that I bought.  It’s so twistedly meta I don’t know where to begin.  For another thing, I apparently have a 486 pentium.  I guess my computer time-traveled back to the early 90s.

ul4Fortunately for the apparently dire state of Britannia, there’s a Moongate in my backyard.  You know, that comes standard with all suburban tracts these days: evil forest, twisted trees, moongate to another world.

ul5Syp pops out of the moongate and into a medieval town where the locals are talking about something super-duper shocking.  This is Trinsic and the fellow is Iolo the bard, who I guess is also from earth because he does this little aside where he spills a few relevant details.

ul6It’s 200 years after the events of Ultima VI, but both he and I don’t appear to have aged to the locals.

Loving the graphics and the music so far, but egads, I could do without that Ye Olde English font.  It’s a little hard on the eyes with the resolution and all.

ul7Huh — there’s a murder afoot, and Sherlock Syp has been asked to help out.  I dost!  I dost accept!  …Although I’m a little curious what would happen if I said no.  Would that break the game?

ul8Gotta say, this is not what I was expecting.  A guy ritually staked to the floor and either de-limbed or stabbed so many times that it doesn’t make much of a difference?  I snag a nearby key and really hope that I don’t have to clean up this mess as part of a virtue.

ul9Because standing over a gruesomely mutilated corpse is the right time for this sort of thing, I spend a few minutes investigating my character sheet and inventory.  My backpack already has a few supplies in it, including a torch, food, and this colorful map of the world.

Enough of that, I suppose.  Beyond the dead man — Christopher — is another room with another murder.  There’s a gargoyle who’s been pitchforked to the wall.  Nasty business, that.  I loot his bag and take a piece of jewelry nearby, then get into a lengthy conversation with Iolo while ignoring all of the flies.

Iolo gives me a few potential leads while saying that Britannia has changed somewhat over 200 years.  People are more defensive now and the towns are larger.  He wants me to go to Lord British’s house, who apparently is deep at work on some revolutionary new invention called “Tabula Rasa.”  OK, I made that last part up, but I need to start purging these Richard Garriott jokes early and often if I’m going to make it through this series!

7 thoughts on “Ultima VII: A murder most foul

  1. The Alien January 30, 2014 / 3:16 pm

    It probably didn’t take him long to come up with Britannia, since the term dates back to the Romans and is the origin of the term ‘Britain’ we all know and love, as well as the name of a personification of the place itself, kind of like Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty, but again dating back to the Romans. Said personification was on the money into modern times and there are statues all over the place.

    I have no idea how long it took the Romans to come up with it.

    I really liked the Ultima games I played, 2, 1, 3-5 and part of 7. I occasionally want to play through them again, but I imagine the time and patience required would elude me these days.

  2. Anonymous January 30, 2014 / 3:31 pm

    Iolo is ambiguous to read. I think you should write #YOLO for clarity’s sake.

  3. Ocho January 30, 2014 / 11:28 pm

    Ultima VII!!!!! Ahhh quite possibly my favorite game of all time. Oh course it’s because it hit me at the right time. My parents PC could JUST BARELY handle the 20 MB it took to install this beast, and this game, at the time, was like playing Skyrim. You could stack crates, and climb up onto buildings. You can bake bread. YOU CAN BAKE BREAD! This is still one of the games I draw as reference to immersion. Every NPC has a timed schedule, and I use to just follow them around, just to see what they did at what times.

    Oh, and that murder? For the time, it was extremely graphic. Ritual sacrifice, decapitation, buckets of blood, a gargoyle being run through with a pitchfork. Even in 1992, this brought on a lot of flak for being too graphic.

    And even though it’s midi, Stones, which you will hear when you reach the town of Cove, is still one of my favorite video game music pieces to this day.

    Ultima VII!!! 🙂

    (oh, and in response to a previous post of yours, I really do enjoy your nostalgia lane posts. Gaming vicariously and whatnot…)

  4. Scott January 31, 2014 / 8:45 am

    I remember when a 486 pentium was a beast to brag about.

  5. Redbeard January 31, 2014 / 8:49 am

    I started on Ultima IV for the C-64, and that was unique for its time as a game that had no clear bad guy to fight, but was rather a quest to become the Avatar, a shining example of goodness for the people of Britannia.

    I personally like Ultima V the best, but that’s just me.

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