* A wonderful, large world to explore teeming with life;
* Three factions to join thus tailors your adventures around this;
* Plenty of things to do other than combat like pickpocketing, harvesting, brewing potions and so on.
* User interface needs a lot of practice to get used to (unless you have played Gothic 1);
* (For its time) requires a beast of a PC to run it in its fullest glory
* Newcomers will find this daunting as there’s no ‘hand-holding’ at all.
Back in 2001, a wonderful RPG named Gothic 1 hit the markets. It’s truly an open world adventure that has absolutely no hand holding. Brutal yet fair, it’s not for everyone. Personally, I enjoyed the game despite its weird user-interface. Yet in hindsight, it actually served well enough as, in parts, can be quite immersive. Two years later, and to my surprise, Gothic 2 hit the markets. This game took all the strengths of Gothic 1 and enhanced it a hundred times – so much it makes Gothic 1 looks like a tech demo. Yet there are some slight weaknesses like the user interface however it’s minor comparing to what the game can offer overall.
The plot follows on directly after Gothic 1. Saving entering spoiler territory, I won’t go into it however, be warned as when you watch the very first cut scene, it pretty much tells the entire plot for Gothic 1. So, as come to expect, you get to see your pals from Gothic 1 like Xardas, Gorn, Milten, Lester and Diego. There’s also factions to join like the fire mages, mercenary group and the new one, the Paladins. Naturally I went for the Paladins only because it’s a new class and besides, I normally play Paladins / Clerics anyways.
Being a role playing game (RPG), there are RPG elements, or simply known as stats management. Yet, just like in Gothic 1, there’s not much at all as you only have to worry about Strength, Dexterity and Mana. To increase them you need to earn experience points. Earning experience points is by killing foes and completing quests. Yet you’ll get a heck of a lot more experience completing quests than killing foes. This is an excellent approach as it encourages role playing. Furthermore, if you solve quests in a clever way, the game rewards you more.
Being an open world game, Gothic 2 has no ‘zones of difficulty’ – meaning that if you decide to wander off the beaten path, you can expect to fight a very tough creature like an Orc early on. Take note that Gothic Orcs are not your Dungeons and Dragons Orcs - they are extremely brutal. Yet that’s not to say don’t explore – just use your grey matter and all is good. That said, choose your enemies wisely or simply, do as many city quests as possible before venturing in the wilderness. It’s going to happen eventually.
One of my grips about playing cPRGs is that the land and its inhabitants are quite static – meaning they stand around, babbler a couple of words to you then, that’s about it. Here is where Gothic 2 shines like the brightest star in the galaxy – all the folks have chores to do! Yes, this also happens in Gothic 1 however it’s a lot more notable in Gothic 2. Examples of this are: shops close during the night and you can even see the owners walk to their favourite drinking hole before going to sleep. In the farmlands, the farmer’s wife turns the sheep on the spit whilst the guys stand or sit around drinking and so on. I cannot tell you enough how immersive this feels – absolutely brilliant!
Also another pain point about cRPGs in general are the side quests. Obviously the main quest line is dictated by the main plot so either you going to like it or hate it, yet the side quests can be the decision maker if the main quest line is somewhat uninspiring. Gothic 2’s main quest line is pretty stock standard however its side quests are brilliant that harmonises what I explained before about the world not being static. Yes there are some fetch quests however most are relevant to the main plot or simply to the faction you have joined. An example of this the Thieves’ Guild ‘fetch’ quest of collecting blood chalices. Sounds simple at first however some, and rightfully so, are hard to find thus requires a lot of sneaking / searching, as expected. And this goes on for most of the side quests so it’s worth hunting them down.
Yet, the quests don’t present themselves in the open – that is, you are not going to get that massive ‘!’ above their heads. You need to speak to all of the folks to get those quests yet fear not, as for starters, every individual person are voice spoken and they all have something to say. Yet the easiest way to identify a person with a potential quest is when the person has a name, instead of the eponymous ‘farmer’ or ‘citizen’ tag. Yet there are some quests that requires to speak to another person and because each person’s location can vary between day and night, sometimes you need to record down their movements.
Gothic 2 world is quite large to explore – two large maps and a couple of mini ones. Yet worry not as the entire world is not procedurally rendered so all the contents are drawn in with a purpose. Yet it’s also worth investing time to explore the area as there are some hidden surprises and plenty of beautiful vistas. And because the game has a day and night cycle, there are times I just park in a certain area and watch the sun sets and the moon rises. Yes, the world can be that beautiful yet there are some locations that looks rather, but rightly so, dull. And last but not least, there are some sweet Easter Eggs to find and who doesn’t like Easter Eggs!
Yet to enjoy this game in all its beauty, you need a beast of a PC to run it. At the time, my PC was pretty average with 256MB ram / PIII @ 800 and couldn’t run it beyond the minimum specs. The recommended specs are PIII @ 1200 / 512MB ram with 64MB vram – other words, it will completely annihilate most PCs during that time. It’s understandable that you need a bucket load of ram as there’s no load time between maps as each map is extremely large. Yet the game does deserve to run at its highest settings.
One of the major criticism from the first game was the user interface – it took some considerable time to get used to it, only just. Gothic 2 made some improvements to this like one-click actions however it still has room for improvement. That is, casting, whilst they ditch out heavy damage, can cause headaches as you need to press the left button and the forward key to cast. Strafing left / right feels very odd however, as a saving grace, the game has a lock on feature, yet that can cause issues when fighting on multiple fronts.
Other than fighting, there’s a lock pick mini game where it requires you to remember a pattern of left / right keystrokes and fail to do so either starts you all over again or breaks your lock pick. Yet lock picking is a skill required thus needs a trainer. Also going stealth and trophy hunting requires spending skill points. Trophy hunting is all about skinning animals for teeth, claws, mandibles and even furs to name a few. Certain merchants will pay top dollars for certain trophies. Other activities includes forging weapons, alchemy, harvesting, pickpocketing and creating runes. Of course all requires spending skill points however it’s there if you wish to pursue it.
Depending what you want from this game determines the length of time to complete. For me, I tried to complete everything possible from picking up every plant to completing all of the quests possible. Even I used to walk option to explore any new areas so it took me around 100 plus hours to complete all six chapters. And the beauty of this is that, the game had a really decent pace to it – other words, it didn’t feel like a chore at all. That said, Gothic 2 is a game that RPG players will be proud of. It has all the elements of a proper RPG ranging from interacting to combat to exploration. The UI still needs tailoring however, after a little practice, it’s passible and won’t cause too much grief. An absolute must for any lovers of RPGs yet newcomers will find this a little too daunting.
9 / 10