Monday, March 3, 2008


Ultima VII was one of my favorite games, back in the day. Despite the fact that it ran for crap on my 486SX, and I didn't have a CD-ROM at the time, and had to go with the floppy-disc version, it was awesome. Exult is awesome too. I'm remembering middle-school, and my friend Dave who moved to Vermont, n' being drunk for the first time... Those were the days!

They weren't really all that grand, but Ultima VII remains a favorite, and Exult is essentially a replacement game-engine that fixes some of the flaws, adds some features, and works on a modern-day machine. Cross-platform, even, as evidenced by the fact that it's working perfectly on my Ubuntu machine.

It's a 2D game, but the view is 3D-isometric, kinda like Diablo, for all you kids out there. You play the part of 'the Avatar', who visits Brittania in times of need and embodies all the virtues that the magical land of Brittania holds dear (because you set up their religion in a previous game, basically). You point n' click to do everything, the plot's great, and playing it on Exult is a much less frustrating and bug-filled endeavor than the original was.

For a review of the game itself, check anywhere that has reviews from the early 90s. This was the best game of the Ultima series, which was a very important series for the evolution of the RPG and defined a lot of the things we take for granted with RPGs today. Basically, Ultima, Wizardry, and maybe Might & Magic, are the series that defined the genre for a few decades. Even now, some entries in each of those series do it better than anyone else ever has. Unfortunately, some of them suck large donkey-balls, but such is the nature of series, I suppose.

Exult just lets you play the game now, on your monster machine that would laugh at all the PCs Ultima VII was designed for. As such, a review boils down to: Does it work, or not? The answer is a resounding 'yes' - it works so well that it actually has a version number higher than 1, which is almost unheard of in the open-source development scene. More people are crushed by toppling vending machines every year than open-source projects leave beta.

There are a few gameplay improvements, and much like your average console-emulator, a few graphical filtering options. They work pretty nicely, making the game look alright, if not gorgeous, but have their drawbacks. All of the ones I tried tended to have issues displaying the text in the various books which are scattered about Brittania. They were readable, but missing letters n' whatnot, a lot of the time.

The downside - there always is one, isn't there? - is that it's just the engine. You have to find the data files from the original game in order to make it work. I'm not sure if they're still in print. They ought to be; there have been a number of collections that included it, over the years, and whoever owns the rights to Origin's software is a total effing retard if they don't have a version of the game modded to run under XP for sale.

If they don't, however, the game is readily available for download, apparently. Not all 'abandonware' sites are as concerned with technicalities as Home of the Underdogs. I actually still have a copy from one of those collections I mentioned, that I don't pull out as often as I should, but I checked Google and didn't have a problem finding it for download. It's probably completely illegal though, since I definitely saw some stuff on Amazon. In print or not, it's available for purchase.

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