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The serpent pillars rise, and as your ship sails between them, you are no longer in the ocean but on dry land - the land of Serpent Isle.
Another adventure in the world of Ultima awaits, except this time, instead of Britannia, you are in a less familiar land called the Serpent Isle. Following the events of Black Gate, the Avatar must travel through the serpent pillars to follow Batlin to an elusive land that holds strange customs, powerful allies and deadly enemies.
A continuation of arguably the best Ultima in the series Ultima 7 - Serpent Isle only improves on what was already fantastic in Black Gate. The graphics are very similar to Black Gate with various improvements. The most noticeable being that the paperdoll (inventory) now actually 'dresses' the Avatar and his party in what you give them. Also, the character portraits are improved, they are bigger and more detailed than in Black Gate.
There are also numerous other gameplay changes made in Serpent Isle. There are many more 'types' of Avatar to play. Whereas in Black Gate you could only choose between one male or female Avatar, in Serpent Isle you can choose various Avatars. This is purely a cosmetic change but adds just that little bit more to the overall Ultima experience of the Avatar actually being you. The character interaction is greatly improved as well, there are more diverse conversations between the Avatar and the inhabitants of Serpent Isle. In addition to this, there is a much wider range of character models and scenery so you can really tell which town you are in just by looking at the people and buildings.
One other big change is that the world isn't as free and open at first as it was in Black Gate. You may now be thinking 'But I liked being able to go wherever I wanted to in Black Gate!', but don't worry as the world becomes completely open after you have done the first part of the game. If anything, one slight problem with Serpent Isle is that when you get full access to the world, it becomes too open ended and you can get lost quite easily at times. Things that I should point out while talking about travelling the world of Serpent Isle is that quite a few travelling methods have been removed. There are no horse and carts, no boats (I know I liked them too =) ), no magic carpet, no moongates and no recall stones. However, before you start ranting about not having a way to travel quickly, they have been replaced by the unique Serpent Gates which are a bit like the moongates in Black Gate, only this time you can choose your destination. However, this can be done only after you have opened that particular gate (don't worry it will make more sense when you play =P ). You may think that taking away the various means of travel will spoil the game, however it doesn't. The lack of travel is explained when you play and having boats and magic carpets just wouldn't fit in with the story properly.
The actual gameplay of Serpent Isle is rich and fulfilling, faced with the deep character interaction, a great storyline full of twists with a fantastic climax and tons of side quests to keep you busy for as long as you could possibly want. All this accompanied by the beautiful but deadly world makes Serpent Isle pull you into the game and really does put you in the role of the Avatar.
Overall Serpent Isle is well worth playing even if you aren't great fan of Ultima games but is a MUST for any Ultima fan. It stays true to the classic Ultima feel but gives you the chance to explore a world different from Britannia. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey through the serpent pillars and Serpent Isle (along with Black Gate) and it stands as my most favourite roleplaying game ever.
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Ultima 7: The Black Gate, Ultima 6: The False Prophet, Ultima 8: Pagan, Ultima 5: Warriors of Destiny, Ultima Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds