At the E3 show floor, publisher JoWood is showing off an early build of Gothic III, the latest installment in an open-ended computer role-playing series that has garnered a fiercely loyal following over the years. What we played was honestly quite rough and didn't give evidence to what we expect will be a deep and involving experience once it finally shapes up. However, between the brief hands-on time we got and the details recently released by JoWood, we do have a clearer sense of what sorts of features Gothic III will have in store.
Gothic III will take the action of the series over to a land that's been enslaved by orcs. Human survivors have fled to near-uninhabitable reaches, ranging from icy tundras to dusty deserts, and you find yourself in the middle of this conflict. Will you help the humans rise up against their oppressors? Or will you throw in with the orcs, saving your own skin by dooming the lives of others? Like its predecessors, Gothic III promises a completely nonlinear and open-ended gaming experience, both in terms of story and character development. A lack of rigid character classes means you'll be able to train your character in whatever combination of military might and arcane power suits you.
More than 50 different spells and 50 different creatures will be in the game, and Gothic III also touts a new combat system that will supposedly be easier to get into than the previous titles' fighting. Also, despite the game's completely nonlinear design, Gothic III promises to offer you clear objectives as far as the main story arc is concerned. Though the decisions will be yours to make, ideally you won't end up stumbling around, searching for what to do next. The world of the game should also come across as more realistic than ever thanks to complex artificial intelligence for non-player characters, who'll have their own agendas and won't just be found milling about, waiting for you to talk to them.
Frankly, we didn't see most of this in the build we played, which was clearly labeled pre-alpha (meaning that the game isn't yet feature-complete), and the game's lighting and shadowing effects were missing from the build. It did give a sense of Gothic III's lush world, and we also took a swing at the new combat system, but the playable version ultimately didn't yield much insight (other than that it will be possible to wield two swords simultaneously).
Gothic is one of the more ambitious RPG series of the past few years, so we're hopeful that this latest chapter in the story will come together to live up to and exceed the quality of its predecessors. Stay tuned to GameSpot for additional information on the game.