An RPG with lost potential but still enjoyable
Below I will itemize my positive and negative points about the game.
1) There are many graphical bugs, but overall the game looks quite nice. There are three distinctly different settings/climates in the world that are presented well and offer variety as well as some differences in gameplay style.
2) I've read several negative comments on combat. Honestly, it seems every game of this type receives loads of complaints about it's combat system. Yet if you compare this to your general hacknslasher the combat system is far superior. This is not just a click click click system. You have various moves all with the mouse and a parry system. Some similarities to Oblivion but much better, especially range combat.
3) Speaking of ranged combat, it's the deal in this game. Fighting with crossbow or bow is a lot of fun. Arguably the best ranged combat in an rpg type game or game not dedicated to this specific type of combat - like the Thief series. You really get the feel of drawing the bow back and unleashing death on your enemies. As you develop your skills and attributes you can become highly effective and knock out certain enemies or beasts with a well aimed head shot.
4) Hunting: I really liked this aspect of the game. There are some quests tied to hunting certain packs of animals. Regardless, there are tons of beast in this world that allow you to ignore the game for a while and just head out hunting and collecting trophies that increase your income. You can hunt deer, wolves, boar, bison, rhinos and a number of different creatures unique to the game. It's almost a game to itself.
5) The story is deep enough and open ended to immerse one in the game. It's not spectacular and I do have some negative notes, but it's otherwise sufficient. There are tons of sidequests and goals that are satisfying, especially liberating cities or regions.
6) I wasn't into the magic as much until later in the game. I've seen much larger spell books, but there's actually some pretty cool spells to use and magic can be quite powerful, especially when you are fighting against it. I think my favorite spell was "Tame" which allows one to bring a beast under your control to assist in fights. Also, the summoning spells were quite useful. I think magic is not useful until you build up enough skills and points to make it effective.
7) While this may be a negative to some, I like how your character was basically classless. You can choose a path towards range, melee or magic but ultimately you can gain all these skills after a time a build them fairly evenly, although I recommend at least focusing on one for a while to be effective in fights early on.
8) Voice dialogue throughout. You can certainly read everything but all the dialogue is spoken and the voice acting is decent. Of course, it's pretty obvious that certain voices are used quite often, but it sure beats sitting there watching two dudes face each other dumbly while you read a bunch of text.
8) Large game, large world, tons of gameplay. I'd say one can easily spend a good 100 hours or more on the game, although I'm not the fastest gamer and have no desire to be.
Now for a few negative comments:
1) It almost goes without mention, but this is a frustratingly bugged out a game. I can certainly see many gamers losing patience. I'll touch on a few major ones below. With the patches though the game is certainly playable but you need some patience
2) One bug that really annoyed me was the use of companions throughout the game. You are able to bring one dude in to follow you and fight at a time. The issue is with the following. It's not worth going a long distance with someone because they get lost, stuck or disappear into something. Even worse is your follower will not teleport with you when you use a teleport stone. There are several places that have an NPC available to join but it's still a nuisance if you prefer a certain NPC.
3) Your character, NPCs and enemies/creatures can - at times - disappear into walls, mountains, surfaces, etc. - you name it. An example is a skeleton archer getting stuck in a temple wall. He keeps firing at you and hitting while you can do nothing to stop it. A reload will fix it though. Again, the worst is having your partner disappear when traveling.
4) There are some crashes in the game. These were not frequent and happened to me more late in the game for whatever reason.
5) Some quests including the main one can be broken fairly easily. I recommend doing hard saves often, besides frequent quick saves. Perform a hard save prior to doing something major regarding a quest like liberating a city.
6) As mentioned the story is decent and one that you can immerse yourself in rather deeply. I didn't play the first games, so I didn't have much background. However, I still felt the hero's story was pretty "meh". There are some very satisfying end results to certain quests depending on what side you take. I felt certain factions were not fully realized with respect to the scope of the game and story like the nomads and rangers, but they still add a nice touch to the game.
7) There are some pretty cool weapons in the game, but really that wasn't a whole lot of variety and basically no full sets of special gear. At a certain point in the game you should have lots of loot and gold, but very little to spend it on other than necessities like arrows, quarrels and potions - and the best weapons are ones you make for yourself anyway.
8) Certain lower level enemies can actually be much tougher than statistically tougher enemies, even late game. Wolves were 50 exp each but drove me crazy throughout the game. Snappers were fairly weak, but for some reason I had the hardest time hitting them with a ranged shot. Yet many of the 500 exp creatures were dumb and slow. You can easily defeat them with hit a run tactics using ranged weapons. Technically, I'd say there really were no bosses in the game.
9) Enemy spellcasters like orc shamen seemed overpowered to me and I didn't really find much protection against them. I definitely recommend rushing in and killing spellcasters first because they can put you down fast regardless of how high your heath is.
There's probably a few more minor points to harp on. But really the key point to get across in this review is that...yes, the game is severely flawed but still very playable and enjoyable. When playing I just sort of lose myself in the Gothic world. It is a shame, whether it was the publisher or developer's fault, that they could not fix all the apparently fixable issues. It's no wonder that Jowood severed themselves and the franchise from Piranha Bytes. This game had so much potential to be a classic RPG and it still almost is a classic. It's still very much worth your time if you like playing RPGs.
Edit: Additional point: The role of females in this game in any capacity - playable character or NPC - is basically non-existent. I'm not exaggerating this in the slightest. It was many hours before I even encountered a female in the game and it turned out to be a female slave that said "don't bother me". The only role in the entire game for women is the female slave and nothing is tied to the story. There is one sidequest that involves escorting a couple of female slave dancers. Now, I'm not really harping on having only a male playable character. It's been that way from the beginning with this series and well it's not all that uncommon. However, I'm trying to look at this two ways. First, as a male myself, I tend to think we like to have some beautiful and interesting female characters and possibly love interests in games we play. Second, I think girls/women, let alone having a girl character to play, would like to see strong or important female characters portrayed in video games. This game is sorely lacking a feminine touch and I hope that is remedied in the future.