The Gold Edition of Gothic II, with its expansion Night of the Raven, was released in America for the first time in 2005. Like its prequel, Gothic, it suffers from below-average graphics, but embraces an immense, non-linear storyline with facets to satisfy every type of RPG (role-playing game) player.
Gothic II is set on the medieval island of Khorinis, with locations including the port city of Khorinis and its surrounding farms, forests, beaches, and mountains, a mine, and a monastery, to name a few. The hero is the same nameless wonderer of Gothic, recently resurrected by a necromancer, sans all his abilities and armor, and is sent to explore his surroundings, retrieve a magical artifact, and possibly save the land from dragons.
The player begins in the necromancer?s castle, where long, opening cut scenes explain what happened in the previous game and the major goals of the game. The unnamed hero has lost all of his armor, weapons, and skills, leaving him substantially weaker than the average village worker, and turning the battles with rats and baby wolves into epic struggles.
The game is extremely non-linear, with seemingly endless paths to explore. The mages are scheming and invite you to join their order. A violent tension is building between the paladins in town and the rebellious farmers on the outskirts of the region and both factions try to recruit you to their side. To progress in the main plot, the hero must become a proper citizen of the town, which includes obtaining a job. There are several jobs to choose from, everything from thievery to blacksmithing to herb gathering. Another option is to join the town militia, with the possible future of becoming a paladin.
The basic controls are easy to learn ? arrow keys for movement, a combination of either the control key or the left mouse button and the arrow key to attack and defend. The inventory system is difficult to use, though; items aren?t sorted into categories and the player has to scroll through the entire inventory, sometimes hundreds of items, to find the basic, early acquired items like the town map. Another downside to the inventory system is that while the hero has his weapons drawn, he can?t use items, which means that there is no way to heal during battle. This leads to one of the game?s biggest downfalls ? the hero is fragile as a glass hammer.
The complete non-linearity of the plot means that the monsters roaming around aren?t arranged in order of difficulty ? wandering randomly through the woods is likely to result in death when an unexpected orc or shadowbeast leaps out from nowhere. Even talking to people in town is dangerous ? several NPC?s attack viciously after the first conversation, with small chance of survival and no chance of escape. Leveling up doesn?t provide the hero with more skills, just with more ?learning points,? which he can spend to improve his skills, assuming he?s located someone who can teach him. Most battles with monsters end with the hero racing back toward the nearest wandering NPC, who will kill it in one stroke. All NPC?s are nearly immortal and all-powerful, unless you?re specifically invited to try attacking them, in which case they are just barely beatable.
Dying so often wouldn?t be half as annoying if it was easy to save and load games. However, both loading and saving take between thirty seconds and five minutes, a factor that made impatient me give up in disgust more than once. Gothic II takes a lot of patience, careful traveling, and willingness to run from 99% of battles.
The graphics, as I mentioned, were below-average for modern games, but that?s the worst that can be said about them. The maps are detailed and peppered with appropriate props ? don?t try stealing any of these props, though, or the NPC?s they belong to will hunt you down mercilessly. The music is appropriate and beautiful, the first time around, although it can get monotonous after a while. Sound effects are nothing special. The voice acting is? weird. I can?t quite say it?s horrible, because it?s just a very different approach. Each NPC in town had a different accent; from deep Southern to medieval British to thick Western to New York to Spanish to Jamaican? the lack of consistency was, to me, jarring and irritating. Once or twice during the game, the subtitles slipped into German.
I discovered another odd feature about the game when I was escorting an NPC to a side quest. We were attacked by monsters and he died. I continued on to the inn where he was supposed to enter a drinking game. When I got there, his corpse was lying on the floor, presumably in the thick of the contest.
Gothic II contains mild language. The main character keeps his mouth clean for the most part, with the expression ?what the h***? and the like thrown in occasionally. Other NPC?s are a bit coarser, using a handful of obscenities including ?sh***?.
Violence isn?t too bad for all that the game involves slaying monsters. There isn?t much of a focus on blood and gore. Most NPC?s, when slain, stand up again a few minutes later, although they make it clear that they hate you for killing them.
I didn?t think sexuality would be much of a problem in this game, and honestly, it doesn?t have to be. However, wandering through the harbor, I came across the town brothel. For 50 gold pieces, the hero can hire the services of one of the women. The hero can just ask her for information about the major side plots and then leave; however, the player is given the option to ?Have fun.? Choosing this option leads to a graphic and prolonged sex scene, which would possibly get an R rating or higher in a modern day movie.
Magic use, for the most part, means equipping scrolls as if they were weapons, and shooting fire/lightning/etc. at enemies or healing the hero. One spell allows you to alter the memories of NPC?s so they don?t remember being attacked. The game begins with the hero having been resurrected by a necromancer, but for the most part necromancy didn?t seem to be a huge part of the game. The path of a mage is one of the many paths open to the player, which involves more involved magic use.
As for the game?s message, there is some drug and alcohol use, both by the hero and the NPC?s. Drinking alcohol has positive effects with no downsides, as does smoking water pipes. There are opportunities to gamble, including betting on a drinking game and interfering with the outcome by swapping water for gin. Stealing is difficult to accomplish, but when it is successful it?s always beneficial. There is little racial or gender discrimination present in the game. Class discrimination exists, but is presented in a very negative light. This game?s content is mild compared to most adventure games aimed at adults, but it has enough inappropriate moments and themes that parents should be concerned about letting young teenagers play.
Gothic II is a challenging game, both because of its depth and breadth of plot and because of its innate problems with balancing character power against the environment. If the player can get past the problems with the inventory and the fragile nature of the hero, the world is well worth exploring; though, the language used and themes covered may be too mature for younger players and should be taken into consideration prior to play.
» By Plain Games, Plain Games. Published 11/28/2006 4:33:10 PM.