Gothic II Gold
Doubled in size and difficulty, this excellent add-on isn’t for the faint of heart.
In 2003 Pyranha Bytes pieced together a decent expansion pack for Gothic 2 called Night of The Raven, at first in its native German but then in English courtesy of the release of Gothic 2 Gold. Easily the best reason to pick this up is the fully translated NotR expansion pack, adding not only a new Aztec-themed island to explore but also numerous characters, quests and monsters to the original world of Khorinis. It goes without saying that Gothic II Gold takes much longer to complete and is considerably difficult, but is also superior to Gothic 2 in almost every way.
The story of NotR is neatly folded into the overall plot of Gothic 2. Arriving in Khorinis to face a new threat, you find things are strangely out of place. A shadowy feller with an eyepatch roams the land, bandits have taken over parts of the island and townspeople are mysteriously vanishing without a trace. The Water Mages, which you may remember from the first game, have some clue as to what’s going on but you’ll need to earn their trust before they can help. Your quest will ultimately take you on an expedition to an entirely unknown land of Jharkendar, a place once inhabited by an ancient civilization but which is now teeming with thugs, pirates and treasure hunters.
For those new to the series, gameplay is your typical role-playing stew with an added focus on non-linear adventures and broad dialog. Each advancement in level rewards players with 10 LP’s (Learning Points), which you can then allocate to your base attributes (Strenght, Dexterity, Magic) or learn any number of skills (eg: sneaking, lockpicking, skinning animals, brewing potions, double-handed swordplay, etc.). The only catch is finding the person with the right know-how to teach you his or her trade.
Jharkendar, the isolated Aztec-themed world mentioned above, has most of the new content native to Gothic 2 Gold. You’ll have a chance to enter Jharkendar as early as Chapter 1, just after completing several initiation quests from the Water Mages. The order of your actions will be completely up to you – wrapping things up in Jharkendar means smooth sailing in the Valley of Mines and viceversa. The quests unlocking Jharkendar involve interacting with many new characters. Although there are no level restrictions, you will need a strong character just to finish the initial quests given by Vatras concerning the missing people (you’ll have to wipe out a bandit camp in that quest).
As you play you’ll doubtless notice the difficulty has been beefed up quite a lot. This was done to appease fans who cried over Gothic 2 being too easy, but it seems a bit much, and you’ll need to put in some extra thought when creating your character. A mage specialized in double-handed combat? Better not. Because Gothic 2 Gold is more punishing to stat misalocation, specifically when raising stats and proficiencies toward higher levels, you’re better off building specialized classes. Difficulty has been upped in numerous other ways as well – enemies have more HP’s, Dragons regenerate health faster, skills and attributes cost more to raise, your items nab less gold and stat-boosting elixirs are notably weaker.
In exchange, numerous items and weapons have been added while old equipment had their damage doubled. Some of the most powerful swords do 200 Damage but have equally insane Strength or Dexterity requirements, often equal to their damage output. What’s worse is the way LP requirements double for each allocated point over a certain threshold (eg: 5 Strength points cost 10 LP’s instead of the usual 5 after you hit 30 Strength). This means that getting to 120 Str doesn’t cost 120 LP’s (or 12 Levels), but 300 LP’s (30 Levels). As such, raising your attributes beyond a certain limit just isn’t feasible.
To counter this yet again, NotR throws in a few extra boosters to aid stat-building. Ancient stone tablets can increase every one of your attributes and combat skills once you can find and read them. Rings, belts and swords are all equal opportunity stat-boosters while elixirs increase your stats permanently, even if by a smaller margin.
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses and sunshine. Every Gothic game needs some level of undeserved tedium and this one has plenty. Bugs and random crashes sometimes occur, including a few aggravating bugs that block quest progression should you choose the wrong dialogue order. In my last playthrough, I completely froze my main quest because I unwittingly spoke to NPC’s in an unintended order, removing an essential dialogue option needed to advance the game into Chapter 4. This is unacceptable. Combining the original quests with the new addon world undeniably made Gothic 2 Gold more bug-ridden than its classic (Hint – use multiple save slots and rotate often). Other issues have yet to be fixed, like the lousy combat controls and a spotty quest journal that neglects to mark anything on your map. Some mods and patches can at least fix the quest progression bugs.
Regardless, NotR ia a rewarding RPG when it works (it mostly does). Arm yourself with patience to counter its awkward combat system and occasionally punishing difficulty as well as the aforementioned quest bugs. Rotate your save slots and keep in mind that you’re in for an incredibly massive adventure.
System Requirements: Pentium III 700 Mhz, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, Win 98/ME/XP