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SummaryGive me more Gothic!
The GoodI hope you haven't missed the first Gothic: it was a fantastic game, a sleeper hit that brought fame to its developer, a small and unknown German company that single-handedly created their own style of RPG design.
Like most really good sequels, Gothic II retains what made its predecessor great and expands it. Basically, it's the same good old stuff, only more of it. Rock-solid, balanced, satisfying role-playing? Check. Challenging action-based combat? Check. Multiple paths through the story, non-linearity, different factions to join? Check. Vast, beautiful world with plenty of stuff to find and areas to explore? Check. Interesting NPCs with their own schedules? Check.
There is more of everything. The world is much bigger than in the first game. There is a full-fledged large town that lives its own life. It is surrounded by huge wilderness areas, as well as many smaller points of interest. In fact, the entire world of the first game appears in Gothic II as one of its locations!
Like the first game, Gothic II is addictive and incredibly rewarding. You'll be working hard to make your character stronger. You'll take quests and hunt for valuable items. There is a lot of attention to detail and many creative touches that bring the world to life. Town inhabitants work during the day and then go to taverns or smoke pot with friends. People attend their daily duties, listen to religious ceremonies, and go have sex with whores. Just like in real life.
You sleep in beds, learn how to make your own swords by a blacksmith, and fry meat in a pan. Monsters are truly vicious, and if you have the appropriate skill, you can skin an animal and sell its pelt. The life shown in Gothic II is believable and realistic. Like its predecessor, it has a lot of personality.
The story has a couple of nice twists up its sleeve, but all those small quests you'll undertake are actually more interesting than the main plot. Most of the side quests feel fresh and are fun to try out. There is a lot of free-form playing in the game, both in the way you shape your character and in the quests you must perform in order to get to your goal. The different paths eventually merge into one, but there's still plenty of replay value to have here.
The combat system in Gothic II (same as in the first game) is quite interesting, without being either too simplistic or too convoluted and artificial. You have three kinds of attacks and the possibility to physically block. The attacks are a combination of pressing the mouse button and direction keys. This system really works well, even though not everyone will be satisfied with its emphasis on precision and timing.
The game's considerable difficulty level doesn't allow you to roam its world freely like a tourist, but it also creates great suspense and adds to the game's realism. There is a feeling of danger; you know it when you spot an enemy you haven't seen before and your knees go weak when you see that it has spotted you too and is running towards you with a ferocious growl.
But if you become strong enough to face those beasts, you'll find a vast, wonderful world to explore. You'll want to reach every corner of it, complete every quest, explore and discover. Gothic II is a game of action, a role-playing game, but also a wonderful open-ended adventure, a virtual reality that will make you addicted to it.
The BadLike its predecessor, Gothic II is stronger in its first half and becomes somewhat streamlined towards the end. And once again, I didn't mind that because I was glad to have some straightforward, simple action after the elaborate work I've been doing before. But it's hard to deny that the final sequence is not up to par with the rest of the game.
I think the first Gothic had a cooler vibe. The prison colony was a more interesting place than the rather standard medieval world in Gothic II. I missed the darkness of that first world, and especially the strong beginning of the story, which is a bit too mild and impersonal in the sequel. The survival aspect that was so unusual in the predecessor is somewhat downplayed here, and the protagonist's motivations are far less convincing.