I've been playing some Gothic 3 lately - well, a lot actually - and I thought I'd share my impressions of this game.
First of all, I have to say there's only one time in my life I have seen more bugs
in one place than in Gothic 3. It was on a vacation to northern Frisia, and they had an infestation of ladybugs there - literally thousands of them. This game comes close. It has all the nifty bugs you've come to love and enjoy in such other games as Ultima 8, Ultima 9, Arena and Daggerfall. Quest breaking and savegame wrecking, such are the bugs in this game.
That said, I'm still playing it, which I think speaks volumes about this game. Imagine a world where you actually have a purpose, a world you can actually change. There's factions in conflict with each others and you can pick sides and decide who will rule the three parts of the game world in the future. Your choices have real consequences. The world
itself is well-designed with three very distinct parts: Varant in the south is basically a big desert with a number of oasises, Myrtana is mostly woods, mountains and rivers and Nordmar is basically very cold and mountainy, kind of like you'd expect Skyrim to be. To the east of all this, there's sea, while to the west, there's more land which cannot be accessed as of yet due to high mountains blocking the way. I'm guessing these will be made accessible with an expansion.Character generation
will be a very big change for those that haven't played Gothic 1 or 2 before. Basically, there is no character generation. Just like in Ultima, you're playing a set role. Some have said that while in Oblivion, you start out with a unique character, at the end of the game all characters look alike due to the way the skill system works. In Gothic 3, the opposite could be said: all characters start out the same but will develop very differently.
Basically, the system in Gothic 3 is based on experience points that are given to you for killing monsters and fulfilling quests. A certain number of experience points will get you a level raise, and with that comes something called 'learning points'. These learning points cannot be used instantly. Instead, they allow you to be taught new tricks. You can go to a trainer and have them tell you how to improve your skill with the sword, or you could go to a magician to have him tell you more about how magic works, you could ask a thief about new tricks, or you could visit one of the many altars to either Beliar or Innos, two of the three gods in the world of Gothic and beg them for something like extra life energy or mana.
It is important to understand that gaining a level in Gothic does not change anything except that you get 10 extra learning points: your life energy won't go up on its own, nor will any of your attributes. For any significant changes in your character, you will have to invest learning points. That way, it is much more unlikely that two different players will end up playing the same character in the end. There is also no limit on how high you can push any one skill.
The skills and perks are basically divided into categories: warrior/hunter/magician/alchemist/thief/smith skills and a few extras. You can forge, sharpen, skin, extract teeth, make potions, poison or flaming arrows, use staffs for fighting, wield giant orc axes and many other cool things. The way this works is quite unique and truely well done: There are attributes (strength, endurance, ancient knowledge, hunting skill, alchemy, smithing, thieving) and there are perks (for instance 'sword fighting', 'orcslayer', 'large weapons III', 'make poison arrows' etc) which have certain prequisites for you to learn them in the form of other perks you might need and a certain value in one or more of the attributes. Also, you will need to find someone to teach you these perks - some of them are quite rare. Every perk costs 5 learning points, while the ratio of learning points to skill points varies from 1:1 to 1:4 depending on the attribute. The same is true for the ratio of learning points to mana or life energy.Magic
is a bit complicated. Obviously in the past, most magic was based on a system of runes, but this has just been broken by .... well you'll find that out for yourself. At any rate, the ways of the quiet past have become unusable in the stormy present and the only way to cast magic is to learn the ways of the ancients. These had a system of magic aligned to the three gods: Innos, Beliar and Adanos, representing light/good/fire, darkness/evil/(un-)death and neutrality, respectively. You can learn any combination of skills from any one of the schools, provided you have the necessary Ancient Knowledge which is the basis of your magical power. The higher your AK, the more powerful every one of your spells becomes. Learning any spell will cost you 5 learning points, so you'd be wise to carefully consider which spells to learn. Some of the spells -and this is a very neat effect- will change behaviour slightly if you "load" them, that is if you pump additional energy into them before releasing them. For instance, the standard fireball will fly in a straight line and do a bit of damage to your enemies IF you hit them. Load it up, and it will find its target by itself. It will also do a lot more damage and there's a good chance it will actually set the target on fire. The same is true for other spells such as the frost lance (which freezes your enemies! Brrrrrr! Cold!). Just always remember that you're not the only sparkcaster out there, and just as you can burn them, so can they burn you.Quests
are mostly your standard run-of-the-mill type. Most of them require you to kill something or someone, to deliver something or to find something. Here, the designers of Gothic 3 should have tried to be more creative. Also, many have suggested that there should have been a non-violent solution to quests more often. It should also be noted that as far as the main quest goes, some serious problems exist. Items necessary to complete the game have been placed in the inventory of characters that can vanish (flee from you), never to be seen again. If this happens, the only recourse open to the player eager to continue is to use the builtin console that has to be enabled in the main INI file. Also, do not expect much from the quest journal. It only records parts of your conversation with the NPC that has given you or inspired the quest, and it's not always very helpful. It also seems that some important quests have never been fully finished, design-wise.
Monsters are plenty in this world. Some are unique to this game, others not so much. There's monsters that're basically dinosaurs, there's your plain vanilla goblins, trolls, gargoyles, as well as creatures such as mine crawlers, lurkers and other beasts that are unique to this series. Of course, there's also a whole heck of a lot of undead and a large amount of humanoid enemies. Whether they be actual humans or orcs will depend on the choices you make.Combat
is fun, although it is a real clickfest. Basically you raise your weapon and then you just click your mouse buttons as quickly as possible. You can attack normally with the left button, increasing the power of the attack the longer you press. The right mouse button clicked once will but you in a defensive posture, while repeated clicking will make you execute a series of swift and weaker attacks. Holding the right and then pressing the left mouse button will execute a special move which when using a sword will make you attempt to stab your enemy in the stomach. Also, the same key combination can be used to finish off an unconcious enemy on the ground. Oh, yeah. If someone is not your enemy and you fight them melee, you do not kill them automatically: you just knock them out. You can then just rob them of everything they have or give them 'the rest'.
There's of course also a whole slew of bows and crossbows to use throughout the game, some of which pack quite a punch.The music
is very nice and goes well with the game world, although when you have to wait for a savegame to load for the 100th time, you will perhaps start to hate the main theme that will be playing then. my favorite parts are the music played in the towns of Varant (the desert bit) and the music in the wilderness of Nordmar that manages to evoke a feeling of majesty of the mountains.Graphics and performance
are important to many people, so I'm going to mention it here. Most people feel the graphics are not as good as in Oblivion, while others insist they are in fact better. I guess in many ways it is a matter of taste, but in some aspects Oblivion is clearly more advanced: for instance Gothic 3 does not have any way for the characters to show emotions on their faces, and if you look at the characters, you will often note weirdness, especially around the neck and the arms. Parts don't fit together and just look weird in general.
All in all, one thing is true for the graphics that is also true for most of the rest of the game: it's not very well polished. It is clear this game was rushed out to make the very important christmas sales. JoWood and Piranha Bytes have already paid a heavy price for this in the form of many devastating reviews, mostly critical of the sheer amount of bugs.
As of today, the worst bugs have probably been fixed. The game no longer trashes your savegames randomly (hopefully). It still has an incredible number of quirks that you have to cope with: vanishing waters, vanishing items and people when you start a new character, NPCs running in circles when they should be following you, people you saved from certain death (and worse!) attacking you for 'plundering', other things.In conclusion
, I personally wouldn't want to miss it though, despite the fact that while playing this game (or sometimes merely trying to) I have cursed so much paint of the walls they've changed color completely. Despite its many flaws, it's still a great game with a lot of replay value.
But hey, don't take my word for it. Try the demo and see for yourself.Gothic 3 demo download
Being good means getting better.