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SummaryGood continuation of the first. Addicting and satisfying .. but not perfect.
- An engaging story
- Big, but manageable, world
- Non-linear gameplay
- Endless exploration
- Many "non-essential" quests
- Plenty of foes
- Many, varied NPCs
- Weapons, armor - good variety
- No equipment/inventory weight limits
- No default Quick Save/Load
- Inconsistent mouse support
- Hefty learning curve
- Too few voice actors
- No self-mapping system
- System halts
The Bottom LineI'm a "newbie" to the Gothic saga. I did not play the first game, and I can only go by what others have said about it as a comparison to this one. A few other RPGs had caught my attention in between the time I bought the game (over a year ago) and now. But, here in October 2006 with the sequel (Gothic 3) heading into "Gold" status as we speak, I felt it was time to dust off Gothic 2 and give it a whirl.
Instantly upon beginning the game I was reminded of a game I liked very much .. Ultima IV: Ascension .. released in 1999. Honestly, now that I've finished the game, I realize there are many similar aspects between the two games.
The story supposedly begins a mere two weeks after the first one ended. Your "unnamed hero" has recouped from his injuries under the watchful eye of a powerful dark wizard .. but he has forgotten everything he learned and lost all of his experience. Now he is needed again to warn the "powers that be" about ... DRAGONS! My, my. And so it begins .. exploring, completing various quests, fighting off enemies, getting money and equipment, increasing levels etc. etc.
The way the story unfolds is one of the best things about the game. The game is divided into 6 chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 seem awfully long compared to the others that follow. Each new chapter changes what is happening in the world around you .. what characters have to say, monsters that roam the lands .. and brings you brand new quests as well as new goals. NPCs remember your attitudes and actions and various consequences can change the story.
Your choice of "occupation" also changes what will happen to you and the types of quests you will find. Because of this, the game has an excellent replay value. If you decided to become a Paladin during your first play-thru, try being a Thief or a Magician. Those choices change the way the game is played .. new quests and different ways to handle the main goals, different reactions from NPCs.
Your hero's group of friends from Gothic 1 is involved in this sequel, but you don't learn about their existence until about mid-way into the game. They will play a part, if you choose, in the last chapter.
Don't expect to be overly impressed here. Compare the screens for Gothic 1 and this one to see what I mean. Still, they're not bad at all. I'd rate them good overall.
NPCs and monsters are drawn well with realistic features and movements. One exception I can think is the way the Dragons were depicted .. nothing like the one in the intro. They weren't as realistic as I would've liked. During battle, however, they moved and blew fire correctly.
Some landscapes are very lovely - especially as day turns into night. Environmental special effects - rain & snow - add to the realism.
Even though my Pentium 4 w/512 RAM system exceeded the minimum system requirements, graphics loading seemed to be the cause of most my "lock-up" problems. If I move too fast through the scenery, the engine couldn't seem catch up. Control/Alt/Delete didn't help in most instances .. punching the "restart" button did. Restarting after the reboot worked 90% of the time .. but there were occasional "error" messages upon loading a saved game. Still, after a few tries, it continued. (Playing the game with a fresh system boot seemed to work best.) Annoying, and it taught me to save often.
Music & Sound
There's just enough music to provide background.. nothing out of the ordinary. Sound effects, though, really get you "into" it - especially while fighting. The sound of swords being drawn alerts you to an upcoming fight. The growls and grunts of your foes are unique for each type.
Conversations with NPCs could have been better in the English version. Inflections on the wrong words sometimes made the sentences sound weird. Also, some of the written text didn't match what was being said .. "tavern" was substituted for "pub", for instance. Not a biggie.
More English actors would have been ideal. There were way too many obvious repeated voices. And, some of the characters don't fit their voices. For instance, you'll encounter a "witch" named Sagitta in the game. While her voice sounds like an old hag, she looks like a young woman in the game. Her voice just didn't "go" with her look.
All menus are neat, clean and easy to use - only one key stroke away. Your Quest Log is by far the most useful. There is also a basic character sheet with all of the most important stats.
All picked up objects are dumped into one inventory window sorted by category. While this can become really cluttered, there is one good thing about it. The "best" weapon, the "best" armor that you have always appears in a block ahead of lesser items.
The game does not include a self-mapping system. All maps are documents that simply show your location and direction. I prefer games that let you add notes to the in-game map. Since this wasn't an option, making notes on a printed screenshot sufficed.
I was disappointed that they didn't enable the Quick Save/Load in the defaulted settings. (You can activate it by editing the Gothic.ini file where the game was installed.) Saved games can be named and appear with a snapshot, date and time. The number of saved games does have a limit (about 20), so you will be overwriting. Not a problem for most players.
Controls can be assigned to suit your taste. For those who became accustomed to the ones default in Gothic 1, you'll be glad to know you can use those if you wish.
Yes, there IS a fairly steep learning curve in the beginning which might deter anyone who didn't play the first game. While my comparison game, Ultima 9, included an instruction-type first chapter, Gothic 2 does not. It would have helped to have something similar here.
While there is some mouse support, it is not global. Most menus rely on the keyboard, while selections during conversations and within inventory are either mouse or keyboard activated.
Since this is a 3rd person action/adventure/roleplaying game, you'll be seeing your character's backside the majority of the time (like in Tomb Raider). You can walk, run, jump, climb, sneak (when learned) strafe and swim. You can learn to pick locks & pockets too.
While everything seems to work fairly well, the swimming controls (like in U9) are the hardest to get used to and just a joke, in my opinion. In this game, swimming is just a means to get from point A to point B over water. There is no reason to dive down deep since there's nothing down there to find.
AI & Combat:
First of all, this is not an AD&D game, so none of those rules apply. It may take you quite a bit of practice to learn the combat controls - especially on a laptop. Default settings rely on the mouse for direction and using the arrow keypad plus the "delete" and "page down" keys (and/or the AWSD keys). Using the "1" on the number pad allows you to "lock" in your target (essential for ranged shooting).
Practice does NOT make perfect in this game, however. Only by using "points" gained when levelling up can you improve. I'm not really sure how I feel about this method. In some ways it's a good way .. in others it can become very frustrating, especially during the first 2 chapters. It does allow you to choose exactly where you want your advancement points to go -- into magic, strength, dexterity .. or into weapon use.
Enemy face-offs are interesting, especially if your opponent is moving around. Singly, "locking" your target makes it much easier to follow their movements. When surrounded, locking one target restricts your own movements. Timing your strikes accurately is essential as the AI is really good for most enemies and many of your hits will be blocked.
Piranha Bytes' whole existence is based on the Gothic series .. that's all they know and all they've done. I've been trying to reason out why there were no real technical improvements, no changes in the graphics in Gothic II, even though several years had passed since the release of Gothic 1. Was the development team so exhausted .. so overwhelmed by their first game's success? Were they afraid to "rock the boat", fearing their fan base would abandon them?
In fact, Gothic II looks, sounds and acts like a 3 year old game. No .. it doesn't break any new ground. Yes .. it's a memory hog and can crash unexpectedly, even on newer systems. As I got further into the story, gaining experience, learning the layout of the land and completing quests, I forgot about the "oldness" of it. It simply didn't matter any more! I was "hooked" 8 to 10 hours in.
Now that I've finished the game, I find that little things which annoyed me at first seem incidental now. In a nutshell, the good aspects outweigh the bad.
In the end, as you "sail into the sunset", you'll have a feeling of satisfaction .. and a craving for more! Bring on the sequel! I'm definitely ready!