Ultima VII: The Black Gate is the seventh installment of the main series, and was the tenth Ultima game to be released, including spin-offs. It was released and published by Origin in 1992. A port for the Super NES followed in 1994. This seventh chapter is the first story in the Age of Armageddon and, along with Ultima VII, Part 2: Serpent Isle, is widely considered to be the greatest of the entire series.
The huge, seamless world of Ultima VII, with its overflow of details and intricate design, are the high point of realism in the series. Character control is greatly streamlined, with every action able to be performed with the mouse. The inventory and battle systems are improved, and dialogue input is no longer handled by typing keywords, but rather by selecting them from a list.
The presentation and story have also become quite mature — the player is confronted with graphic crime scenes, drug-use, racism, and political corruption. Furthermore, the Guardian uses a clever and subtle plot to assert his power over the land, rather unlike the comparatively one-dimensional villains of the earliest games.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
A long era of peace has gone by in Britannia, with no great threats disturbing the lives of the people. Yet, something is amiss in the land. Magic seems to be dying, with mages becoming mad. The people are unhappy, and feel spiritually-empty and betrayed in life. A new sect called "The Fellowship" expands its membership in the lower classes, and secures influence through their prominent members who ascend to leading positions in society.
The Player again is the Avatar. One evening, a demonic, red face appears on the Avatar's computer screen on Earth, and declares its impending rule over Britannia. Alarmed, the Avatar consults the circle of stones, and finds a moongate already waiting to send the hero to Trinsic. Upon arrival, it transpires that a brutal murder has occurred. Investigating, the Avatar learns of similar past murders, and directly encounters further such killings throughout their travels.
The Fellowship becomes incrementally more suspicious -- in particular their leader, Batlin. Furthermore, a mysterious voice appears periodically to give the Avatar dubious guidance. Finally, after many perils the Avatar is reunited with the Time Lord, who reveals the true nature of recent events: The Fellowship is the puppet of the red-faced being, the Guardian.
The Guardian has put in motion a plot to enter Britannia through a Black Moongate and uses three blackrock Generators to spread his influence preceding his arrival. The Avatar destroys the Generators, then hurries to the Isle of the Avatar to intercept the completion of the Black Gate. In a brutal battle with Batlin and the elusive murderers, the latter are brought to justice while the former escapes by teleportation. Just before the Guardian can come through, the Avatar destroys the Gate.
Britannia is saved at the cost of the Avatar being stranded in the realm with an ominous threat of further turmoil and destruction left by the Guardian. Thus, the Age of Armageddon begins, continuing in Ultima Underworld II and Ultima VII, Part Two: Serpent Isle.
Spoilers end here.
Ultima VII continued where Ultima VI left off in technical development. Refining all the virtues of its predecessor, it pushed the envelope of contemporary PCs. The graphics employ the whole spectrum of 256-color VGA, the soundtrack is deep and atmospheric and digital recorded sound is used for the first time for the booming voice of the Guardian.
Differences between platforms
Only two official versions of the game exist: The original PC release, and a port for the Super NES console.
The Super NES port is usually regarded as far inferior to the original game. The story is considerably shorter, streamlined, and heavily-censored (murders become kidnappings). The interactivity is greatly diminished, the world map is smaller and more primitive, and the quests are very simple in comparison to the original game. There is no party to accompany the Avatar, and the game bears more of a resemblance to the The Legend of Zelda action games than to the Ultima series. The music and graphics are also considered greatly inferior.
Ultima VII was translated to several languages, including German, French and Spanish.
The game was later included in several compilations:
Included with the game
The release of Ultima VII included these things with the game:
- The Book The Book of Fellowship.
- A cloth map of Britannia in Ultima VII.
- A Fellowship Medallion (same as in the game).
Forge of Virtue
- Main article: Ultima VII: Forge of Virtue
The Forge of Virtue was an add-on disk, published by Origin in 1992. With it installed, a totally new quest becomes available, which can be played at any time in the game. Today, it is included in the CD-ROM edition of Ultima VII, and integrated with the main program.
The Isle of Fire rises from the sea at the beginning of the game, and Lord British fears the worst: the return of Exodus the Destroyer. He sends the Avatar to determine the dangers. The Avatar has to master the tests of the three Principles, in doing so necessitating the forging of the Black Sword. At its conclusion, the interference of the mage Erethian is thwarted, and the Dark Core of Exodus is banished to the Void to prevent the beast's return. With this done, Lord British declares the Avatar to be a real hero, and all stats are maximized.
Included with it is the A Guide to the Isle of Fire pamphlet.
For a long time the game was almost impossible to run on modern computers and operating systems. The game uses Voodoo Memory Manager which is incompatible with any other memory manager using the "protected" mode of the processor, and arrival of Windows 95 and 32-bit operating systems meant things grew much worse in terms of compatibility.
However, the game is now available from Gog.com and will run quite happily with computers running Windows (7, 8, 10) or Mac OS X (10.6.8).
The other alternative ways of getting the game to run are as follows:
Exult is an open-source project that makes Ultima VII playable under Windows (and other operating systems) without problems, and with many improvements.
It is currently one of the best ways to run the game, if one doesn't mind slight deviation from the original gameplay; most of the improvements are quite benign, however, and whatever deficiencies are left are usually very minor. Exult is also a breeding ground for most of the modern fan-made Ultima VII mods, and the in-development versions of Exult make use of mods even easier.
See The Exult Project for more details.
Ultima VII in Windows
Ron Windeyer (aka Gaseous Dragon) hosts a utility to run the original Ultima VII natively under Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT/XP. See his website for more information. Dragon Baroque actually created it.
DOSbox is possibly the best way to run the game in its original form on modern computers. It is a virtual machine that can be used to run MS-DOS software in Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X (even on PowerPC). DOSBox is fully compatible with Ultima VII, without need for many changes.
- For bugs in this game, see Ultima VII Bugs.
- For cheating in this game, see Cheating in Ultima VII.
- For easter eggs and real-life references in this game, see Ultima VII Real-life references and easter eggs.
- For nitpicks for this game, see Ultima VII Nitpicks.
- For copy protection, see Ultima VII Copy Protection.
- For food values, see Food Values in Ultima VII
- Ultima VII is the last Ultima produced by Origin before the takeover by Electronic Arts.
- This is the first game in the series that uses recorded sound. In this case, it is used to create the booming voice of the Guardian.
- Richard Garriott may have based the idea for the Fellowship on the Church of Scientology. The whole structure of the Fellowship, their mannerisms, language and secrecy, are a parody.
- The EA takeover is also referenced several times in the game. The Generators form the old cube-sphere-pyramid logo, and Elizabeth and Abraham stand for EA (short for Electronic Arts). The Guardian is called the Destroyer of Worlds, while Origin's motto was: "We create Worlds".
- The original plan for the boxes of the "Age of Armageddon" trilogy was to have Ultima VII's box be totally black, Ultima VIII's totally red and Ultima IX's sky blue. This got scrapped and only the black box came into being.
- The Exult Project
- Ultima 7 in Windows
- The collectible Ultima-Ultima VII
- Nitpicks for Ultima VII
- The Other Codex-Ultima VII
- Ultima Aiera Ultima VII Resources
- Wikipedia's article on Ultima VII