With the interest in 3-D action-adventure games on the rise, game developers are exploring new innovations within this genre's expanding family of games. Titles such as Infogrames' Alone in the Dark and Psygnosis' Ecstatica were inventive in themselves, allowing you free movement through macabre 3-D adventures, as you lay waste to dastardly enemies. Psygnosis' forthcoming sequel to Ecstatica, tentatively entitled Ecstatica 2, will have all the elements of its forerunner, with improved resolution, bigger maps, and more interactive options.
The original Ecstatica was well-received, but some still had reservations. The whole feel of the gameplay, from the shifting camera perspectives to the 3-D environments, was definitely awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, though, the resulting "cinematic" quality of the game became somewhat distracting in some instances, especially while you were contending with adversaries. The character movement during these battle sequences, while fluid and well rendered, was limited, allowing the player to execute only two strike moves on opponents who, for the most part, barely recoiled when they were hit.
Ecstatica 2 looks like a definite improvement over its predecessor, and many of the first game's shortcomings have been eliminated. First off, the fighting elements from the original title seem to have taken a turn for the better in its sequel. Beside the fact that more weapons are now available, there are also more fighting options in general, enabling the player to perform a variety of kicks and punches on enemies with different key combinations. And yes, there's blood. The "ellipsoid" character renderings found in the first game have been enhanced and the graphics are twice as sharp, integrating actions such as running or fighting more cohesively within the game's dynamic angle-to-angle scenarios. Ecstatica 2 also sports a broader playing map; on a smaller level, this means that larger spaces can be reserved for battling, so the camera perspective is less likely to shift while you're felling foes. What's more, your adversaries are regenerated at random, making gameplay less predictable.
Other added features in Ecstatica 2 include obtainable potions, some which restore health and some which give you strange new powers. Also, your character has more freedom of movement, so you'll have to be more adept in your explorations, especially when it comes to running up stairwells, where you now risk falling off the edge.
Of course, the plot in Ecstatica 2 will follow in the tradition of the original game, setting out a bizarre adventure with necromantic conundrums for the player to solve. The game's environments, while short on the lynched priests found in Ecstatica, are eerie and sinister at best, ranging from dungeons and graveyards to crenellated castle tops. This game will be worth checking out, if not only for its amazing graphical detail. The improved corporeality of the characters, combined with the many improvements to your character's fighting abilities, should make this game more than just an enhancement of the previous version, and it should come as no surprise if it becomes one of 1997's more popular action-adventure games.