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I have long been a fan of the Gothic series of games, they have been great action role playing titles. Gothic 3 is no exception but it isn't without its problems.
You have saved the island Khorinis from the forces of evil in Gothic I and Gothic II. Now it is time to travel to the realms of the mainland. Invading Orcs have enslaved the human kingdom. There are but a few free humans in the icy north and the southern desert and a handful of rebels hiding in the forests and mountains of Midland. You may either join the rebellion or serve the Orcish Usurpers but you will ultimately tip the scales and decide the outcome of the last war to save humanity. There is no simple linear story in Gothic III – every game will be different and unique – but all will ultimately lead to you deciding the fate of Myrtana.
Role Playing Games, don't you just love them? Well if you don't you probably won't find much to like here, but Gothic 3 is a very good game, lets get that out of the way first before we move on to the bad parts of the game towards the end of the review. So what is different in Gothic 3 compared to the past couple of titles? Well firstly the game has been given a graphic overhaul and it needed it to compete with titles such as Oblivion in the RPG realm. It has also had an interface update that finally works very well as the past two titles had been a right pain in that area, finally we have a new fighting system and while this is far from perfect, it is once again much better than what had come before it.
The game begins in Myrtana, where you discover your homeland has been overcome by Orcs, it then becomes up to you to decide what path to today, attempt to free the land or take the side of the Orcs. The only problem I had with the story itself was that for a newcomer to the series it may have been a bit better to get some of the backstory in early, maybe through flashbacks or simply through a video a user could click on. Thankfully though the game isn't too hard to people to get into after short bit of playtime, so all credit to the developers there.
As with nearly all Role Playing Games, the format goes a little bit like this, walk around, talk to people, get quests, complete quests, follow more story and then repeat over and over and I have to say that RPG's are my favorite type of game, they tend to last the longest, have a much better story arc than other titles and are far more interesting. Gothic 3 is one of those games, the quests range from collecting skins and taking our roaming enemies to retrieving items and rescuing people.
A main part of Role Playing Games is building up your character, in Gothic 3 you don't choose who you play which limits it a little at the start the game also doesn't have large stats and improvements to your character like a game such as Oblivion had, for example your character gets to specialize as either a Warrior, Hunter or a Magician and you don't always feel that you are improving your character, you feel that you have to follow a set routine to get them to way you want them which isn't as free flowing as other RPG's. In saying that, the progression is far better than it was in Gothic 2, missions give out lots of experience points and sometimes they will even improve your skills and your stats early on in the game to help you face the challenge ahead.
For anyone who played the first couple of Gothic titles you will know what a pain the combat system was, Gothic 3 has improved it somewhat, but it still is not as easy or as manageable as I would like it to be. For example, get hit once during combat and it is sometimes very very hard to get back into a fight, the enemy will hit you over and over again till you die. The other really irritating part was fighting animals, why would this be a pain I hear you ask - well in a fight, if you get your health knocked down to zero, you will fall unconscious for a few moments while the animal walks away, the problem here is that when you wake up and stand up again, the animal hasn't walked far enough away from you so you get into the fight again, with almost no health and have to either pray you can run in time or get knocked unconscious in one blow again over and over! The combat also suffers from overwhelming you, sometimes you could have a whole host of people surrounding you and there is no chance you'll ever get out, so it sometimes means you have to resort to trying to take people out with your bow from a distance, not the easiest task when they come after you and the arrows don't have much effect!
The game has an open-ended approach to it similar to Oblvion, but because the team who worked on Gothic 3 is much smaller, the areas are easy enough to travel to without being overwhealming, you can also get transport crystals to take you back to places you have been before to cut down time spent walking around. You can talk walks around hillsides, but be warned there are a lot of creatures and enemies out there and you don't have the chance to use a horse in the game to outrun anyone.
Graphics & Sound
Gothic 3 is a mixed bag when it comes to graphics, sometimes it can look fantastic with lovely lush open landscapes with windmills and such like, but then spin round and you get some bad textures, clipping problems and other little annoyances that break up the great look of the game. It is also a massive hog on resources even on high-end machines which made me feel that another month or so tweaking the graphics could have really made this run well.
Music and sound is generally excellent, some of the voice work isn't exactly the best I have heard, but for a game with a lot of different characters that is something that I expect from a game like this, but overall not bad at all.
For all of the faults I have found with Gothic 3, its a very enjoyable game, the missions are varied and you always want to push on the story in a game like this. You can feel the love the developers had for the game and while I feel a few extra months tweaking the graphics and fixing the various bugs seen in the released copy of the game would have turned this into a game getting a grade in the early 90% mark, it doesn't quite break it. Sometimes the game can be fantastic, sometimes frustrating but its got a good atmosphere and if you liked the previous two Gothic titles, you will love Gothic 3.
Feel free to comment on the review here.