Gothic II

Gothic II

Developer: Piranah Bytes
Publisher: JoWood Productions

Release Date: 10/28/2003


Genre: strategy
Setting: medieval

I have a great fondness for roleplaying games, whether science fiction or fantasy. Be they single player or part of an online community. From paper & pen to electronic media, over the years playing many software titles, I've seen the great titles and others that wasted an hour of my time before hitting a dusty shelf.

Asked if I would like to play Gothic II because of my interest in this type of genre, I agreed to put it to the test. First up was installing the game, which nearly struck out due to the software not recognizing certain files on the disk. Nothing is more irritating then having the software abort after 60% of the files have been completed. All these errors required doing full installs, which took three tries. Normally I wouldn't be concerned if the install process was fast, but in this case it takes over 40 minutes for the game to completely install when everything is going smoothly.

Gothic II, begins with the typical intro of a brave hero. He is brought back from the dead by a powerful necromancer who tells him that his abilities are weaker, but the lands are in dire peril from dragons and he must retrieve a jewel that will aid in the fight against them. Thus the hero asks if there are any weapons to be had, and is told to rummage around his tower for whatever he needs. This amounts to a club, some potions, and healing restorers and mana restorers, in the form of food some bottles and herbs.

You work on making the usual levels, then are awarded five points to use on physical attributes, or skills. Let me emphasize that you must use up all five points on one skill you wish to enhance. Special items can increase these permanently as well. Make sure you spend time checking out every nook and cranny. If not, then you've missed quite a few items, some you can sell for coinage when hitting that first town. Speaking of searching for items; you have no idea where anything is unless the character walks very close to things. At the same time, keep an eye on the screen, since the item discovered will flash up over his head very fast, then disappear once he's moved past.

Equipping items is easy - just open the inventory screen, then click the weapon or armor the hero is supposed to wear. Spells are done the same way, but all the secondary items like potions and healing herbs can't be equipped. In other words, when in combat mode and you have to heal, that means opening the inventory screen then using whatever was selected. Let me say that it would be better to fight to the death, then trying to do the aforementioned, since in most cases it means sure death anyways. At least with the other method there's a chance you might get lucky and survive.

Once outside in the environment, search around carefully. Loot, weapons and other items laying around can be had -maybe some to enhance your abilities. My advice is to save, and save often. Local creatures and enemies abound and they have a large agro range. Dying in this case requires you to load up the last save, and if you haven't done so in awhile then guess what happens. When searching it's the same routine - walk close to something and the found item will flash up. Pick up everything you can find, and if you can't use it then sell it when you hit the town.

Combat is accomplished using the mouse and arrow keys at the same time. Whether for fighting or spell casting, you need to get the combinations down pat, otherwise it makes for some interesting deaths. If you want to fight with a hand weapon, target the combatant, then hold down the left mouse button while using the forward arrow to attack. Since I use my mouse with my right hand, that combination is a bit awkward. Plus, you have to keep an eye on the screen, since the AI is smart enough to dodge, weave and back up on you. Spell casting with scrolls uses the same technique and so do ranged weapons.

Selecting the correct item for combat is a memory game as well. When you selected those items in the inventory screen, each item was assigned a function key. That means being very careful to grab the right item, otherwise you might find yourself fighting with a scroll instead of a hand weapon. Using a scroll on your character is difficult, since it requires targeting yourself then hitting the back arrow and holding down the mouse button. Also weapon switching is frustrating, in that the game remembers which item you used last. That means closing from ranged to close combat requires you to hit the right function key, otherwise you'll find that the weapon being used in melee combat may be the bow that was last equipped, or a scroll instead.

If you think the various enemies are a pushover, then think twice. That young wolf you come across, or those flying bugs, can do some mean damage. I've lost count of the times I've died to a blood fly, or the thug down at the harbor. What that means is getting to level 2 isn't a piece of cake. The local fauna you will meet can be solitary, or in groups of two or three. Enemy humanoids may be in larger groups, but one to three is average. All enemies have an agro range, which means you will be ignored if you think or know that the fight will end in your death. Also, they are not static, and have a roaming range that can be a tight circle or a large loop. When I say the AI is smart, be forewarned that if you're fighting more then one, the others will circle around to your back which is vulnerable to attack.

The countryside is well displayed, from farm land to forested areas, as are mountainous areas. With steep ravines and cliffs you have a chance of falling to your death, and jumping off buildings will do the same thing. Careful is the watch word, with "save that game" being a close second.

When entering towns or talking to farmers, you need to sheath that weapon you're carrying, unless you like dying to the town guards. Stealing or attacking someone first results in the same painful death. Talk to everyone you see that is friendly, as they can offer clues, or may help out for a price or special item. Some will offer quests that will reap some experience and coinage as well. There is lots more to do, but I'm not revealing everything, so you the adventurer will be surprised by each discovery.

So what do I think of the game? The pros are the great graphics, it makes you feel like a part of the world, with rain, fog, dark nights and bright mornings. The story is well thought out, and from interaction to combat that is important. Nothing hobbles a game like a weak plot which goes nowhere. The game is well conceived from crafting to combat, with very little fluff, and surprises abound. One thing that is novel is the death sequence. If you die to a wolf, you'll see it eating your corpse. If by a thug, he picks up all your loot.

On the opposite end we have a combat system that I dislike. I'm a "click and stick" type of player. Having to use both hands to fight, or remembering which keys to use correctly, is not my cup of tea, considering that this is played in real time. Attaining levels is frustrating, and the reward for attaining them is poor in design. Getting any decent skill up is a measure of frustration in dying repeatedly, as you're not sure if you should fight that crook because he may be way stronger. You can accidentally get killed by pushing the wrong function key.

No quick bar slots also means popping open the inventory frequently. Inventory space is limited, requiring you to either drop or sell just to make room. The instruction book is skimpy on important things, which means finding out by trial and error, or looking up fan sites to glean additional information.

All I can say is that this is a very interesting game, and kept my attention while playing. For a first time role playing gamer, this is not something I would buy. For you experts, enjoy if you're a fan of Gothic.

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About the Author, Edward Rank (A.K.A Scorpogee)

Father of two, now grown children.What are my kind of games? Strategy, RTS, RPG, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and online games such as Dark Age of Camelot and Asheron's Call. Of my dislikes I would say puzzle games such as Myth, FPS type games such as Doom. Also simulation type games, and games that are just plain bad.

My knowledge of the industry mostly evolves around beta testing games, such as Earth & Beyond from EA, Saga of Ryzom, and companies like MSN and Acolade. Self taught web design is another interest I have. Family life is entertaining at times. It also can get weird as well, after you have been married 31 years.