This post might need a little bit of explanation to go with it, first. I've sometimes had to post jaded observations on how some things are awful. This post is not intended as a flame; the point is that this is an observation.
And the observation is that I've grown tired defending the Ultima series. Now, don't get me wrong... I'm just admitting excess zealotism, and is a part of healing process.
Here's the thing: I admit that I've been a zealot. Without really intending it, I've been a hopeless elitist, even when that thing has really not been appropriate at all times.
And here's my request: if I ever, anywhere, say that the bad old days were better, doubt me.
I've often been defending Ultima VII as one of the greatest computer RPGs ever made. It is one of my favourite games, that's definitely true, and that fact will never go away. But I have had the big mental block in admitting that the game could be anything but the greatest computer RPG ever, and all newer games are just pale imitations - and that makes me a hopeless elitist zealot. I have to apologise for that.
My revised, well-considered position is this: Ultima VII was a great milestone in computer RPG history, unparalleled in its time, and an innovator in many respects. It may not be a game that will be played and revered constantly, but it will be a game that will be remembered, a game whose legacy we will revere, and a game that still sometimes surpasses the games of our era.
There. I'm very sure that "the old me" would have approved of that assessment, too - it's just that I need to get on with the times. I have to face the reality.
The reality is that there are better games than Ultima VII now.
I feel so stupid that I have to write that thing down in this actual very blog. Of course that's true. I've been saying that for a while no... wait, no, no I haven't. I've always said Ultima VII is the Best Game Ever.
I could go into a screaming rage right now, saying how I hate Ultima I-V engine's boring, dry presentation, Ultima VI's clumsy half-way UI, and Ultima VII's lack of engaging plot and lack of interesting side quests (and U7Pt2:SI's very jarring unfinished rough edges). I coild go into a screaming rage over the fact that despite what many say, I really really loved Ultima VIII and thought Ultima IX was starting to look like a very, very respectable game - and I'm glad it later re-incarnated into a better body as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
I could, because these are facts. But I respect these games. I also have to say they are damn good games at what they did, and were very advanced at the time. But I have to say that there are better games now. I have to keep telling that to me to keep me sane, goddamn it.
You see, that's what drives me mad. Part of my psyche works in weird ways. It tells me that Nethack is the best freaking game ever and that in order for me to be considered a serious gamer, I should complete the game. Ascend. Beat the hell out of the game. But that's where my psyche is wrong: I also hate Nethack for its relentless difficulty, lack of the properties I consider vital in RPG (engaging character development or NPCs, good story, amount of choices), and it's dry-boring ASCIIbetical presentation that, while neat, isn't really my cup of tea. I want at least character portraits. Hey, Ultima I-V don't have those either, and that's what makes them boring in my book.
So here's another revised view: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the best damn CRPG right now. I hate cramped little worlds - Ultima VII's world was tiny compared to predecessors - but while Oblivion's world is tiny too, at least there's point in exploring it. Woods look like woods. You can actually lost in the game if you don't look at the maps. But what sets apart U7 and TES4 is that the latter not only has an engaging main plot but a bunch of sidequests. You can't say that U7 is exactly swamped with a lot of interesting diversions. Sure, you can bake bread and stuff, but are there really that many scripted sideplots? Hell no.
Likewise, I've always counted Neverwinter Nights as one of the best damn CRPGs. It's usually in my lists as the second best CRPG ever - and after this, it will damn stay there. Replayability. Moddability. New module every day if you want it, damn it. Something Ultima VII won't do, damn it.
So what does this rant really amount to? Well, I don't know how many times I will personally play through Ultima VII once I'm finished with the Finnish translation of the game. I've already bashed through it several times. It's starting to get routine-ish, and there's just not enough stuff to do. One of the reasons is that there's not enough mods, probably. But I will state emphatically that if the modders come up with amazing mods, I'll sure as hell play them. I've just gnawed through the main plot so many times and you can't really live your life in Ultima VII as you can in Oblivion.
I guess I'll just end my small pointless rant here. I just did this to clear my head and quit being a hypocrite toward my own feelings. I love games. I just shouldn't have false attachments to the past and see things as they really are - the progress dannot be stopped.