User Rating: 9 | Gothic II PC
Gothic II is set in a dark medieval world of humans, orcs and other creatures of various types from scavengers which are ostrich like birds to the more familiar trolls and dragons. The story is somewhat cliché but that doesn’t make it poor or uninteresting. If you grew up like me and played Dungeons and Dragons and read books of high fantasy such as J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, then a trek through a somewhat familiar world is welcome. Yes, it’s nice to experience the different tastes and cuisines of the world, but every now and then plate me up a big burger and fries to hit the spot, and sure add a few unique ingredients for a twist. This is what Gothic presents and presents it very well. The game is an RPG which primarily focuses on exploration with a lot of simple but challenging combat. It is very important to note that this is not a pure action game and if you are looking for that then play Diablo I/II, Dungeon Siege or some of the clone like button mashing level driven console style RPG’s (eg Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance) instead. The game takes off right from where Gothic I ended and that is after the defeat of the evil demon called The Sleeper, the unnamed hero finds himself tossed into a world beset by an army of orcs lead by dragons. It is not necessary to play Gothic I in order to play Gothic II, but it would provide some rich detail to the unfolding story not to mention hours of enjoyable adventuring. The game starts with the nameless hero magically teleported to his old friend Xardas the necromancers tower right after defeating the sleeper. Xardas informs our hero on the growing orc army led by the dragons and sends the character on a quest to find an ancient artifact that would help defeat the evil, called the Eye of Innos. This is where the game really shines, be prepared to get absorbed into a rich and detailed, large and believable world that allows complete freedom of exploration. Few games have successfully pulled this off and the list is quite impressive including Ultima I-VII/IX/UW I/II, Fallout I/II and of course Baldur’s Gate I/II. I’m sure there are many others deserving but I mentioned the top games that immediately came to my mind. As the humble nameless hero rises in skills and experience he is ultimately faced with what faction to join. The groups are the Paladins of the city which are gifted with both fighting and magic skills, the Mercenaries which are strong fighters and the Magicians of Fire which possess strong magic skills. The game progresses a little differently depending on which group you join but ends up in the same place when it’s over. One complaint reviewers and players had about the game related to its interface. In my opinion the interface was brilliant, once you get used to it. The design allows you to access everything without having to reposition your hands on the keyboard or mouse. All movement, inventory, item equipping and item usage is handled this way. A warning should go out to the players out there that prefer hotkeys for potions and spells and auto maps so they never get lost, I suggest that they don’t play this game and load up something else like Dungeon Siege, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance or some other (yawn) hack and slash games for their fix. Personally, I can’t stand fumbling around the keyboard looking for a hotkey so that my character can drink a healing potion while simultaneously fighting off 5 enemies and holding a shield (eg Dungeon Siege). Gothic II is a game of free exploration with many hidden side quests to discover driven by a good story with action elements thrown in to provide a different kind of challenge for players. The graphics are good but feel a touch dated but that never detracts from the games other strong points mainly feeling like I am actually in this amazing and richly detailed world. The trees, forests, paths, dungeons, ruins, valleys and distant vistas are incredibly beautiful and make you feel as if you are really there. Another great feature of the game is that all the players have voices and despite the fact that a few of the voice actors were used for more than one character it didn’t diminish the benefit of the feature. The music in the game adds to the atmosphere using a frantic theme during combat and many different relaxing themes when wandering the beautiful countryside. The sound effects are quite well done and highlight actions in the game from the metallic swoosh of unsheathing your sword to the howling winds heard when enjoying the view from a mountain top. Overall the game puts all these elements together incredibly well. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. If you want to be immersed in a living breathing detailed and believable world where you decide when and where to explore get Gothic I/II. On the other hand, if exploration is not your thing and you want to be guided down every path and fight endless hordes of generic monsters in meaningless and painfully boring repetitive combats look to other titles (some were mentioned in this article for reference).