While Iof the Nintendo Switch, I do remain a big fan of the developer, Piranha Bytes, and more generally the “Eurojank” RPGs that Piranha Bytes has been such a cornerstone of. The Switch port of Gothic II has been a much better reminder of what this developer.
To note upfront, though, many of the issues that make Gothic such a difficult beast to love now are also issues in Gothic II. Combat requires you to hold down a buttonyour stick in various directions to “swing” it. The point was to give you 360-degree control over your attack radius, but in practice, it’s just frustrating to engage with, especially when the position of the camera means that it’s not always easy to see what’s going on directly in front of you (especially when playing in handheld mode), so it’s quite possible to be taking damage from smaller enemies and not be entirely sure that your attacks are landing.
There’s also the same weird movement system as in Gothic, where one control stick is there for turning while the other is there to move forward and backwards – classic “tank” controls, spread over two inputs, basically. It is somewhat smoother and better in Gothic II (or perhaps I’m just more familiar with it having fought my way through Gothic), but it’s just not as intuitive as in more modern games and it’s reallyto expect to flail around for some time when learning Gothic II.
However, in most other areas, Gothic 2 is a significant refinement on what the originalmeans that here, in 2023, replaying it is a better experience. The non-linearity that the original set-up is handled much better here. The quest system is deeper and more varied. You’re still able to different factions (three, which is Piranha Byte’s favourite number, historically), and that decision feels like it has narrative and structural consequences. You’ll still be punished for heading down the wrong path and running into some horrible demon monster at level the open world feels more open and available for exploration than the ruthless “non-linear yet you better travel the one path we let you” approach to the original Gothic.
Meanwhile, the visuals are generally improved, with more detail and a grander artistic vision. Gothic II was notorious for being particularly demanding of PCwhen it was people missed out on the chance to experience it new because it was an ambitious vision. Today the requirements to run the game are much less demanding of course, and the Nintendo Switch handles it just fine. However, there is still a dark fantasy beauty about and character designs come less utilitarian the original Gothic.
Just be aware thatfairly pedestrian. The porting team motion controls (though they are somehow an even less ideal way to play than the clumsy button controls), but otherwise, it really needed some optimisations to account for the hardware. In handheld is so dark that it’s difficult to see anything, especially Turning up the brightness produces a desaturated effect that isn’t particularly pleasant to look at.
Of course, on a console that has both The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, there is still the question of whether the qualities that earned Gothic 2 such a positive reception are still identifiable. For example, PC Gamer was one of the most positive the original game on its original release, wrote this:
their own independent daily schedules. A character might saunter to work, take a smoke break, and then grab a pint at the home to slumber. Characters also respond to your actions, so your alter-ego will be knocked on his duff if he’s seen looting possessions or wandering into locations uninvited. Aside the world more AI directly enhances gameplay. For instance, you can circumvent dangerous creatures by luring them guards, or distract scavengers by creating more tempting carnage.”
Back inimpressive. Around that time Morrowind had just been released, and developers were just with things like routines for the AI and what a day-night cycle would look like. These days, of course, these are features that we take completely for granted, so it’s not exactly something that you’ll print on the back of a box. The truly great “retro” games – the ones that are still essential today – all have a quality that allows them to stand out even against what has come since. In RPGs, for example, it’s typically an approach to narrative and worldbuilding that to Gothic 2 is much better at “holding up” than the original it still remains true that there’s nothing in this game that remains compelling when set against its modern peers.
Yet Gothic 2 still has a highly playable quality toit might not be impressive on any level, it’s enough that, as long as you can grapple with the controls, you can still enjoy it even if you’re coming into it for the first time with this port. The only downside to playing it for the first time is that it’s a direct sequel to the original lot of the narrative and that you’ve played Gothic 1. Which is a much tougher slog to recommend to the intrepid gamer looking for something they’ve never before on the Switch.
As long as you’re patient, there’s a lot to enjoy in Gothic 2, from the quest structure, to the scope of the world, and detailedworld is filled with secrets and discoveries to make. It is clear to this day that Gothic 1 provided the vision, Gothic 2 is when Piranha Bytes really converted. To this day you could argue that this is the team’s finest work, and the closest it has ever come to climbing out of the “Eurojank” space to simply sit next to Bethesda, BioWare and Obsidian in the upper echelons of the genre (historically, at least).
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