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After producing a few Ultima games that took place in various realms other than Britannia, Origin Systems has placed the Avatar back in a very familiar environment for Ultima VII: The Black Gate.
Many things have changed since the glory days of Britannia after the Avatar set things right in Ultima VI: The False Prophet. It has been 200 years in Britannian time since then and the world is truly in a sorry state. The Shrines of the Virtues have fallen into disuse, savage racism against the Gargoyles has forced them to reside almost entirely in a single area and a debilitating disease is sweeping the countryside.
To further exacerbate the situation, a cult-like organization known as The Fellowship is offering entirely too easy answers to all of life's problems and a huge demonic entity calling itself The Guardian is promising massive destruction across the land. Needless to say, Britannia needs the Avatar's aid now more than ever.
Previous Ultima games, since the 1983 release of Ultima III: Exodus, have had generally the same main interface — main screen in the upper left, characters on the right and other information on the bottom. Ultima VII: The Black Gate breaks the mold and uses a completely new layout.
The entire screen is the playing area and other information only pops up as a "window" of sorts. Characters are handled with a "paper doll" view that serves as the repository where equipment and weapons are placed for use. Conversations (with their corresponding character portraits) also pop up and pause the action.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate features 256-color VGA graphics and offers no support for lower formats. Musical support, conveyed through dozens of MIDI songs, is available for both Ad-Lib and SoundBlaster compatible cards. The game's effects use SoundBlaster technology, providing an alternative to the PC speaker sound effects of previous Ultima games. As the main story unfolds, the Avatar comes upon situations requiring deep thought as well as more standard combat-oriented problems that are dealt with easily. There are dozens of different styles of weapons and armor available and combat is handled through real-time movement with your party members each controlled by a specific pre-scripted AI style of your choice.
From the city of Trinsic, where the quest begins, to strange locales like the Ethereal Plane and your final confrontation with The Fellowship and The Guardian, Ultima VII: The Black Gate attempts to provide players with a memorable, unique CRPG. The game, as in previous titles in the series, combines classic RPG style with anachronistic real-world dilemmas about race, religion and revolution. ~ Drew Hunt, All Game Guide