Review

Gothic 3 Review (PC)

The third installment of the Gothic series and players now explore the mainland, Myrtana, for the first time.

An inviting inn, with complimentary cooking pot Finally, some appreciation

This is my first ever taste of the Gothic universe, now I do enjoy the occasional RPG epic so I knows what I likes. Performance wise this beast will probably scoff at your machine, kicking you down a peg or two when it comes to ‘rig l33t’ status (having a fast PC). This problem or challenge, however you see it, really does vary so while some effortlessly glide through others will spluttered their objections, given the wider range of hardware and drivers though these days it isn’t surprising.

Visually the game can be a stunner, providing you have raw machine power sitting on or under your desk. Luckily there are ways to float that FPS through various settings, and for the adventurous you could tinker even further through the games ini files.

Diva-like demands aside, the games world is a beautiful one and can reward the explorer with some amazing environment designs. Each town, fort, or hideout is very well detailed and made truly unique. With the different blends of land, desert, forest and tundra, you can find yourself in very diverse landscapes.

The character model is detailed well, though for any customisation enthusiasts out there I’m sorry to say you get no choice on your ‘hero’. Sure you choose abilities, equipment etc but there is no face modelling or gender selection. While many others have gone down that road, to cater to the ever more demanding player bases, Gothic 3 stands firm and hands you your vessel into their world. Though many seem pleased there’s no pony tail appendage this time around.

Beasts, animals all look great and some creations are damn right spooky in the good way of course. Stumbling across your first mine crawler or troll and you’ll get what I mean. Humans and Orcs don’t feel cloned in some oppressive way, except for the slaves who all mostly suffer from baldness. Given the scope of the world there are bound to be repeats of course but most are subtly enough not to be noticed, as for the most part all major or minor NPCS you interact with have a unique quality.

Sadly a problem for many is the ‘loadless’ loading areas, yes you did read that correctly. There is no loading bar except when loading a save game of course; unfortunately because of the games engine design it seems to give poor RAM a hard time. Walking or sprinting along areas of the game will be frequently met with temporary freezes as your computer frantically reads memory. This is more common for anyone with less than 2 GB for RAM; also memory leak problems hamper the process further.

Now how does the Gothic 3 feel gameplay wise? Great but that harmony is soon shattered to glass and then trampled on by a stampede of bulls. It’s bugged, and I do mean bugged to the extent I suddenly got a craving to watch the movie Starship Troopers. Now after some investigation I soon found that problems are no stranger to the Gothic universe and the first two games were plagued as well. After some game saving surgery, or game patches, things were running fine or at least better.

It would seem then Piranha Bytes has some serious work to still be doing. Luckily some have already been released to address the immediate problems which were effectively rendering the game a joke.

What could possibly be the most powerful critter in all of Myrtana I hear you enquire, why the all mighty and unstoppable boar species of course. Yes, the common Myrtana boar is capable of overthrowing entire civilisations if you accidentally lure it home. Due to some serious oversight, the boars attack could kill off any level character in mere seconds. Each attack would cause a stun effect which would stop you from retaliating back anytime soon, then couple that with the fact if you get knocked down you drop what you’re holding – it made some areas impassable.

It’s a big faction based world out there ‘Freeform’ character development

The combat system itself while making sense in theory, practically it feels very wrong. It also becomes nothing short of a ‘click 'n hack’ frenzy, certain enemies regardless of their difficulty being despatched through exploit.

Quests, they after all usually make the RPG what it is story wise. You’re basically given three big choices, will you shack up with the Rebels, decide iron rule with the Orcs is better or twist in the shadows with the Hashishin. There are many quests which range from insignificant things to revolutions. Each town or rebel hideout will have a reputation which you can work on, or not. The player decides the fate of Myrtana, lead uprising revolutions to oust the Orcs or crush rebel insurgents to cement the ruling power.

Other titles such as Oblivion raise the challenge of opponents as you progress yourself, meaning all areas are accessible so not to limit the player. Gothic 3 goes with a more traditional approach, and one that also delivers a better sense of accomplishment, by limiting your movements until you progress enough. So while not all areas are safely passable, it means you’ve got to earn the skill to get in, pinch what you can and leave with your limbs intact. This to me is an indirect ‘pat-on-the-back’, “you’ve earned the right to explore that cave, so go plunder it already!”

Starting out you’ll be the same each time, a very lower stat sword fighter. From the initial first fight with Orcs you’ll then as you level up be able to spend on your desired skills. Now there is no class system used here, so your have a freeform approach to your character providing you have the gold stacks to pay the trainers or shrines. Not only are you limited by ‘learning points’ but it costs gold to pursue any knowledge. This helps stem the game, stopping your from becoming way to powerful too soon, as otherwise the game loses its challenge.

You can pickup secondary skills or professions like thief, hunter, smithy or an alchemist. All have their advantages so a thief can practically rob a guy blind, hunters can harvest their kills for valuable trophies and skins for either quests or just to exchange for cash. A smithy can sharpen weapons, or even make their own swords if they have the recipe and skill. Brewing up some potions can be very rewarding; the whole of Myrtana seems to be covered in plants that all have a benefit or purpose somewhere. Permanent potions can improve the character for good.

Spell casters can do their thing here with destructive, natural or necromantic powers. Innos, Adanos and Beliar are the three deities of Gothic and so each has their own school of abilities. Mana can be recovered by sleeping or consuming a potion which I personally have a distaste for (no pun intended), but should you gather enough ancient knowledge you can learn mana regeneration. So while the game can be harsh at times it also rewards your efforts, a true RPG quality in my eyes.

There are still many things left to iron out; the lack of warning if you commit too many revolutions is a huge problem. Too many and the faction you’ve been working against will turn hostile everywhere forever, meaning you’ve just lost a mega ton of potential experience and rewards. It could also even break the main story which is a major concern among the community. So perhaps visiting everywhere and just ‘priming them’ to act is the best policy until you’re ready to save or condemn the land.

Travelling about can make for long journeys, and with no steed between your legs you’ll be thankful each town and significant rebel camp have teleporter stones, now you just need to find them. This can range from incredibly easy to manic rages of bloodlust. Also try not to ransack an entire town, the guards will only stay ‘observant’ for so long before they take action which can bring about the whole garrison swinging for you.

Sounds are awesome; the music is very well written and composed with a Lord of the Rings-esque about it. It’s epic and deep which is perfect for Myrtana, gripped in turmoil waiting for you to bring it back or sink it into the precipice. Sounds of the wilderness especially at night, when you hearing something howling or growling is immersive. All the dialogue has audio, forgiving any mistakes of course with the subtitle accidents. The voice acting is convincing and some are just plain funny to listen to, though can be damn annoying when your hacking them down.

So while poor Myrtana is bug ridden and is serious need of love and care from both the community and developer – I just couldn’t write it off. The story and universe that is Gothic I was nothing short of impressed with.

If you’ve never played the series before (like me) and stand or sit aghast at my incredibly liberal, generous score for a game apparently a virtual ant hill, then I would say this. Gothic 3 can be saved from an early grave, I am giving Piranha Bytes the benefit of the doubt and truly hope that they will swiftly and effectively squash their mistakes in a mighty coding crusade. If they can’t then I will concede to have been far too generous, because if the majority of games were released in this state today the games industry would be in dire shape.


Some dialogue camera moments need rethinking A lightning bolt or lance …whatever

Gothic 3 is a deep and rich world, waiting for your guidance to free or subjugate mankind. Any RPG lover must have this, but you may want to wait a while for the patches to arrive and then settle down. Now, move along Morra!

Top Game Moment:
Eat my fire arrow fury wild boar of Myrtana!

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Comments

By kikclan (I just got here) on May 16, 2008
kikclan
What&#039;s really unfortunet about this game is I was under the impression that the game cheaters wouldn&#039;t bother with it because it&#039;s not a &quot;big time&quot; game like cod4 or GTA. But boy was I wrong, all the major noob sites picked up on the hacks immediatly. I think the hacks originated from MSX ( http://www.msxsecurity.com/ ) and then trickled down to the smaller sites. Eventually they got MSX taken down but now she&#039;s back and worse than ever.