Tales of JoWooD’s Gothic II Event…
…or: A Gothic II Preview
The place of the JoWooD GII Event:
Yesterday online game press and Gothic fan sites followed JoWooD’s invitation to Dreieich near Frankfurt to see the near-finished prototype of Gothic II live and in action. Game designer Mike Hoge (Piranha Bytes) took us on a sightseeing tour through the colorful world of Gothic II (see also the new Gothic II screenshots). And what a tour it was…
|Mike Hoge (Piranha Bytes)|
Gothic II’s story continues where last year’s hit RPG Gothic I left off. The collapse of the barrier and the repercussions thereof managed to get the nameless hero trapped by falling rocks – a nice explanation for his drastically reduced attributes and an even nicer explanation for his partial amnesia, which in itself is a fine way to handle the problem many sequels just don’t manage to handle – how to get new players involved in a story they originally never took part in. The hero is, of course, rescued, and now he once again sets out to save the world from dragons and a hidden evil. This world, however, is quite new to him… and what’s more, there is a prize on his head.
So much about the story. Now to an overview of my impressions of what I saw today.
First of all, the graphics are – in one word – awesome. I mean, it’s a tweaked Gothic I engine, right?
The Gothic I optics were very good, admitted, but in what I saw of GII the skies, forests, town etc. were just plain beautiful. In GII everything is more detailed up to the point where the name ‚Baroque‘ might have fit the Gothic sequel even better ;-). Grass stalks, flowery meadows and jungle-like shrubbery make the world look alive – there even are flies in town. Not huge Bloodflies, no, small regular flies.
Talking about flies… seeing the much-disputed dragons in the game was quite an experience, my personal favorite being the Stone Dragon (a truly impressive critter). Apart from flies and dragons, there are many new creatures in Gothic II. Sheep, orc-sized Draconians, Giant Rats, Wargs, Field Robbers, Dragonsnappers and fish, to name just a few, and they – as well as their ‚old‘ counterparts – tend to eat their downed foes. Yes, this also means you.
|Snow and a dragon|
The weather effects are a good deal more diverse than those of Gothic I. There are, for example, thunderstorms – flashes even highlight the objects in your inventory should you happen to have it open at the time. And then there is snow. Snowfall has not been implemented yet, but the result is already there, snowy caves and rocks and frozen creeks…
Water in Gothic II is reflective. Imagine fluffy afternoon clouds reflected in a pond with water lilies, and you get the gist. For those who scream ‚Morrowind‘ now – no! Where Morrowind is bleak, harsh and devoid of life, Gothic II is very much alive. There’s foliage everywhere in the forests (in fact, enough to easily lose orientation, so this may yet change until the game sees release). Even in the now-bleak and harsh ‚Old World‘ (the landscape you might know from Gothic I) things look more alive than in Morrowind. Don’t get me wrong now, I like Morrowind… I just try to express my impression that the feel of those two games can’t be compared in the least.
The saying goes that NPC AI has been improved, and apart from some minor bugs (a ‚crashed‘ city guard or a funny mishap in pathfinding routines) this is true. Reactions change depending on your reactions, guild and former deeds. For example – you might get someone really mad by beating him up for no reason. He certainly won’t talk to you anymore after the incident, but depending on whether you were spanked by the guards or not, other witnesses might consider talking to you again. And if you plan on being a real bully (or worse, a killer), don’t let witnesses get away! There’s even a handy spell to aid you if you bungled a mission by foul-mouthing the wrong individual – make him forget your past encounters :-).
There are some new implementations of daily routines as well. For example, the town herald spews forth the latest news in regular intervals. NPC dialogues are just as hilarious as in Gothic I, but now you won’t be asked for things you have already done (as sometimes happened in GI). Just like your journal will be automatically swept of solved, flunked or unsolvable quests, NPCs will ‚forget‘ to ask you the same things about solved missions again and again.
I can’t say too much about audio since sound recordings have not been completed yet. At this stage the dialogues are still written text, so all I heard were the animal, human and ambient background sounds we know from part I. The music is once again dynamic, changing from relaxing to frenzied depending on the situation.
|The hero and Liesel the sheep|
Now for some of the more obvious gameplay changes… the interface and inventory. How many people complained about the old Gothic interface? There’s no reason to gripe anymore since interaction with the world has been substantially simplified. One click, one action. Controls are configurable, however, so whoever wants the old control scheme back is free to do so! The inventory has been even more simplified – now there’s just one (configurable) inventory for all of the player’s stuff, and it’s definitely more concise than the predecessor’s. Magic has become a faster affair as well – there are only two spells which need to be charged, all other spells are working instantly. Different classes have different spells; different classes can learn stuff not exactly coined for their guilds, too, but those skills will be more expensive for them, and probably capped.
|A very blurry stats screen. I had better brought a tripod 🙂|
Talking of skills: as you might be able to glimpse from the blurry screenshot (if you know German), combat skills (one handed, two handed, bow and crossbow) are now percentages. The other skills are binary (yes or no), their quality dependent on a governing attribute. You won’t be able to unlock a chest if you have no key, for example, if you don’t have the lockpick skill. The chance of your lockpick breaking is governed by your dexterity attribute. There is no acrobatics skill anymore since it caused too much trouble in part I (players reaching spots where they weren’t supposed to go), but there are new skills like making runes, smithing and alchemy.
Oh yes: This time there will be many guild-exclusive missions in the later part of the game, thus increasing replayability above that of the predecessor.
|A beautiful vista|
Well, I could go on for hours, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do any good. If you are interested in some more game details, visit the Gothic II Facts page where I added everything I glimpsed today. For the time being I’ll leave you to your own thoughts; just a final conclusion: if the Piranhas manage to weed out the minor bugs still plaguing the unfinished game prototype, this game will be BIG.
First Impression: Very Good.