Ecstatica 2

Ecstatica 2 returns with many of the original’s trademark qualities and may introduce gamers to its strange delights with a new adventure that puts the emphasis on combat and exploration. But in many ways, it fails to captivate as completely as the original, sacrificing the dark humor and bizarre situations that were so inviting the first time around.

3_1In the original game, you played a hero (male or female) who was unceremoniously recruited to save a small village that had been ravaged by witchcraft gone awry. You battled against werewolves, maniacal piglets, and crazed villagers in an attempt to destroy the source of evil. In the sequel, our hero (this time male-only) has fled the town with a beautiful princess, only to be preyed upon by dark forces once again. Stuck behind forbidding castle walls with no way to escape, it’s up to the hero to fight through waves of goblins, ghouls, and ghosts in order to save himself and his fair maiden.

As you enter the game, you’ll notice it doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen before, and with good reason. Created entirely from ellipsoids (round shapes) rather than polygons, the unique design of the game allows the artists and animators to create cartoonish characters of seemingly endless variety. These creatures and animations are expertly matched by extremely detailed backgrounds that comprise the game’s massive landscape.

Ecstatica 2 is played in a similar fashion to Alone in the Dark, where fixed perspectives reveal portions of the game world with dramatic effect. For example, as you climb the crumbling steps of a massive tower, the camera will shift into a view that shows just how far you have to fall.

16_1While these fixed perspectives have proven troublesome at times in other games, in Ecstatica 2 each angle appears to have been carefully chosen to reveal as much of the game world as possible without making it unplayable. During outdoor exploration, wide angles allow you to confront multiple enemies in a single viewpoint without annoying camera changes, and during indoor exploration, you’ll rarely miss an important item or become disoriented due to a somewhat poorly chosen camera angle.

Like the original game, combat is handled with a limited range of simple attacks but is more than adequate for the task, providing players with a kick, punch, backhand attack, thrust, jump, etc. One weak spot, however, is the lack of joystick/gamepad support. Control with the keyboard is certainly acceptable, and the commands are sparse and easy to remember, but the game’s hack and slash elements seem perfectly suited to a gamepad.

A more significant aggravation is the difficulty of the game. Though there are difficulty settings that can be adjusted when you start a new game, these only make the creatures less plentiful and easier to kill; they don’t address the main problem areas of combat. Certain creatures attack with such ferocity and speed that your character will become locked into an animation loop that is simply too quick to counter. Adding to the problem are the randomly generated creatures that populate the game world.

11_1If you were only fighting one creature at a time, you might have a chance to survive, but when a pack of these creatures surround you from all sides, it can be overwhelming. The save option lets you do the old creep-and-save at every new location, but the ability to take a breather from the constant combat would’ve been appreciated. As it is, though, Ecstatica 2 is a fun game with some annoying design issues. While it lacks much of the charm of the original, there are lots of unusual touches that you just won’t find anywhere else.

System Requirements: 486/66 MHz, 8 MB RAM, DOS

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