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Gothic 2 - The Night of the Raven Review
Gorath, 2004-04-02

With still no English version of The Night of the Raven in sight, we now deliver a review of the German version of the add on Die Nacht des Raben. This review only handles the new aspects of the add on, for more information about the game itself see our Gothic 2 review please

Add-on? Add-in!

The Night of the Raven (TNotR from now on) starts with a small disappointment: using an old character/save game from Gothic 2 is impossible. You have to start a new game. Thankfully this turns out to be only a minor annoyance.

The new story about old friends and a sunken civilization runs parallel to the events in Gothic 2. It has been integrated naturally and convincingly by tieing loose ends, adding new NPCs and expanding old NPCsī roles. Shortcuts are available for those who want less time on replaying G2 quests. Your old friend Lares, for example, offers to utilize his good contacts to the mercenaries. They will accept you without doing all the newbie quests.

The add-on offers about 30 hours of new content, all in chapters one and two. After the outro you can continue with a slightly changed and completely rebalanced G2.

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Jharkendar & Khorinis

About 5 to 10 hours into the game you will teleport to a dangerous new world named Jharkendar. Itīs in a remote part of Khorinis which has approximately half the size of the main island.

Youīll meet pirates on the beach, orcs in the desert, bandits in the swamp and deadly creatures everywhere. Jharkendar is more spectacular than Khorinis as far as landscape design, visuals and animals go. New opponents are, for instance, giant locusts, stone guards (which look like Aztec statues) and fire devils (shadow beasts with added invisibility and fire effects).

Many details in Khorinis have been changed. At least one place has been completely redesigned, empty areas have been occupied by bandits, new NPCs have been added and old NPCs have more dialogs or more quests. Several things you may remember as unimportant are now story relevant... the price on your head and the stone circles, to name just a few.

Not all novelties are obvious. Piranha Bytes also made drastic changes to the game mechanics.

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Character development, etc.

Character development has been completely overhauled - the new system is a bit more complex.

You still receive 10 learning points per level. Strength and dexterity can be bolstered up to 200 points now; the weapon skills shouldnīt be increased over 100, however, because they represent the probability for a critical hit.

Teachers ask for 1-5 learning points per new skill point, the higher your skill the more expensive.

An important addition are stone plates with inscriptions written in the 'language of the constructors' (transl.). Once you learn this language the stone plates can be used to increase skills. You can find dozens of them, so learning the language is definitely worth it. Many other skill or stat related things have been tweaked. An incomplete list includes: item sets with accumulated boni, weapons with a bonus / malus system, decreased effects of permanent potions, more alchemy options, less expensive hunting skills and a comeback of acrobatics.

Two magic items are remarkable. Pretty early in the game you receive a will-oī-wisp amulet. This ghost light is sort of a pet. It can be trained to search for things like gold, keys, potions, etc. The other item is a bit more spectacular. At a certain point in the storyline you receive Beliarīs Claw, a powerful sword. Mages can pray at a Beliar shrine and exchange it for increasingly more devastating necromancer spells. The other classes can improve the sword in a trade-off for a permanent loss of 2.5 hit points per character level.

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Gameplay & difficulty level

Gameplay is more or less identical to the two predecessors, an even mixture of quests, exploration and combat in a living and breathing world, with a slight focus on melee combat.

The gameīs most critical feature is the increased difficulty. TNotR is hard! So hard that slow and careful play is inevitable if you want to avoid a quickload every few minutes.

Increased difficulty was a community request. The devs rebalanced the whole game. The first hour became a bit easier, but when you leave the town you quickly find out the wilderness is more dangerous than ever before.

Harmless scavengers were replaced by boars or even wargs, less potions and rare plants can be found, and those permanent potions you find or brew have reduced effect. Loot is only half as valuable in the add-on, and needless to say you have to work harder to get it. Not only are formerly unoccupied places now populated by bandits or creatures, theyīre also clearly stronger and have slightly improved combat AI. The better defense behaviour is a welcome addition... Iīm glad the times of suicidal frontal attacks are over. Especially the upper end of the food chain is deadly. Golems and trolls are no longer harmless, dragon snappers can even win a fight against an orc warrior and dragons regenerate a few hit points per second.

The difficulty level isnīt unfair, though. Itīs manageable as a paladin or mercenary as long as you spend time on exploration and donīt waste learning points on unnecessary skills.

The mage career almost crosses the line, unfortunately. As I wrote before the add-on takes place in chapters one and two. Mages can learn one magic circle per chapter, so itīs obvious the available spells arenīt effective enough for stronger opponents. You have to rely on melee skills - of course rather undesirable for a mage.

Apart from this the mage class is quite attractive due to spectacular new spells and items like staffs, belts and dexterity based epees.

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NPCs & atmosphere

The reasons why many Gothic fans preferred Gothic over Gothic 2, despite the latterīs clearly better quests and pace, were the slightly better story, the more fleshed out setting and the more charismatic NPCs. TNotR addresses all of this, itīs closer to the original than to the successor.

Many NPCs from the Old Camp and the New Camp are back, including the water mages, Cavalorn and Thorus. The new NPCs are generally of higher quality than those from Gothic 2. Some NPCs you remember as somewhat shallow have more depth now because they are used for quests or have additional dialogs.

The story is relatively down to earth for a fantasy RPG. Youīre dealing with humans instead of demons. Together with the improved NPCs this has a positive effect on the atmosphere. The add-on feels more gloomy and more relaxed at the same time.

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Technical stuff

The technical features were only slightly improved. A few new graphical effects were added and the game performance tweaked. Everything else is on the same level as in Gothic 2.

German voice acting is superb. If the English version will also be such a pleasure for your ears is more than doubtful. What remains is the more effective use of existing technology. TNotR is one of the better looking RPGs out there.

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TNotR is an excellent expansion. It offers about 30 hours of new content, woven into a completely overhauled Gothic 2. The add-on successfully combines the strongest features of both Gothics to create a deep and challenging RPG experience.

This alone is enough to make it the best Gothic so far. As a bonus you get an improved original game with better balancing, new character development system and tied loose ends.

The only real downside -which might even be a plus for a hardcore RPGer- is the high difficulty. Newbies should play Gothic 2 as a mage before they install TNotR.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 88%
Sound (15%) 100%
Control (25%) 90%
Fun (45%) 100%
Overall 96%

The ups and downs:
everything G2 has plus...high degree of difficulty
...better NPCsstill performance hungry
...better story
...atmosphere closer to G1
high degree of difficulty

Reviewer's System
Version: German v2.
CPU: XP 2100+/2400+
RAM: 512MB
Graphics Radeon 8500/GeForce 4 Ti 4200
OS: Win XP Pro

Average Reader Ratings: 7.92 (144 votes)
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