Gothic 3 Review

Gothic 3 is an ambitious go-anywhere RPG. It most resembles a mix between Oblivion and Fable, as the world is enormous and explorable, and littered with plants and other random potion components for you to go out of your way to pick up — but the game itself is more linearly directed. The main town locations are tied together much more intimately by a unified storyline, with sidequests relegated mostly to quick journeys to nearby caves, and rarely spanning more than one location.

The first thing you need to know before buying Gothic 3, though, is that the game is not even close to finished. I played the majority of the game with patch 1.08 applied, and there are still a lot of serious issues. The engine is horribly optimized, so even with your draw distance set to the very minimum and all other memory-consuming features turned off you can expect near constant hard-drive thrashing, even with 1GB of RAM. This game is an exercise in torture with anything less than 1.5GB. Overall, this game is more demanding than even Oblivion. Some of the graphical features are implemented incompletely or broken, and the game clearly wasn’t tested much prior to release. In some cases, specifically mine, turning off bloom results in these sporadic flashes of pure white. When I say sporadic, I mean maybe you’ll walk through a town and almost forget about them for awhile, lulling you into a false sense of security. That’s how Gothic 3 works. It gets in your head, makes you feel like everything is normal, then slams you with a spate of epileptic seizure-inducing flashes. Strangely, the way you orient your character can alleviate them, as if you are somehow accidentally peering into another dimension, a crappy one where everything is blinding white, and figuring out the exact way to turn your head can magically stop it. The list of bugs goes on and on.

Immediately after installing and patching the game, and before I had known what a buggy mess it was, I was excited for the RPG adventure to ensue. I had read my manual, learned all about the orc war, and was totally prepared to inflict further disfigurement on the countryside. This is my first review, so you probably don’t know much about me yet, but I often (read: always) play games exclusively as evil. If there is no option to be evil, I sometimes purposely fail over and over, content as long as all good-triumphing is averted. The game began with a nice little cinema. Strangely, even within the cinema there were lots of graphical glitches with shadows warping all over the place, while the poorly-rendered character models played out their little backstory war. Unperturbed, I got down to the meat of it.

The game dropped me right in the middle of a miniature town liberation. Swords and tutorial tips flying all over the place, I rapidly crushed the orc horde and sent the survivors running out of town. Now, I’m never one to show mercy to my enemies. Besides, maybe they would tell their leaders they saw me and I would be a walking target from that day forth, so I set about to hunting them down in the most brutal fashion possible. Luckily, my task was made easier by the fact that as soon as they escaped town, the fleeing orcs began running in a straight line back and forth, totally oblivious to the arrows I unloaded on them.

Awesomely, Gothic 3 places no limitations on your inventory, so I got to walk back through the town and loot the piles of weaponry and strip the corpses. Bristling with heavy axes and ready to cause some damage, I found myself in the center of town again getting some story told to me by a man named Diego with an enormous body and a very small head. I ended the conversation as soon as possible and immediately began destroying him with the same two-swing sword combination I had spammed over and over to win all the other battles. The other surviving characters yelled "Fight!" and gathered to watch, and actually began clapping as I laid him low. I took this as a sign that Gothic 3 approved of my actions.

Temporarily bored with destruction, I headed out of town the back way and came across 1) a glowing magical dome around a city that was clearly ripped straight out of World of Warcraft, and 2) a group of sleeping bandits I would get the opportunity to decimate. I decided to be stealthy this time around, as a carefully administered deathblow to a sleeping opponent gives me particular pleasure. Gothic 3 was having none of it though, and my clumsy sneak skill not only managed to wake up the bandits I was approaching, but also somehow tore apart the nature of reality so that I found myself in control of the bandit himself, who floated across the ground permanently spread-eagle, while the actual character I was supposed to be playing stood frozen in place some distance away. The other bandit pummeled him while I glided back and forth ineffectually. As he screamed in pain and fell to the ground dead, I gained a level. My introduction to the game world complete, I restarted.

As I played Gothic 3, the bugs never really abated. Any time I tried to sneak that exact same error occurred, completely ruling out playing a stealthy character. Combat itself is strangely broken, so that any humanoid — no matter how powerful — is utterly unable to retaliate to the same one-two sword swing over and over again. Confusingly, however, even the lowliest enemy hiding out in the forest can administer nearly instant death, knocking you to the ground and savaging your prostrate form. Good luck trying to put away your bow and arrow or maneuver to respond, as the animations will often be interrupted over and over again so you simply have no choice but to die.

Nearly every other action you can perform is non-intuitive. Clicking to loot a corpse requires you to mouse over to the Take All button every single time, stacking up along with all the other small frustrations, such as the way your character automatically registers a click on any character or item you happen to be facing upon rising from gathering a dropped item. Nearly every single time you pick something up, you are first made to sit through the crouching animation, then you are forced to endure the unwanted activation of any nearby characters or items right after. Your targeting will also tend to be insane, and the way the game queues up mouseclicks will often result in you accidentally chopping your friend once at the end of combat, locking that character into permanent aggro mode and basically forcing you to reload your last save. It’s no help that the reloading process is really slow.

My initial reaction was complete hatred, of course. It’s no secret that I have no tolerance for broken games, and yet, as I forced myself to play through the constant frustration, something bizarre happened. I really started to like this damn game. I don’t know what it was, but for some reason I just couldn’t quit. I ended up playing a good character, and as I liberated my second town for the rebels, it was really neat to set in motion the events that culminated in my rebel friends and I crushing the orc occupation force. From that point on, the town was filled with rebels, and the slaves were freed. There is something strangely satisfying about the way you impact the world in Gothic 3. As you gather weapons, free slaves who can take on different supporting professions for the rebel forces, and establish conspiracies to collapse the orc leadership of town after town, you get an awesome sense of feedback every time. Characters you bring to safety immediately set to work doing their own tasks, and you really get the feeling that you are helping to develop an army. Also, despite all the bugs, the graphics occasionally look really awesome. Take out your torch at night and prepare to be amazed.

It’s unfortunate that Gothic 3 was basically released in an unfinished state. Maybe if the developers had some more time to work on it, they could’ve fully delivered on the basically fun premise of sowing revolution (or stamping it out) in an enormous free-form Oblivion-like world. As the game is now, though, nobody should be forced to go through the hell I went through to get to the enjoyable parts. Even having come to like the game, I am still frustrated by the way the combat handles and the million little ways this game conspires to annoy you.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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