Title: Heretic II
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: 1998
Platform: PC (Windows, also ported to Linux by Loki)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature) for gore and violence

Game Description

Heretic II is a third-person adventure game with a strong storyline that balances its combat elements. Heretic II picks up where Heretic left off: Corvus, the Sidhe warrior, returns to his home of Silverspring. Unfortunately, Corvus discovers that his people have become infected with a mysterious plague that results in both ugliness and homicidal insanity. His former neighbors now chase him around with sharp objects and try to chew his arms off. The rats in town have taken up the habit of chewing on Corvus's legs; it is never a good idea to stand motionless for very long. It is your task to guide Corvus through Silverspring and find out what has happened to the villagers. Perhaps you ought to look for someone who has not been affected by the plague?

Controls, Options, and Movement

One of the aspects I like most about Heretic II is the customizability of gameplay and game appearance. There is a fairly complex, yet easy to navigate, menu of options available when you start up the game. You can adjust screen size, volume, mouse sensitivity, game difficulty (Easy, Medium, and Hard), camera speed, resolution, brightness, graphics quality, video driver selection, and violence level. The violence level setting will not affect how many kills you have to make; it simply changes the amount of blood you see when an enemy is killed (or if you are unlucky, if you are killed!). You can set your own key bindings for character movement, attack, and weapon / spell switching; I especially like using the mouse scroll wheel to switch through weapons and defensive spells.

There is an option to have Corvus "run always", and I highly recommend this. It is much easier to chase down or evade enemies while you are running. You can bind a key of your choice to make Corvus walk slowly, which is really only necessary on precarious ledges or while trying to inch close to the edge of something.

During the game, it will be necessary to jump large chasms and squeeze through small openings in order to clear certain areas. Jumping is greatly assisted by use of Corvus's staff, which he can employ as sort of a pole-vaulting device.


Heretic II takes Corvus through towns, swamps, castles, and sewers. The majority of the game takes place on solid ground, but Corvus does have to navigate a swamp (which it is possible to sink into if you are not careful) and swim in certain areas. Corvus can swim underwater for a limited period of time; if he stays under too long, he will begin to suffer a health penalty and can eventually drown. There is a powerup that enables Corvus to stay underwater much longer than he can under his own power, but he does not get this until fairly late in the game.

Indoor areas are full of staircases, ledges, lifts, and beams. The game is somewhat three-dimensional in that progress is not always along the ground, but possibly up a pile of crates or down a shaft. Sometimes you must employ creative means to get through doors and walls, such as using an existing mechanism to bash through a wooden surface blocking your progress. It is generally not very difficult to figure out the mechanisms in the game; they tend to consist of conveniently located switches that control a heavy object attached to a rope and pulley system.

Corvus is not immune to gravity or force-induced trauma; if you jump off too high a ledge, you could be severely injured or killed. If you stand under a descending elevator, you will be crushed. Sometimes, enemies will sneakily attack by attempting to drop crates on your head; this game requires vigilance and attention to detail if you are to survive.

Health and Power

Corvus starts out with 100 health points. If he drops down to zero, he dies, and there is no respawning in the single-player mode of this game. You should save often while playing Heretic II; there are plenty of opportunities to die! Health is restored by health vials, which give back 10 health points, health flasks, which give you 30 health points, and Spirit Shrines, which restore you to 100%.

Magic is quantified by an energy called mana, and there are two types of mana: offensive (green), and defensive (blue). As with health, you can obtain mana when it is dropped by defeated enemies, as well as at mana shrines. Weapons (such as the staff, which is a melee weapon, and the hellstaff, which has its own special ammo), do not require mana when they are used. However, all offensive spells (which generally involve some sort of energy projectile) deplete green mana, with the exception of the Flaming Fist spell that can operate in a much-weakened capacity when all your mana is gone.

Defensive spells deplete blue mana, and most of them involve some sort of protective field that will damage or momentarily block the progress of enemies attempting to attack Corvus. The most interesting of the defensive spells, and perhaps the most useful, is the Tome of Power. The Tome is a book carried by Corvus that is also a plot item. Mostly it just sits there in his inventory, but during cut scenes it sometimes gives advice and story background to Corvus. If used with the Defensive Spell command, the Tome of Power will enhance the capacity of any offensive weapon or spell Corvus is currently using. The power increase here is really phenomenal; it makes the spells look REALLY cool and sometimes makes it possible to defeat a difficult boss fairly quickly. A single use of the Tome of Power in this manner depletes your entire repository of blue mana, so use it judiciously.

In addition to health and magic, Corvus can benefit from armor. Armor can only be obtained at Armor Shrines, which are scarce. Silver armor gives 100 points of additional resistance to damage, and gold armor (a rare but wonderful prize) offers 200 points of protection. If your gold armor is wearing down, you can replenish it at a silver armor shrine; a nice trick to pull off if you can manage it.


Heretic II has plenty of enemies to keep you busy. Most of the fiends you meet will be plague victims; the majority of these can attack only at close range, melee-style. A few of them can use spells; these guys generally stand on ledges and attack you from a distance. The plague victims are more of a nusiance than anything else; they are not likely to kill you unless you are greatly outnumbered and not paying attention. Of course, all the enemies are much more difficult if you are playing on a higher difficulty level. Players trying Armageddon mode for the first time are advised not to get to cocky! Plague victims can be taken out easily with a few swipes of the staff. The plague victims with magical capability are best dealt with by distance weapons such as the Flaming Fist or the Hellstaff. I tend to use the plain wooden staff as much as possible; first of all, it's fun (I'm a big fan of melee fighting in video games, owing to my terrible aim with distance weapons!) and second of all, it conserves ammo and mana for more challenging enemies.

The rats are everywhere; again, they are basically pests (though watch out for the giant rats in some areas!). You can take most of them out by simply stepping on them with a satisfying CRUNCH. They can wear away steadily at your health if you stand still, and it seems like no matter how many times you kill them, more keep appearing. Get used to the rats, because they will follow you pretty much through the entire game.

In the swamps, you will encounter prehistoric-type animals; creatures that look rather like pterodactyls, and others that look rather like dog-sized dinosaurs. The biggest danger from these guys is that they might knock you into the swamp.

While swimming in most bodies of water, you are likely to meet some rather unfriendly fish. They will try to bite you. Kill them with a spell, because staff and bow weapons will not work underwater.

One of the most irritating enemies in the game is the plague-spreading guy. These humanoids are equipped with sacs that release deadly plague gas when Corvus draws near. This is nasty, nasty, stuff: if you stand in a cloud of the vile green vapor, your health will decrease at an alarming rate. Kill these enemies as quickly as possible; they will keep releasing the gas as long as they are alive. It is also best to use some sort of distance weapon on them, so as to avoid exposure to the gas. They make a very distinctive noise, kind of a gorilla roar, that is quite handy for figuring out if one of them is in the area. If you hear the sound, keep your guard up!

There are other enemies in Heretic II but I am not going to give a detailed description of all the enemies in the game. Suffice it to say that each area will have its own type of enemies; you will meet reptillian humanoids at one point, and insectlike humanoids at another.

The area bosses can be quite challenging. As is the tradition in most adventure games, the key is to find an enemy's weak point, or note a behavior pattern that results in vulnerable moments. The game's end boss is somewhat difficult, but rather anticlimactic considering the numerous traps and puzzles and mazes Corvus must pass to get to the end boss.

Spells and Weapons

Corvus begins the game with his staff (a wooden pole with an attached blade), the Flaming Fist spell, and the Tome of Power. Over the course of the game, Corvus discovers other spells and items whose utility varies. The staff is extremely versatile, but dangerous because of the proximity required for use. Learning to quickly hack an enemy to bits with a deftly-placed staff is quite satisfying. The other weapons and spells obtained in the game are listed below.


Hellstaff: a rapid-fire device that shoots energy projectiles at enemies. It can hold up to 200 ammo (hellorbs).

Storm Bow:A bow whose arrows create a thunderstorm at the point of impact.

Phoenix Bow: A bow whose arrows deliver flaming death at a distance. Very, very powerful, if you have good aim!

Offensive Spells

Flaming Fist: Corvus can use this spell to throw fireballs at enemies, Mario-style.

Thunder Blast: A magenta energy blast is delivered when this spell is cast. Using the Tome of Power on this spell creates a very effective force which sometimes kills an enemy in a single shot.

Sphere of Annihilation: To use this spell, Corvus must first "charge" up. When the energy is released, a massive shock wave erupts 360 degrees around the caster. This is a very effective spell but a little on the slow side, and heavy on the mana consumption.

Firewall: A moderately fast spell, the Firewall will not help your network security, but it will set your enemies on fire. An enemy continues to take damage as long as the flames persist.

Iron Doom: The "normal" and Tome-enhanced versions of this spell are quite different. Normally, the iron doom spell produces a rapid-fire spreading spray of small spiked balls. It is not one of my favorite spells; for some reason, I have trouble getting it to hit anything. However, the ENHANCED IRON DOOM causes the player to hurl a massive metal spiked ball at his enemies. It is quite impressive and deadly.

Defensive Spells

Ring of Repulsion: This spell produces a momentary field of blue energy that will not damage any enemies except rats, but it can keep them out of your hair for a second or two.

Meteor Swarm:This spell releases green meteors that swirl around Corvus's body. These meteors can cause impressive damage to weaker enemies.

Teleport: Sometimes, Brave Sir Corvus simply needs to bravely run away. The Teleport spell will transport Corvus to a random location in the local area, away from iminent danger but perhaps into even greater danger.

Morph Ovum: The game designers had a sense of humor. This spell will temporarily turn the target into a chicken. Incidentally, there is a cheat code you can use to turn yourself into a chicken at will. Once in a while, the chicken transformation will result in not a tiny clucking, feathered weakling, but a MASSIVE CHICKEN OF DEATH whose footsteps pound and who can snap enemies in half with its beak. The first time this happened, I thought I was hallucinating, but apparently it is an established phenomenon.

Lightning Shield: I absolutely love this spell. It will grant anyone who comes near you with a massive electric shock. It is extremely powerful and a very effective means of offense as well as defense; you can run up close to an enemy and try to zap them!


Heretic II has two multiplayer games: head-to-head and cooperative. The cooperative mode is rather unwieldy; if one player dies, confusion ensues as s/he tries to catch up with the other player. The deathmatch-type game is much more fun, and is often played in fan-created worlds. My significant other and I have spent many a joy-filled hour blasting each other to bits with phoenix arrows and slicing one another into chunks with the staff. (Violent video games are the key to a healthy relationship, perhaps?) The multiplayer mode allows you to choose several different skins, as well as a female character (who, of course, embodies the concept of bulletproof nudity). You can set the rules for each match: for example, you can restrict fighting to staff-only, or spawn random enemies.

Game Quality

Well, the gaming industry is tirelessly raising the bar as far as graphics go, so Heretic II's 1998 graphics don't look particularly impressive by today's standards. The game is based on the Quake II engine, which for quite a while was top-of-the-line. Nevertheless, the graphics are good enough to look like the objects they represent; humanoids look at least vaguely human, and the gameplay is so much fun that you probably won't care that Corvus's hair is about as bouncy as a Ken doll's. I can't imagine any gamer nowadays having a non-3D graphics card; basically any 3D card will do. Heretic II looked halfway decent on my old TNT 2, and runs fantastically with my lower-end GeForce 4.

There are some bugs in the game; patches help somewhat, but I had some issues with stability, especially in multiplayer mode. The game has managed to freeze the entire Linux operating system into your-only-option-is-to-hit -the-power-switch mode. I have also had problems with corrupted save games; at one point, I was JUST about to beat the end boss, and my game started crashing every time I opened it at a certain point in the plot. For the most part, however, Heretic II plays quite smoothly; the instability might be related to idiosyncrasies of my system.

Overall, I'd rate Heretic II quite highly. I have never actually played Heretic, but from what I could tell, Heretic II stood nicely on its own. The game is enough of a challenge not to be boring, and the storyline is compelling.