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Gothic II Complete Classic

Gothic II Complete Classic

Written by Elliot Hilderbrand on 12/14/2023 for SWI  
More On: Gothic II Complete Classic

I was excited to start my journey with Gothic II. The opening cinematic was interesting. I knew nothing of the first game, Gothic, but felt like enough of the story was shared, and I was ready to pick up; there had only been a few in-game days that had passed between the events of the two games. There’s a little bit of back and forth with Xardas, a power mage that I think helps aid the player in the first game. He gives you a new quest, and then you are free to do as you please.

Wow, these controls. The moment I’m allowed to move around and interact with the world I am immediately hit by how bad these controls feel. It’s an open 3D world, but the controls feel like something from the early 2000s. I pause the game and reach for my phone to see when this game was initially released. 2002. Ahh, that’s why this feels so blocky. Trying to zero in on any item to pick it up was a chore. I spent the first few minutes trying to walk around and get the hang of movement. I make my way down the tower, and again, the movement when moving down and around a corner is terrible. I feel like I have no control over my character when running down a spiral staircase. Walking in a straight line is better, I guess. There’s no strafing; the turning is both too fast and slow simultaneously. A technical marvel. One joystick controls my character’s movement, and the other controls the camera angle. I couldn’t believe how outdated this felt. I was eventually able to get a better hang of it, but I do not like it.

The main MacGuffin in Gothic II Complete Classic is the Eye of Innos, an amulet that will allow you to speak with dragons. You’re hoping to learn the motivation behind the gathering of an army of evil, led by dragons. You spend a lot of time trying to speak with the person who has the amulet. But before that, you have to find a way to get into the city he’s located in. Once in, you have to join one of several factions before you’re allowed an audience with him. Once you speak with him, you have to run some errands before you are allowed to see the amulet. Then it becomes stolen, and then broken and in need of repair and restoration of its powers. In between this hunt for the Eye of Innos, you have a lot of other choices to make.

There are some really cool ideas put into Gothic II that I admire the hell out of. For example, early on you are told to head to a town. When you arrive, you can’t simply walk right in; you need a reason. I love that there are multiple ways to achieve this. You can have on farmers' clothes and choose the right dialogue option when the guard asks you why you are trying to come into the city. To do this you needed to visit the farm that’s on the way there. You could have helped the farmer, or even just break into his house and steal his clothes. If you didn’t stop by the farm on your way over you can have the right herbs in your inventory when you speak to the guard. If all else fails you could sneak around the guards and get in. I love that all these options are here. For a game that’s from 2002, it really feels ahead of the curve. Now, in 2023 I expect that, but I can appreciate how forward-thinking it was when Gothic II was initially released.

I found the use of space In Gothic II Complete Classic to be something else to admire. The map is a decent size, but compared to modern open-world games it would feel small. The way the developer was able to put so much content onto a map that is not as big as it appears implies a lot of planning went into the world's creation. There is very little wasted space. Every place feels like it has a function, and something to do or interact with, even if it is something as simple as gathering something to return to someone. This seems like a game that has a lot of hidden elements that might still be hidden today. Traveling from the starting location to the first town can be done in a few minutes of direct traveling, but within those few minutes are plenty of events, conversations, and experience points to earn. I could easily have spent close to an hour going around and experiencing what Gothic II has to offer. Most of it has little to no heft when it comes to story, but it is still content to see and play.

Quicksaving might be the most consistent gameplay element of Gothic II. I was quick to learn how valuable saving is. Many times during a dialog exchange one comment from my character would lead south. Often I would say something that would lead to combat, or even make trying to do what I had set out even harder. I found myself reloading all the time. Thankfully, quicksaving was fast, and reloading is faster than most loading on the Switch, but it is still not instant.

All of that positivity aside, I still did not like Gothic II Complete Classic. I felt like I was working while playing this game. Gothic II feels outdated. I need to go to the town. I can’t get in until I help out the farmer. Once I can enter I need to join one of the factions in order to speak with the NPC I need to. After going through all of that the NPC doesn’t believe I have good intentions, so now I have to prove myself. And so on and so forth. One quest begets another. It doesn’t feel new or refreshing, and I understand why; Gothic II crawled so other open-world action-RPGs could walk, so that even newer ones could run. This laid groundwork that can still be seen in other games. But that doesn’t mean I am having fun with it now.

On top of feeling old, there are some issues that I would hope wouldn’t be so in a modern release. Framerate issues are easy to spot. I wasn’t too bothered by these, but I can easily spot it, especially when playing in handheld with my Switch. I had an occasional crash, usually happening if I was playing for more than an hour. Thankfully quicksaving is easy, and a required part of playing so I never lost much progress. And as I said before, the controls are frustrating. I did not have fun with combat, and found myself getting upset about dying when I thought I was in the clear. These issues took away from an experience that I was already struggling with.

The biggest issue I have with Gothic II Complete Classic is simple. I am not having fun. Going back and forth with quests that feel like the definition of fetch quests, going through what feels like hours upon hours of dialogue, most of which doesn’t push the narrative forward, combat that feels simple compared to today’s action rpgs, and controls that feel beyond outdated. All of these issues lead to me not enjoying my time.

When I initially started my Gothic II Complete Classic journey, I was charged with anticipation. Learning about the franchise sparked some hope that this game would give me some feel-good, old-school nostalgic vibes. The opening cinematic hinted at a rich backstory from its predecessor. However, the excitement waned instantly as the barbaric controls took center stage, transporting me back to the gaming landscape of 2002, but in a bad, I want-to-forget kind of way. Maneuvering through the open 3D world felt clunky. Despite acclimating to the dated mechanics, I found joy in the bones of Gothic II, it has a solid foundation. If you are a fan of the series you will probably find joy here. If this is your first foray, you might want to steer clear.

Despite its flaws, Gothic II remains a fascinating relic, a testament to the ambition and innovation of early open-world RPGs. While its clunky controls, outdated mechanics, and fetch-quest-heavy narrative might not resonate with modern players, its intricate world-building, hidden secrets, and surprisingly complex player agency shine through even today. It's a game that demands patience, but rewards exploration with a sense of discovery and genuine joy in overcoming its challenges. Ultimately, Gothic II's legacy lies not in its polish but in its pioneering spirit. It helped lay the groundwork for the genre we know and love, and for that, it deserves our respect, even if I ultimately choose to leave its clunky controls and endless errands in the past.

Rating: 6 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).

While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).

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