A funny thing happened during the development of Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance. The 3D Realms engine used in the game (as well as it's predecessor, Witchaven), underwent some technological tweaking as evidenced by Duke Nukem 3D. Unfortunately, that release in the computer first-person adventure genre left Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance in a sort of bridesmaid status which as it turns out is a shame. The game in and of itself isn't badly structured as a sequel and, in fact, many of the aspects of gameplay utilized in the first game have been enhanced or improved. For example, the environment is more fully realized with textured wall hangings, mirrored water effects and generally better constructed rooms with more realistic features. Ranged weapons such as arrows can actually be retrieved. It's because of these improvements and a few others that it's utterly baffling as to why the designers let other areas of the game be so embarrassingly amateurish. A good example is computer controlled movement by the bad guys and creatures who still run into walls, sometimes having a hard time getting out of their own way which oddly enough makes this is a game of contradictions in terms of gameplay.
But undoubtedly the most frustrating aspect of Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance is the overall sluggish performance of the game itself. The tough aspect of getting through this game can in part be attributed to the absolute toughness of the monsters and death knights you meet which actually can be construed as a desirable trait as you can't just simply and easily hack, slash and magically poof your way through a bunch of milquetoast opponents. But the unforgivable major fault of the game is it's penchant for slowing your character's movements down to the point where you figure someone has nailed his feet to the floor. A cursory look around, however, won't spotlight any bad guys lurking nearby with a nail gun so you're left with the inevitable conclusion that it's the game engine. And that's exactly what it is. Inexplicable and seemingly random, this malady crops up far too often to ensure a smooth transition of the game from start to finish. To get any reasonable satisfaction from the game (which includes viewing it in SVGA), a Pentium class computer is a necessity. Although the levels do get tougher as you progress in the game, the means of jumping from one level to the next is via transporter which doesn't leave you with a feeling of any continuity as there hardly seems to be a logical reason for the sequence of the levels.
In all fairness, there are some positive points about the game such as the thoughtful inclusion of a level editor, the inclusion of the aforementioned tough adversaries, which guarantees a consistently tough battle throughout the game and a better than average final animated sequence, assuming you outlast the game's intermittent molasses-like advancement. Unfortunately, the curious lack of overall continuity and apathetic gameplay relegates Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance to the "almost-but-not-quite" bin.
Graphics: A mixed bag with two clear cut choices in resolution and graphical capability. VGA runs in 320x200 while SVGA bumps it up to 640x480, but be aware the latter choice requires a Pentium class as a minimum requirement.
Sound: Pretty good mix of sound effects and music. The choice of 15 music tracks is nice and for the most part the music complements gameplay.
Enjoyment: Entirely too buggy and slow at times. The intangible quality that makes a first-person adventure ultimately playable is missing. Perhaps fans of the original will be a bit more forgiving but don't expect the sequel to improve on the first one, regardless of the enhancements in certain areas. This adventure seems more like drudgery than scintillating conquest.
Replay Value: Once is enough.
Illwhyrin, the witch queen of Char, has been vanquished, her lair Witchaven destroyed, and the curse that plagued the land is finally lifted. However, shortly afterwards the valiant hero Grondoval the Witchbane is contacted by a mysterious golden dragon, who tells him that Illwhyrin's sister Cirae-Argoth is coming to avenge her death. Demonic legions abduct the princess Elizabeth along with other people from Grondoval's homeland Stazhia. It's time for the hero to embark on an even more dangerous journey, rescue the innocents, and defeat the evil witch.
Like its predecessor, Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance is a medieval fantasy-themed first-person action game. The gameplay is similar to that of the previous game, with a few additions. The protagonist is now able to fight with two weapons at once (one in each hand), as well as equip shields. The sequel also includes a Build engine level editor that allows players to create their own stages.
People who downloaded Witchaven II: Blood Vengeance have also downloaded:
Witchaven, William Shatner's TekWar, Powerslave (a.k.a. Exhumed), Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, WipEout, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, SkyNET, Unreal Gold
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