Perhaps I sound a bit negative when talking about my Ultima playthroughs, as if it’s some kind of torture I’m forcing myself through. But that’s not the case at all. Conquering these later Ultima games is something I’ve been meaning to do for years, and despite some hiccups (not to mention my precarious attitude towards RPGs), I’m enjoying them. Ultima VII is going pretty well (since restarting it), and I hope to finish it fairly soon.
Having played through a majority of the game, it’s interesting to note that a lot of it consists of simply talking with other characters. A lot of current RPGs (and indeed, games in general) have been accused of being too wordy, or chatty, or plot-heavy. Well, Ultima VII is very chatty, but it actually doesn’t bother me much. I think the difference is that in recent games, the chattiness distracts from the gameplay, while in Ultima VII, it is the gameplay. There’s less of an emphasis on dungeon-crawling and killing things than there is on solving social dilemmas. It makes the game feel more like detective work, which is fairly compelling.
It also helps that the writing is pretty good. Though it may be dialog-heavy, it is succinct, and each character has his own personality and values, and they all feel like they belong in this fantasy world. Indeed, the world, itself, stays in character, almost to a fault, as it doesn’t necessarily wink at you when it tries to pull a fast one.
But that’s what makes the game feel alive and organic. Compared to the mechanical structure of, say, Xenoblade Chronicles, in which most character’s problems are solved by killing X creatures and collecting Y items, the side-quests in Ultima VII may be as simple as talking to two friends, and helping them reconcile after a bitter argument. It sounds simplistic, but it works because it feels more natural, and is consistent with the personality of the world. (And that, I might argue, is more faithful to the concept of role-playing.)
My main complaint is that the font the game uses is overly fancy, and a little hard on the eyes.
In other news, The Last Story is (finally) on the verge of release in North America, so I hope to start working on that in the next couple of weeks. Additionally, GOG.com recently announced that Ultima IX: Ascension would be hitting their service later this month. Even though it is the most despised game in the series, I still plan on getting it, partially for completion, and partially out of curiosity. Even if I end up not liking it, at least I will have made up my own mind about it. (And I don’t expect to be paying much for it.)
I don’t think I’ve played this many RPGs since the ’90s.