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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

Atari

 

Developer

Piranha Bytes

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

- Streamlined character building

- Good story

- Lots of exploration

- Nice graphics

- Challenging

 

 

- Steep learning curve

- Clunky inventory system

- Too challenging for some

 

 

Review: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)
Review: Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (PC)

Review: Icewind Dale II (PC)

 

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Gothic II

Score: 8.2 / 10

 

A lot of times when playing PC RPGs players really have to think long and hard about a deluge of stats, be it their charactersí stats, or how to combine the various magically imbued items in their inventory.  Itís always a delicate balancing act and can often prove quite strenuous for all but the most seasoned fans of the genre.  For those who arenít terribly fond of this seemingly constant stat checking, but still enjoy the occasional role-playing romp, Gothic II might be right up your alley.  Despite a clunky inventory, some steep system requirements and an even steeper learning curve for itís combat system, Gothic IIís streamlined character building system, high degree of exploration, challenging gameplay, and entertaining story, are sure to keep players busy for hours.  

 

gothic-ii-1.jpg (56670 bytes)          gothic-ii-2.jpg (57343 bytes)

 

Picking up where its predecessor left off, players come to in Xardasí necromantic tower.  He then informs you that a rift has been opened after defeating the Sleeper in the previous game now causing orcs, dragons, and all manner of beastly unpleasantness to pouring into the world.  Of course it then falls upon the player to set things right.  The plot, while still having its main thrust, leaves itself fairly open-endedness, similar to that of Morrowind.  Players know their ultimate goal, but can try to achieve it as they see fit.  There are certain scripted events that canít be avoided, but the freedom of choice that Gothic IIís relatively non-linear nature allows is much appreciated.  Dialogue in the story telling is a tad hit and miss, thanks to some highly questionable voice acting, but overall Gothic IIís story is an entertaining romp.  

 

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While embarking on this adventure there will be plenty of opportunities to whack away on various enemies.  While it is fun once you get the hang of it, learning to use the controls for combat takes quite a bit of time to get your timing right to really lay into an enemy.  For the first little while swinging at enemies will not feel fluid at all as you clumsily take a few swings at your opponent but with time and lots of practice it becomes a lot easier to quickly connect with an enemy and be 

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able to dispatch it in a timely manner.  One other problem with enemies is that you have no idea how strong they are until they engage you in battle.  The difficult comes in discovering that the being youíre fighting is far stronger than you when it kills your character in one or two hits.  There will be plenty of trial and error and uttering, ďWell, crapÖĒ as you learn when youíre ready to take on this or that species of enemy.  Even more frustrating is that sometimes these enemies are peppered throughout the game in an illogical manner.  You can be fighting a group of enemies roughly on par with your own level of strength, then wander a few hill tops away and be ambushed by some heavy hitters.  However, despite the potentially high level of difficulty the combat can hit players with, it still remains highly enjoyable.  You simply need to be patient early on so to get used to the system.

 

But what requires the patience of a saint in Gothic II is its inventory system, as it is the clunkiest, most unintuitive means of keeping track of your items to come along in some time.  First and foremost is its inability to sort your items in a highly customisable manner.  Thereís a vague rhyme and reason to it as relatively similar items are kept together but not nearly as well done as other RPGs.  Even worse, when trying to get an item from your inventory it is done solely through the arrow keys as opposed to using your mouse.  Another problem is that the map is of little use in the game.  It shows the world as a whole, but there is no auto-mapping feature, a staple in todayís RPGs.  The one area of your inventory menu that is well done is your quest log, making it easy to keep track of the legions of quests you may have on the go at any given time.

 

On the complete opposite end of the clunkiness spectrum is the way players build their character in the game.  Unlike other games where players are constantly finding themselves having to think long and hard as to how they will tweak their characters abilities from a long list of skills, in Gothic II the number of skills players have to improve are kept relatively finite.  Once you have chosen one of the guilds to join and become one of the few major classes in the game, it is a simple matter of improving the four basic skill sets appropriately to that class.  Itís stripped down and simplistic, greatly accommodating people with a distinct dislike for number crunching.  

 

gothic-ii-3.jpg (57274 bytes)          gothic-ii-4.jpg (60949 bytes)

 

Traversing the world of Gothic II, players are really in for a graphical treat.  The environments are lush, full of detail, and all sorts of beautiful lighting effects.  On top of this the animation is very smooth.  The one problem players may encounter because of the high level of quality in the gameís visual presentation is that it does require a reasonably powerful computer.  It is possible to adjust the visual settings for the game to help it run better on slower systems, but even then it can be quite taxing on your PC.  Nonetheless, if you have a reasonably powerful processor and an above average videocard, be prepared for plenty of eye candy here.

 

On the audio side of things, players can expect an enjoyable experience as well.  While not as good as the visuals, Gothic IIís aural presentation is still well done.  There are lots of very solid, believable effects as well as some nice, atmospheric music.  However, as I mentioned before, the voice acting can be a bit hit and miss.

 

Despite Gothic IIís problematic inventory system, as well as its sometimes-difficult battles, it is still a very fun RPG.  The story is very well done, it provides lots of challenge, and itís very easy on the eyes even though you need a good computer to enjoy it fully.

 

- Mr. Nash

(January 30, 2004)

 

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