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-   -   Retrospective: Gothic 2: NotR + vanilla (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20884)

Maylander June 17th, 2013 16:50

Retrospective: Gothic 2: NotR + vanilla
 
Gothic 2: Night of the Raven
Aah, Gothic 2, one of my favorite RPGs ever. Gothic 2 did what sequels are supposed to: Improve the original by making it better in virtually every way. Since my last retrospective thread (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20288), I’ve been quite busy playing all sorts of open world games, comparing them to Gothic 2. I’ve completed Gothic 2 soon-to-be-three times (2x NotR, 1x vanilla) and put a few hundred hours into Morrowind, Skyrim and even GTA4 just for the sake of it.

For quite some time I’ve felt Morrowind was superior to Skyrim due to the setting, but after playing them both in rapid succession I have changed my opinion: Skyrim is currently a far better game. Morrowind suffers from the same issues that Gothic 1 does: The gameplay has this sluggish feel to it. Moving, fighting, picking stuff up, inventory management and so on and so forth doesn’t feel as responsive as it should. Don’t get me wrong: If you put a few hours into it, you get used to it, but there’s no denying my first few hours of Morrowind felt as bad as my first few hours of Gothic, where I actually stopped playing once I reached the Old Camp. I needed a break before returning to the game.

Gothic 2 is different. It’s smooth. It still has this “old 3D” look, but it’s a considerable upgrade over Gothic 1. The controls, the overall feel of combat, the reactivity of the world: It’s all spot on. I was honestly surprised by how much of an upgrade it is over Gothic 1.

Everything is improved! Or so I thought the first few minutes until I bumped into Lester in the valley near the tower of Xardas. What did they do to the translations and voice overs? Psionics? Really? I think he’s talking about the gurus of the swamp camp, but he’s referring to them as psionics. He also mentions “meeting you at Xardas’” like it’s a bad sitcom, or maybe he’s referring to a pub. I can just imagine Gandalf heading to Isengard, saying “I’m going to Sarumans’”.

Also, a lot of characters have additional conversation options due to NotR, and while they used the same voice actors they still didn’t manage a seamless integration, as the added stuff tends to stand out a bit. It’s not a big issue though, and certainly nothing like Oblivion’s massive voice bloopers. Well, except Diego, whose voice actor got replaced and he’s now sounding like a cowboy from Texas. No idea why.

And while I’m whining: What did they do to Lares? He was a rough, tough, rogue leader in Gothic 1. In Gothic 2 he’s had some sort of epiphany. He literally says: “Adanos, preserve the balance of this world.” He’s sounding like a priest all of a sudden! At least Diego still has the same personality, even though his voice actor has changed. Lares is a completely new character.

Other than that, everything felt excellent. The world in Gothic 2 is actually surprisingly small, but it feels huge due to the way it’s crafted. There’s something to explore around every corner. Let’s look at an example: The area outside Khorinis on the way to the inn. What do we have here? Let’s see, there’s a path going along the mountain side, under a bridge, to the inn. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Well, in addition to that you’ll find the following:
  • A valley with a small pond, a cave (loot!) and a bunch of beasts of various kinds.
  • A cave with a wolf, an orc, some loot and a teleporter stone.
  • Yet another cave with a few molerats and some loot.
  • A farm with a bunch of people on it, including five quests in total.
  • A small, hidden platform with some good loot, including a rather decent magic ring.
  • A pack of bandits.
  • A potential merchant and strength trainer once you’ve done a quest for him. He also gives you +1 strength for free for doing the quest.

I might even be missing something! Bottom line: In any other game you’d need a huge area to hold such a high amount of content. In Gothic 2 this sort of thing is all over the place. The content density is extreme, yet they manage to hide it well by crafting the world in different layers, so it never feels unnatural. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed exploration more than I did in Gothic 2, as there’s not a single place that feels copied, re-used or generic.

As I was exploring the world I came across Saturas and a phenomenon I’ve come to dislike greatly: The incompetent main character. The conversation with Saturas:
  • Saturas: Accusing the main character of stealing the power of the ore mound and generally being a complete idiot.
  • Nameless hero: It worked out, didn’t it?
  • Saturas: Luckily the barrier simply collapsed one day.

What kind of nonsense is that? It would take 30 seconds to explain what really happened at the end of Gothic 1. This reminds me greatly of Mass Effect, where the Council constantly tells Shepard that the Reapers aren’t real, and his only reply is “you have to trust me! BELIEVE ME!” Why should they? You’re acting like a moron. Just explain what’s really going on, how many witnesses there are and present the data and footage captured by the Normandy.

I really dislike my main character suddenly turning into an idiot, especially when the story is based on such failures (e.g The Witcher 2 where you flatten the bald guy and then the cut scene shows him winning). Luckily, the conversation with Saturas is nowhere near as bad as some examples, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with it.

After acting like a moron for a while it’s finally time to explore the unique NotR area: Jharkendar, one of my favorite areas of any game I’ve played. It’s simply fantastic. Like the area I mentioned near Khorinis, the content density is exceptional. There’s a ton going on here, a lot of places to explore, yet it won’t take you more than few minutes to go from A to B once you know how due to the way it’s crafted. I especially like the area near the pirates: The beach, the valley and the nearby caves and ruins.

Unfortunately, the NotR world also makes a certain bug very noticeable: Skipping when you’re near certain animations. Basically, whenever you’re near active teleporter stones, the character will start “skipping”. This also happens near certain fires, but it’s nowhere near as annoying in vanilla as there are fewer spots where this happens. In Jharkendar you will start skipping around like crazy every time you go near the water mages once you’ve activated the teleporter stones there. The easiest way to avoid it is to use strafing instead of walking forward, so you don’t actually look directly at the teleporter stones. It’s no game breaker, but it is annoying.

After completing the NotR world it’s time to explore the valley of mines again. Why aren’t more games, especially sequels, doing this? You get to cater to people’s nostalgia while re-using assets. It’s a special feeling to see the world of Gothic 1 being under attack of the dragons and orcs. I feel the destruction is a bit too wide spread, and I would’ve enjoyed seeing a few more the old places in their original form, but all in all it works out very well.

Once all that is said and done, you get to the point where you gain access to teleportation runes. Combine that with the Claw of Beliar and the rest of the game is a breeze, with the possible exception of dragons. However, in chapter 3 you’ll come across another improvement in Gothic 2: Each faction has unique quests that pop up from time to time. This really adds to the replay value and makes you feel more as a member of the faction. That feeling of being a proper member of a faction is something most RPGs are lacking, and even the Elder Scrolls have been missing it since Morrowind.

All in all I found a few annoying issues and one bug (the skipping), but I have to say it really is a great experience. Gothic 2: Night of the Raven is well worth replaying, far more so than Gothic 1, and holds up better than most open world RPGs out there. Of the open world games I played recently, only Skyrim was able to compete with Gothic 2 for my attention, and that’s a game I haven’t played nearly as much as Gothic 2.

Gothic 2: Vanilla
Once I completed Night of the Raven, it was finally time to try vanilla again. I don’t think I’ve played it since Night of the Raven was released, so I was fairly excited. Without reason I might add. There’s really nothing to be excited about, Night of the Raven improves the game a great deal.

I was well aware of the quest and dialogue improvements, but what really surprised me was the fact that even combat had been improved. For some reason I kept thinking Gothic 2 was rather easy while Night of the Raven super hardcore. That’s not really the case, Gothic 2 actually starts out harder – the first bandits I bumped into whooped my ass, but ends up being so easy you can kill dragons without breaking a sweat. Night of the Raven is a more even experience. That being said, both vanilla and NotR has one case each that is horribly balanced:
  • Vanilla: Paladins. They’re better mages than mages. They are completely overpowered.
  • NotR: Mages. They’re terrible. In Gothic 1 and 2 (vanilla) you could, at least, rely somewhat on your spells. In NotR that is not the case. Mages are basically poor melee characters supported by healing and ice block. Even if you put everything into mana and do everything right (wait with stone tablets, max mana potions, mushrooms etc), you can still only cast a few offensive spells. Enough to kill one, maybe two orc elites. Tops. Three? Out of the question, go find a bed. Basically, playing a mage in NotR means finding a bed and then using it as a base of operations. Tactic: Kill a few enemies and then head back to the bed. I think NotR mages are the reason I remembered vanilla as being much easier. For the two other classes NotR simply offers a better balance.

At any rate, I was somewhat disappointed by vanilla compared to NotR. It’s still a good game and all that, but NotR is a massive upgrade. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an expansion that made such a big difference overall.

I still have a few more days of NotR playing before I’m done with it, after which I will start Gothic 3. At this point I am really looking forward to it, as Gothic 2 has pumped up my enthusiasm quite bit by now. Time will tell if that enthusiasm lasts.

Oh, by the way, sorry the whole thing was structured a bit oddly, but it’s based on notes I took while playing so it’s more or less in chronological order. As always, feel free to comment, ask questions and what not. If anyone wants me to add something or expand upon something, just let me know and I’ll do it.

HiddenX June 17th, 2013 18:56

Nice retrospective on Gothic NOTR. I played this game 5 times - simply great.

PS:
Some problems (bad translations, nameless one not in character) don't exist in the german version.

Wulf June 18th, 2013 11:50

Re:- >

As I was exploring the world I came across Saturas and a phenomenon Iíve come to dislike greatly: The incompetent main character. The conversation with Saturas:

Saturas: Accusing the main character of stealing the power of the ore mound and generally being a complete idiot.

Nameless hero: It worked out, didnít it?

Saturas: Luckily the barrier simply collapsed one day.

What kind of nonsense is that? It would take 30 seconds to explain what really happened at the end of Gothic 1.
…………………………………………
Saturas speaks the truth.

Alrik Fassbauer June 18th, 2013 12:52

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061203714)
Well, except Diego, whose voice actor got replaced and he’s now sounding like a cowboy from Texas. No idea why.

Now, that's easy : The name "Diego" does sound like a Western movie name ! ;) Or at least that of a Spaghetti Western. ;)

Maylander June 19th, 2013 16:39

Quote:

Originally Posted by HiddenX (Post 1061203727)
Some problems (bad translations, nameless one not in character) don't exist in the german version.

I suspected as much. I also suspect Diego and Lares had the same voice actors in the German version of both games?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wulf (Post 1061203827)
Saturas speaks the truth.

Fairly obvious he doesn't. The barrier vanished the same instant the Sleeper was banished. Too much of a coincidence.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer (Post 1061203844)
Now, that's easy : The name "Diego" does sound like a Western movie name ! ;) Or at least that of a Spaghetti Western. ;)

Haha, I never actually thought of that. It's true!

GhanBuriGhan June 19th, 2013 17:13

I think I never played Gothic 2 without NotR - glad to know I didn't miss out on anything. Thanks for the retrospective, this is still one of my favorite games of all time as well.

Gan Anim June 19th, 2013 18:27

I prefer G2 without NotR on some levels. The rule changes in NotR really hampered character progression and 90% of the weapons are meaningless due to the ridiculous stat requirements. Actually scrap that, all the weapons feel pointless after obtaining the Claw of Beliar which has comparatively low stat requirements.

JDR13 June 19th, 2013 22:17

I could never go back to playing vanilla Gothic 2 after playing NotR. The expansion adds too much additional content, and pretty much all of it is great.

Thrasher June 19th, 2013 22:39

I played G2 once without NoTR, with the intention of replaying with the addon. Probably never will with so many unplayeds on the shelf.

Kostas June 19th, 2013 22:51

I could be wrong but I had the impression that Notr made the first chapter of the game more linear since the process of choosing a job at Khorinis was streamlined into completing the first few NotR related quests.

HiddenX June 19th, 2013 22:55

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thrasher (Post 1061204153)
I played G2 once without NoTR, with the intention of replaying with the addon. Probably never will with so many unplayeds on the shelf.

Gothic 2 + addon has a high "quest density" - I recommend to play it at least once.

Maylander June 20th, 2013 11:57

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kostas (Post 1061204156)
I could be wrong but I had the impression that Notr made the first chapter of the game more linear since the process of choosing a job at Khorinis was streamlined into completing the first few NotR related quests.

Yes and no. You can get help from Lares in NotR to join one of the communities with very little effort. However, all the usual quests are still available, and I recommend doing them for the experience. It's very valuable at that point in the game.

JDR13 June 20th, 2013 12:39

Maylander, what resolution did you play at? Did you have any issues with the aspect ratio?

I ask because I've never been able to get Gothic 2 to look exactly right on a widescreen monitor.

txa1265 June 20th, 2013 13:56

I agree with JDR - in the US we got NotR *much* later, so I had played Gothic 2 a few times as Paladin and Mage, and NotR was an amazing addition that I simply love even more. Definitely in my top 5 all-time games … crap, time to reinstall :D

Kostas June 20th, 2013 23:33

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061204271)
Yes and no. You can get help from Lares in NotR to join one of the communities with very little effort. However, all the usual quests are still available, and I recommend doing them for the experience. It's very valuable at that point in the game.

Didn't express myself as well as I wanted. The point is that the additional easy path that NotR provides makes playing through the rest of the stuff a bit like power/meta gaming.

JDR13 June 21st, 2013 00:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kostas (Post 1061204366)
The point is that the additional easy path that NotR provides makes playing through the rest of the stuff a bit like power/meta gaming.

Perhaps, but it gives the player an additional choice/path that's not present in the vanilla game. The side quests are there for those who want the extra XP. Imo, it's pretty hard to "power game" in NotR considering that you pretty much need every bit of XP you can find.

Maylander June 23rd, 2013 00:04

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDR13 (Post 1061204277)
Maylander, what resolution did you play at? Did you have any issues with the aspect ratio?

I ask because I've never been able to get Gothic 2 to look exactly right on a widescreen monitor.

I'm running 1600x1024 in NotR without any issues. The only issue I had was related to Windows 8, and was solved by following this guide:
http://www.gogwiki.com/wiki/Gothic_2_Gold_Edition


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