Heretic II

    Genre: Third person shooter
    Developer: Raven Software
    Publisher: Ported by Loki Software
    Audience: Mature (NC-17)
    Multiplayer: Yes (but...)
    Price: $29.95 ($6.99 from
    3D Accelerated:Yes
    License: Commercial
    Platform: Linux native, Win32
    Rating: 9 / 10 Penguins
[IMAGE: Heretic II Box]

Minimum Requirements:

Beautiful, realistic graphics and sound.
A definite breath of fresh air; a truly novel FPS.
It has a *gasp* convincing plot.
This game has some definite stability issues.
Needs some serious hardware to run well. Listed requirements are unrealistic.
I have to admit that I never cared much for Heretic and Hexen. There were good games, but the word that comes to mind would be uninspired. Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed them. They just didn't really light my fire. Don't expect the same old Doom-style song and dance from Heretic II.


From the looks of the box, this is another FPS by the people who did Heretic I and Hexen. In Heretic I, you played Corvus and dispatched a baddie, D'sparil, who was bent on (of course) ruling the world. While D'sparil was dying, he layed a curse on you, and Corvus was doomed to wander the Outer Worlds forever. Years later (this is Heretic II starts), a Tome of Power (an embodiment of the power belonging to a master race named the Seraphs) found Corvus and opened a way home. Corvus steps through only to find his friends and countrymen infected with a plague which instills a bloodlust in them; they yearn to eat his liver. Literally. There's more to the story, but I'd be giving away pieces to a puzzle which you'll enjoy uncovering, so I won't spoil the fun by revealing anything else.

The game is based on the Quake II engine, but you'd never know it from playing the game. Heretic II graphics and sound blows Quake II away. Whereas Quake II is claustrophobic, dark, muted and sometimes graphically monotonous, the new Heretic II is expansive and pays undivided attention to exquisite detail from room to room. I can't stress enough how much graphical and aural detail the authors put into this game. It's mind boggling. But wait, that's not the end of the story.

Heretic II is rendered in 3rd person and contains flips, rolls, jumps, acrobatic maneuvers and floating camera action which makes it seem more of a descendent of Tomb Raider than Quake II, but Tomb Raider never looked this good. I was astonished with what Raven Software did with the Quake II engine. Many 3rd person games have a camera that `gets in the way'. Tomb Raider, in particular, was annoying because the camera never seemed to catch the angle I wanted. I always felt restricted. In Heretic II, the camera is attached to the mouse. Changing the point of view is natural and comfortable. It was very rare that I felt restricted by point of view issues. But wait, that's not the end of the story.

It has dazzling colors and wonderfully realistic stereo sound effects. It has stunning gore (which can be toned down if you're some kind of sicko that can't handle good gore and guts) which left my jaw on the ground. However, Heretic II is a game about mood. The cries of women and children were realistic enough to deeply disturb me. This game gave me a horrendous case of the creeps. Considering I'm a gaming veteran, that's quite a feat. I can't remember an FPS that pays so much homage to plot since Half-life. The backgrounds for Doom, Heretic, Quake, etc. were nothing more than token nods to having something more than a mindless shoot-em-up. Here, the story line is front and center. But wait, that's not the end of the story.

Throughout the game, we're treated to exquisite animation sequences which serve to enhance the story line and reveal pieces to the mystery surrounding your adventure. They were brilliantly done, and reminded me of a quirky game named Sanitarium (anyone remember that classic?).

Playing Under Linux

Before you run out and buy the game, there are a couple of things you ought to know which makes this 10-penguin game into a 9-penguin game.

First, the game has a bad habit of segfaulting. It was a definite nuisance. Enough to make you save the game more often than you'd like, which was a real bummer. The patches distributed by Loki definitely help; without them, this game is unplayable. Even with them, the game has some stability issues, but is playable.

Secondly, the game needs some serious hardware to run well. The listed requirement for a non-hardware accelerated machine is a 233MHz with 64 MB of RAM. Forget it; whoever came up with the minimum requirements was smoking crack. On an unaccelerated 400 Mhz Pentium II with 128 MB of RAM, the game was just a little above the acceptable playability level. Under my dual Celeron 550 with 256 MB and a Voodoo 3 card, the game was comfortable. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to play this game on anything less.

A big nota-bene to multiplayer fragheads: this game is not for you. The 3rd person perspective makes things very confusing. Coupled with the fact that this game demands an unusually high level of graphics and CPU resources, you get a game which simply doesn't translate into multiplayer very well. If deathmatch is your goal, look elsewhere, you'll hate Heretic II. But you'll be missing out on one helluva game. There don't seem to be very many deathmatch maps, but there are a few around. Unfortunately, there seem to be even fewer single player maps. I can't really find much evidence that Heretic 2 is getting much attention from map authors, aside from a few hardcore enthusiasts.

The Windows version of this game comes with a map editor. The Linux version, unfortunately, does not. However, if you go to Loki Software's website, there's a link to software called Quest 2.4 which is a map editor for all 3 Quake engines, and does Heretic II as well. In addition, you can go to to download skins, mods and maps. The pickins are slim when compared to other games, but they're out there.


The thing I liked best about this game is that the authors are obviously hardcore gamers, clearly sat down to brainstorm the finest qualities of all their favorite games, and packaged these qualities under a new game, Heretic II, which is vastly better than the sum of its parts. And that is the end of the story!