I recently played through Gothic II after encourage to give it a try. I was reluctant given the games age, but eventually sat down to play through the game for a few days. It’s a 2002 title, by Piranha Bytes and originally released for German speaking audiences later translated for English speaking audiences. After spending about a week popping in and out of play sessions I decided to write down a brief review of the game covering what I liked and disliked.
The intro sequence gives us a massive spoiler assuming we haven’t played the first game, spoiler, we get to see how the game ends. But we also get to see the player “die” with a convenient ex machina excuse for why we’ll be playing as the character from the first game with scrub tier lvl 0 stats instead of the stats one might need to beat the first game. The wizard that started us on the most trying of fetch quests introduces us the new villains on the block, telling us that we’ll now have dragons to deal with, yes dragons(even if they’ve been shoehorned in). Did I mention the aztec statue golems? I should have mentioned that, they’re in this will be bound to upset any SJW because how dare any we portray any non-European culture as having skeletons in their closet! Surely the highest of crimes for piranha bytes! Better not tell Gawker. Well it’s not like I don’t have my weapo-…Oh I don’t have anything from the first game. Dandy. Well fetch quest master general is at least kind enough to let us pillage whatever he has lying around his tower. And yes I will be taking everything that isn’t bolted down. I’m starting at zero, may as well help myself to whatever I can get. At least he has some potions out in the open for me to swipe. Potions, juice boxes in a bottle.
This brings us early on into making us explore look and search and explore right out the gates. Even the tower has areas you need to explore by coming down from ledges, while at the same time showing you where you can wander head first into death head first. It’s not just the environments out to get you, but the critters along the way. That said there ware plenty of places I came to after the several hours in I’d find after exploring, places I probably could have used as shortcuts and ways to sneak into the first city and potentially save a lot of time getting right into a place I’d spent hours of questing trying to get through. Granted some of those hours were inefficiently spent questing for one NPC at a time. There is an element of ‘parkour’ when it comes to exploring. So could be reached by wandering off the path, others reached by climbing and managing navigate over gaps to reach new areas. I managed to find a way into the city that took me up a mountain that attached to the walls of the first city. Which speaking of that city, there are a ton of goodies littered around the rooftops. Once I figured out how to get up there I had a trove of gold and supplies to put in my bottomless backpack. Looking back, I’d found at least three ways into the city that bypass the posted city guards at the gates. Sneak can find a way I suppose. Credit given to Piranha Bytes for putting some effort into character movement.
The voice acting, at least in English, can be considered typical of the era. Maybe one decent performance in a nation of bland and unconvincing voice “talent”. Some actors forgetting what character they were reading for, leaving me jarred. I could be going through dialogue for a side quest or a story quest and hear about something with a potential price tag. “How much?” The main character asks, and the NPC replies in an almost robotic tone, divorced from the role of the character he’s meant to voice. “ONE HUNDRED GOLD COINS.” Yes the actor is the same, but the voice is different, the tone is different, even the quality of the recording sounds different. This is the sort of thing that breaks the experience.
Overall with music and ambient sounds. I don’t mind the music most of the time. It can provide a queue when I’ve stumbled into another fight that’s going to end in me reloading from my latest save. For the nth time. Though there are times when I can appreciate the music, but not often. As for the ambient sounds, really annoying at points. At one point I’ll be wandering through a wooded area and I’ll the shifting of dirt or the sound of an insect, a large one, and it’ll make me jump and trying to do a quick turn to look for whatever threat made that sound. And then I’ll realize it was just the stupid ambient sound effect track messing with me again. If not for the fact that everything can kill me so easily I wouldn’t be so on edge that the sound of a rattle wouldn’t set me off like Phil Fish after hearing Roger Ebert say Fez is the game equivalent of a child’s finger painting.
Speaking of being set on edge for things trying to kill me. Monster’s are scary. especially from the first moments in game. Groups of monsters spooked me. Because at first all I could do was flail my blade around like I’m trying to swat invisible flies. And that was after the frustrating joy of figuring out combat. The game won’t let you left click to victory. In my first fight I am ashamed to admit I thought left click was attack, nope. Left click can attack, if paired with forward movement. It took me several attempts to realize this. Given the developers suggested not using the new combat system I figured it would be best to use the default Gothic I combat system. Once I figured out how to fight, fighting got easier. I still flailed my sword around like an untrained moron, until I started training my in one handed swords. As you train weapon proficiencies, the character starts making more fluid and skilled attack motions, eventually being able to chain attacks and make rather effective counters. Helps flesh out combat in mid to late game in a way to keep things fresh as the game continues on.
Graphically, the game was average for it’s time. Nothing to great or standing out in visuals. Though with compatibility mode or a few fan-patches the game can run on modern systems on it’s highest settings and not take a hit to performance in most places. The game is more than ten years old so that’s to be expected. I will say the foliage made it hard to see, but given the nature of this game I’m not sure if that was a design flaw or an intended part of the game. There were a number of trees that made it hard to see adding to the difficulty of playing the game, of combat and exploration. There were some interesting effects between area transitions, but there were also some flaws in the lighting system. There were a couple places where I saw light one one side of a wall, providing light to the other side where it shouldn’t be and I considered this a distraction where one shouldn’t be. I did encounter at one point a censored, very low polygon ‘sex scene’. While it was low quality graphics by a modern standards, the animation of the awkward polygons was not too bad. I’ve seen worse animated CG porn attempts from tumblr so it’s hard to complain about it, I just won’t be having a go to it.
As for any sort of in game bugs or game crashing issues I encountered More than a few. Aside from the fact that the game needs to be patched or ran in compatibility mode to work on modern systems without crashing, I still encountered the random crashes. Even more there were moments in game where the audio seemed to have some bad distortion glitch. But that audio issue could be related to the patch or compatibility mode. Granted the odds of getting an official patch for compatibility with modern systems is not on the horizon, it’s anyone guess. There were some bugs in my exploration where a one foot fall killed me. This makes saving often a requirement, on the upside I have other saves to revert in case I break something. There is support for quick saves, but according to the game’s config files that may potentially cause a game crash and not even work right. Not exactly keen on that. While it may not be a bug, the default setup for the game seems to rely on using just the keyboard. I will give the game credit because you could play with the default configuration with only your left hand. However the game doesn’t use the mouse in the menus. Not even the main menu. This game was made in released in 2002 and doesn’t support use a mouse in the menus. I suspect this would make the game easy to port to consoles.
So now on the the bottom line. The game has some rewarding features for learning to play the game although it will send you a nasty curve from time to time to ensure you’re not getting ahead of yourself. Voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, and ambient soundtracks could use some improvements, but it could have been worse. The game offers multiple ways to tackle most objectives to the point that a player could even go around an obstacle to achieve their goals. On the other hand, most of those options won’t be noticed by most players on until after they’re well past that point of the game. Combat while rewarding when you learn how to play seems to give the advantage to the player when it’s one on one. While the game can run, it does require a little effort and research to get the game to run and even then the game will eventually run into a crash. I initially thought I’d get bored with Gothic II, and move on to other games I find myself interested. I’m surprisingly hooked. I’ll likely continue playing through to the conclusion, juice box in hand and enjoying the ride. For it’s flaws, for my naggings over a ten year old game. It’s mostly handled it’s aging in a way most games don’t. Would I say you should pick up sometime in the future? Yes. It’s worth the ten dollar pricetag.
For that that can handle M ratings
Played on PC
Played with and without the fan patch