Featuring sex, drugs and a religious cult, adult themes made this game groundbreaking when it was first released, and now, 20 years on, it’s still a wonderful experience. Ultima VII was the sweet spot of the Ultima series, immediately accessible and good-looking, before it devolved into heavy emphasis on platforming (Ultima VIII) and an unsuccessful excursion into 3D (Ultima IX). Ultima 7 was originally developed in two parts, each of which had an expansion pack. The complete edition collects both parts and both expansions together, resulting in an awful lot of game.
Thanks to the “Exult” project, it’s possible to run the game perfectly on a variety of platforms, including the Mac OS. The graphics hold up well with age (the entire game is from an isometric perspective), the biggest concern is that the original resolution is low. Exult helps with this to some extent, adding both a filtering option to interpolate the image, and also padding out the rest of the frame. It also includes an optional audio pack, with remastered audio.
The gameplay sees you taking control of hero “The Avatar” who is pulled into a parallel universe filled with all manner of monsters and magic. You begin investigating a murder, and before long you’ll be trying to save the world. Along the way, you’ll talk to people, collect new gear and enlist party members to aid you. There are several minor annoyances that are remnants of that era of gaming. For instance, there’s no in-game tutorial, so you’ll have to read the manual to familiarise yourself with the mechanics, such as how to switch into combat mode (as an aside, Exult provides an option to allow for paused real-time combat, such as found in Neverwinter Nights), and how to manage your inventory.
Once you get over the antiquated interface and let the game suck you in, its a wonderful experience. By the end of the game you’ll be flying a red carpet, smiting enemies with glass swords (that shatter after a single use, mind) and bringing forth armageddon (there’s actually a spell in the game that kills everyone else in the game).
How it get it to work
Update: A fully supported Mac version of the game is now available directly from Gog.com. The following information is no longer necessary and is provided only for posterity (and for those who still wish to use the additional features in Exult).
Note: Exult is still under development, and so it’s not completely stable. It may crash or cause other issues. With this in mind, it’s recommended that you save the game regularly.
- First you need to get Ultima 7 from Gog.com
- Follow our instructions to extract the data from the Gog installer (for the Windows version; for the Mac version you can find the files at Ultima 7 The Complete Edition.app/Contents/Resources/Ultima VII The Complete Edition.boxer/C.harddisk/)
- Download the (free) Mac OS X version of Exult (we recommend the 1.5.x Snapshot (unstable) version), and all-in-one audio data pack
- Drag the Exult app into your applications folder and run it. It will give you a warning that the static data is missing. This is OK, as it will have created the folders and initial configuration for you. Quit Exult.
- Browse to ~/Library/Application Support/Exult, you should see four folders there.
- Find the “The Complete Ultima VII” folder you extracted in step 2.
- Copy or move the contents of the “Ultima7” folder to ~/Library/Application Support/Exult/blackgate (replacing the “gamedat” folder)
- Copy or move the contents of the “Serpent” folder to ~/Library/Application Support/Exult/serpentisle (replacing the “gamedat” folder)
- Run the “Exult audio data Installer” package from step 4.
- Run the Exult application.
Tip: you can specify the paths manually by editing ~/Preferences/exult.cfg and following these instructions.
Mods: There are also several mods available for Exult, of which the “Keyring” mod for part 1, and the “SI Fixes” mod for part 2 are invaluable. Download them from here, and extract them to ~/Library/Application Support/Exult/blackgate/mods and ~/Library/Application Support/Exult/serpentisle/mods respectively.