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Developer:
Piranha Bytes
Publisher: JoWood (US-Atari)
Platform: PC
Release Date: UK Release-June 2003, US Release - October 28, 2003

by Nicholas Bale




Gothic 2 is everything that should be seen in an RPG. Itís that simple. My review could stop right here, and youíd know everything you need to. But then, you wouldnít be able to know all the great things about it...so Iíll continue.


The folks at Piranha Bytes have done it again. I remember hearing all sorts of good reviews of Gothic I but whatever that game was, Gothic 2 is that and more. I had hours and hours and hours and hours of enjoyment playing this game, and by typing this review Iím taking time away from it. Precious moments are lost! But I digress. I donít even know where to start...


The story of Gothic 2 is a direct continuation of the first. The nameless prisoner (who remains nameless throughout the game still), who was crushed in a cave-in while trying to escape the collapsing shrine of a demon, has been revived by Xardas the Necromancer. Apparently evil has not been destroyed. In fact, an army grows near the land of Khorinis. An army led by dragons, no less. There is no army that has the power to stop it, so it is up to the nameless prisoner to find a way to defeat it...


The game is a third-person action RPG that has you running around a massive land that allows for total exploration. As you defeat enemies or perform chores, you receive experience points, and when you level up, you can learning points (LP). Now, with these learning points, you must walk around the world and find those who can train you in your different skills. You can train in magic spells (when you gain the ability), alchemy recipes, strength, dexterity, intelligence, and a range of weapon and thieving skills which will make your game easier for you (hint: learn how to pick locks quickly!). It may not seem like youíre getting stronger, but as time progresses you will discover you are facing tougher and tougher opponents.


Which is good because you start off the game as someone so weak, a relatively strong wind could render you dead. You also start the game as a nobody. This means that, while you will be the one to save the world, nobody gives a damn who you are if you havenít done it yet. The game follows a cause-and-effect style. If you kill a thief, no one will think worse of you, except perhaps the thiefís allies, who will try to kill you whenever they see you. If a merchant speaks well of you, other merchants may give a discount when you shop. Youíre not the only person in this world, and thatís definitely something to remember.


The game successfully creates an excellent atmosphere. I have rarely played games that have my heart beating faster as I head into a dark cave, wondering if a shadow beast is somewhere in the darkness...and the way the game creates this is by having a realistic difficulty balance. It takes a long time to gain any kind of power in the game, and even then, there are enemies that lurk in the dark forests and high mountains that you canít faze. In all the time Iíve played, I have yet to be able to beat a troll. I can barely faze the massive, twelve-foot creatures. And orcs, some of the most common creatures in fantasy, are too powerful for me. However due to the non-linearity of the game you can return to the troll and take care of him later, once youíre stronger. Or you can ambush him at night, when he and many other creatures will be sleeping. Not all will be, however. Shadowbeasts sleep during the day....and undead do not rest.


Graphically, Gothic 2 is not cutting-edge. The graphics are good, make no mistake, but you wonít see Unreal 2-style graphics. The faces are slightly blurry, the textures imperfect, and some animations are choppy. Thereís also a lot of clipping in the game, where the player would go through objects such as rocks and walls. This became somewhat annoying as I played, but only at certain places. Besides a slight irritation, the glitch detracted nothing from the game. Likewise, the graphical limitations are understandable considering the large, large, VERY large worlds that have been created. Oh, and did I mention...


There is no loading. None. Except for a period when the game is started or loaded, there is no time spent waiting. A massive, elaborately detailed world is open to the player, a world without pauses in the action in the player must wait. The dungeons are part of the environment, the caves, crypts, and lairs require no loading either. Very few games ever implement this kind of expansiveness without having to go through several load screens as you enter new Ďareasí.


Perhaps what I loved best about this game was the total sense of non-linearity, the feeling that the character can go do anything, not being restricted to the one quest set ahead of him. I adore games that implement openness, and likewise, I abhor those that are severely linear. This game is the former. Perhaps the only linear part in the game is the journey to the first town, which is something of a tutorial to the game anyway. Even before you enter the town, the game allows you to make a choice in what you are going to do. The guards blocking the front gate can be passed by bribing them or pretending youíre a farmer. To pretend youíre a farmer, you need to get clothes from a farmer. You can either buy them or steal them. You can also take a little off the cost by performing chores. And, if youíre up to the challenge, you can run off a nearby cliff, land in the ocean (hopefully), and SWIM to town, passing the guards completely. And thatís just the first quest you can get! !


The gameís massive world also lended to the non-linearity. If it wasnít as large as it is, the game would be quite short. However, I spent more than half of the time playing just running around the world of Khorinis, exploring the caves, the forests, the swamps, ruins, and running like hell from the skeletons that litter the area (they are tough!). As I explored, I noticed caravans that had been raided by bandits (arrows were in the corpses), adventurers that had been taken by goblins (skeleton hanging upside down from a tree, head missing), and explorers who were overcome by shadow beasts (no bones at all). I saw abandoned campsites, still-used campsites, a lighthouse, caves, a crypt full of the undead, a shipwrecked vessel that had been searched by giant lizards, and even more. I just canít describe all the great things in this game.


The game does have its share of glitches and bugs. For instance, if you enter a dialogue and press Ďctrlí too quickly, the game will lock up. Happens sometimes. You can also get trapped if you jump into shallow water. And, some parts of the quest log have yet to be translated, such as the entire list of what you can take off of dead animals. Some quests too. But itís nothing a patch canít fix.


If I donít stop soon, this review will never end. This game is a top-notch RPG, plagued only by mediocre voice acting and a badly translated script. If you like RPGs, get it. It is your duty to pick this game up as soon as you can. Itís a great RPG not only because itís top notch in many things, but because of the many small things you can do that have absolutely nothing to do with completing the game, but you do anyway because you can. After you buy it...well, just donít make any plans for the near future.


Final Grade: 97%


Official Gothic II Website


System Requirements:

  • Pentium IV Processor 900 MHz
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 2.2 GB HD
  • 4X CD ROM Drive
  • Windows
  • 32MB 3D video card
  • 16-bit sound card
  • keyboard
  • mouse




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