Gothic 3 (Windows)

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Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181375)
Written on  :  Apr 17, 2008
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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I don't want to leave

The Good

Gothic 3 is the final installment of the original Gothic saga, and by far the most ambitious one. The German developers clearly tried their best to achieve the monumental goal of creating the biggest and baddest modern RPG.

The game world is much bigger than that of the second game. The difference in size is also much more significant than it was between the second and the first installments. The world of Gothic 3 consists of three countries, each complete with several cities and villages of various sizes. You'll easily lose yourself in this vastness.

Gothic 3 is non-linear. You are free to go wherever you like right from the beginning. The enemies are pretty much the same everywhere - easy and tough enemies are mixed, and the game doesn't impose restrictions on your exploration process. The gorgeous world is open to you, all you have to do is explore.

You may compare this game to Elder Scrolls, but in fact Gothic 3 does the whole "do whatever you want" thing better. It deliberately recreates open RPGs of the past, where you couldn't tell the main quest from optional ones and actually had to explore in order to complete the game. There are no convenient quest sorting or magical map-hopping that takes you to any location. Teleporters are there to spare the tedium of backtracking, but you'll have to discover the location first. There are no gimmicks like scaling enemies or any other artificial stuff (well, except the bottomless inventory) that makes the game seem too neatly tailored for your needs, too catering to the player's laziness.

If you have enough patience to play until you are able to branch the storyline, you'll be rewarded with some standard good/evil/not sure of the answer decisions. Helping the orcs or the hashishin, siding with Xardas or becoming the Chosen of Beliar - there are all kinds of twists late in the story, and you can decide which one of them you want to happen. Also, the conflict shown in Gothic 3 is of gigantic proportions. Liberating entire cities from orcs, seeing them flee to the sounds of fanfare, seeing the human slaves applaud to you, returning to the same city several days later to see how peaceful it has become - this is fun on epic scale.

Right from the get-go, you are presented with selectable difficulty level, a feature I really missed in the two previous installments. I liked the challenge they offered, but I prefer to decide myself how challenging I want my games to be.

Graphically and musically, Gothic 3 is outstanding. You could probably find games with technically better graphics that were released at the same time; but in all Gothic games, there is a certain warmth to the graphics, something that unmistakeably proves that they were created with love. No matter where you go and what you look at - the game is beautiful.

Gothic 3 has a typical medieval-sounding orchestral "movie" music. I absolutely love this style and I think nothing fits a grand epic free-roaming RPG better than this. The main theme with its characteristic motives is instantly recognizable and has a huge impact, comparable to the theme of Lord of the Rings movies. The soundtrack is rich and is full of sensual beauty, almost like in Mahler's music or in the grandfather of all movie music, Arnold Schoenberg's Gurre Lieder. By the way: go listen to it if you like epic movie soundtracks - that's the best of the kind, written when there were no movies at all. Like a colleague of mine said: "it's more Wagner than Wagner" - very similar to Wagner, only better.

The graphics and the music of Gothic 3 are so magically atmospheric and so sensual that I felt almost drunk when I was playing the game. The size and the beauty of the world called me back whenever I exited the game. I found myself circling around the same area and just nearly physically enjoying the alternate life in a virtual world.

Let's also get the bug issue out of the way. I don't want to argue with all those people who complained about bugs. I played the game on a shiny new computer, with the (then) latest patch installed. So I have no idea how the fully unpatched version plays like (I tried it only on an older computer, which was incapable of handling it). If everyone say it was terribly buggy, it probably was. But I can't force myself to write long essays about the evils of capitalism and how unforgivable it is to sell a game that is so buggy. I bought it, I downloaded the latest patch, I played it on a good computer, it wasn't so buggy any more - that's a fact. Frankly, if I had a choice between buggy games I enjoy and perfectly smoothly running games I don't enjoy, I'd choose the first. If you say: "but I couldn't enjoy the game precisely because it was so buggy!", I can only answer - download the patch. Yes, the game shouldn't have shipped this way. It should have been bug-free from the beginning. But what's the point of saying that? If there is a way to enjoy the game after all, why to prevent this enjoyment from ourselves? It's like not enjoying a second meal in a restaurant after the waiter has spilled the first one over our clothes.

The Bad

The bugs were, however, so serious that some people could barely play the game properly when it was out. The awful combat was an even more serious issue. Only the latest balancing patch corrected most of its glaring flaws. The clumsiness of combat, the absolute reliance on attack moves, the weird and downright idiotic behavior of opponents - for some inexplicable reason enemies would not surround you, allowing you to slaughter them one-by-one - were close to ruin the game for many people. Humanoid (human and orc) opponents were underpowered beyond belief. During my first playthrough I was killed several times by some lizard without even being able to strike at it just after raiding an orc camp and single-handedly eliminating a dozen of orcish warriors armed with huge axes. Wild beasts had the infuriating habit of going backwards all the time. When they were biting, they did it several times, and so rapidly that they could easily kill the player character just because he had absolutely no time to react. They also paid no attention to your levels and the armor you wore.

In short, combat was an unbelievable mess. It was so bad, in fact, that even the latest patch couldn't make it fully satisfying. Still, it's heaps better than the sorry state it was released in, to the point of making Gothic 3 feel like a different game. So, once again - download the patch.

I feel they could have invested more into designing the game world. It has little personality and at times resembles too much those copy-pasted, identical locations of older free-roaming RPG. The cities don't really feel alive. Neither do the characters. I'm sure the rushed release is to blame, just like with Ultima IX.

Most quests are yawn-inducing. "Hey, my friend here needs 243 pieces of raw meet, 21 stews, 7 tusks of demonic skeleton mages, and 14 nose hairs. Bring it to him and your reputation will increase by one point!". In every city, you'll have to do those stupid quests, working on your reputation. What reputation, what the hell, this world needs liberating, I want my fellow human rebels to take arms and to help me fight the orcs! Why should I, a hero who defeated dragons in the previous game, humiliate myself and do moronic tasks? Didn't I liberate a village in the tutorial? So what are you waiting for? Hey, in Oblivion I was just a nobody, a prisoner, and yet since the emperor trusted me, I could go and find friends and defeat evil without the need to collect toad mushrooms for rebel cooks.

And what's with the bottomless inventory? Come on. Sure, it beats the stupid ubiquitous "you can carry 5 super-heavy shields but 10 potions is the limit" system most other modern games use, but everyone know that the best way to limit inventory capacity is by weight.

The Bottom Line

Gothic 3 went through some difficult times when it was prematurely released. With all patches applied, however, it turned out to be a satisfying and engrossing open-ended RPG. If you are willing to forgive the rough edges, you'll find the closest modern-day equivalent to non-linear role-playing games of yore.