While the appeal of the first Ecstatica faded too quickly, Psygnosis's latest entry may find a home in the brutally crowded PC gaming market. With much improved graphics, an expanded map, increased character movements, and a larger variety of enemies, Ecstatica II has surpassed its predecessor in almost every way.
Since the original adventure, Ecstatica M's hero has fallen on hard times--the Archmage left his castle in ruins and kidnapped his fair lady. With the Elder Sign destroyed and scattered throughout the castle, the player must rescue the damsel-in-distress and retrieve all the pieces of the talisman to restore peace. However, many monsters and puzzles stand between you and victory.
Upon starting the game, the most notable improvement over the original is the beautifully rendered ellipsoid graphics, which are sharp and highly detailed. Everything from the castle to the surrounding flora is rich with substance and color.
While the sound isn't up to par with the graphics, it's still very good, especially the voice-overs. Often, however, there's a lot of dead air between action sequences.
Only a Flesh Wound
But the biggest disappointment is the control, which really hasn't improved from the original. Although our hero has added new moves to his repertoire, it takes lots of practice to master them. Key configurations for movements and attacks are too complex or don't respond fast enough. For example, while waiting for our hero to decapitate an ogre, other ogres gang up behind him and use his head for batting practice.
As for the gameplay, patience and nimble fingers are the overall keys to surviving Ecstatica M's engaging mix of monsterbashing and puzzle-solving. Still, a kamikaze approach won't see you through the game's strategic elements. Replenishing health doesn't come easily, and Ecstatica II boasts a diverse lineup of enemies that behave and attack differently even when their appearance is the same.
Overall, Ecstatica ll's a great concept with amazing graphics and a solid story line. While the complex controls kill some of its appeal, Psygnosis has still fashioned a solid RPG/adventure.
- Preserve your health meter by isolating enemies one-on-one. Back yourself into a comer or line them up in a corridor.
- Make sure you obtain the green shoes so you can get past the green slime in the prison cell.
- Killing the Necromancer yields the sixth part of the Elder Sign and opens up access to the ruins in the forest and the final area, the Dark Tower (bring a lantern).
- In the ruins in the wilderness, exterminate a plant to get the third part of the Elder Sign.
- After clearing an area of enemies, always look for crystal balls, which give you hints throughout the game.
- When executed consistently, 360-degree low sweeps are an effective attack, especially when many enemies surround you.
- A key's hanging from the mouth of a gargoyle at the stocks near the top of the Guard Tower. Approach it from the side and kick it to get the key that unlocks the main balconies.