Gothic 3 is a fantasy-themed role-playing game from German game developer Piranha Bytes. It is the third chapter in the Gothic series. Once again, you play as the Nameless Hero and this time, you arrive at Myrtana, a land that was once ruled by Men but is now conquered by the evil Orcs. King Rhobar has cut himself off from the outside world by creating a magical barrier around the overrun capital and imprisoning himself with what is left of his best warriors and the Orcs in the city. How will this battle end? Will humans manage to take back their kingdom? Or will the Orcs rule these lands for the rest of time? It's all up to you… no really, it is!
There are plenty of choices to be made in Gothic 3, and while these choices are usually based on the black and white idea of good & evil, it is also possible to stay neutral. There are two main factions in Gothic 3 - the evil Orcs and the Rebels, who refused to give up and keep resisting the invaders. There are also other groups that form alliances with these factions, such as: the Assassins, a faction of skilled swordsmen/spearmen that enslave the once free people of Varant; the Orc Mercenaries, people who betrayed the men of Myrtana and decided to join the Orcs; the Nomads, the ones who decided to fight back against the Assassins; and last but not least, the Nordmarians, the hardy men who unite themselves in Clans and fight the Orcs in the frosty mountains of Nordmar. You can assist each and every one of these factions, but sometimes you will have to choose between one and the other. For example, the majority of cities in Myrtana are controlled by the Orcs. If you decide to help the Rebels and attack one of the cities (and you succeed), then once every Orc is slain, you will soon see that the slaves stop working and the Rebels start settling in and reclaiming their old homes. But, if you want to be evil, you can decide to work for the Orcs (like a mercenary) and raid a Rebel hideout. Either way, you get rewarded with gold, your reputation with the specific faction rises and there's also the satisfaction of killing every single warrior in a city (which is extremely difficult the first time you do it). Also, the sight of the last few enemies fleeing after you have defeated the vast majority of their comrades is priceless and a feeling that I've felt in no other open world RPG.
In Gothic 3, you can be a Ranger, a Warrior, a Hunter, a Thief and even a Mage - if you have the patience to do a lot of training beforehand. Whatever you choose, you always get a few advantages that the other choices lack but also miss a few skills that the others do possess. There is actually no class system - there is no such thing as a class in Gothic 3. It's all based on skills and attributes. There are many skills like sword fighting, advanced sword fighting, master sword fighting, blacksmithing, blocking attacks with shields, stealing, archery, lock picking, skinning, brewing potions, pick pocketing, dual wielding and way too many more to mention here. All of these can be learned from some NPCs (though some of them will not teach you for free) but all of the skills have a requirement of a said amount of attribute points that are related to that skill. And the coolest thing about this whole system is that you will not be able to use a shield - if you do not learn how to do it properly first, killed animals will not drop skins in their loot - if nobody taught you how to skin etc. This, in my opinion, works very well; giving you complete freedom of who you want to be. While most other role-playing games force you to choose a specific path and limit you to a number of skills, this doesn't happen here. In Gothic 3 you can be strong and swing your gigantic axe at everyone's skulls in diabolical rage, but also have knowledge about the inner workings of locks. Of course you still get levels (after all, this is an RPG) and every time you level-up, you get points that can be spent for learning from more experienced characters.
From a visual standpoint, Gothic 3 is nothing short of amazing. Textures are high-resolution, character models are detailed and the flora and fauna of this world is stunning. The landscapes never feel empty, forests look extremely realistic compared to other games - thanks to so much different & beautiful plant life. Each of the three lands has a unique look and feel to it. For example, in Myrtana, the sorts of environments you will find are: lush grasslands, beautiful forests, creepy caves, huge cliffs and towering waterfalls. In Varant, most of the land will be covered by a large, dusty desert with some ancient tombs, small settlements and an enormous fortress. While in Nordmar, you will find tall mountains with snowy peaks - all of the land covered in snow. Each of these also has its own inhabitants; not only people and Orcs, but many wonderful creatures and terrifying beasts as well. All of these elements help to make each place feel unique and create a huge environment that the player wants to explore.
Combat in Gothic 3 is so-so. Every attack is somehow affected by your skills (and your weapons), but you can still dodge an arrow, or a fireball, by simply moving to the side (this is good because it gives a more realistic experience than other RPGs, allowing you to dodge an attack yourself, instead of leaving it to a "luck" or "reflex" attribute). How much of the damage received from an enemy is blocked depends on the type of armour you are wearing. There are many useful items in Gothic 3 - weapons and armour, as well as potions, herbs, food, beverages, skill-related equipment (a pickaxe is a good example) and many more. All of the factors that affect combat are good elements, but the combat itself is way too simple. The left mouse button serves as a normal attack - hold it for longer, release it and you get a strong attack. While right mouse button blocks attacks (when held) and when pressed repeatedly, it parries attacks. It is great to see that the developer tried something new, instead of using the tedious and repetitive "click this icon, click the health potion icon, click attack again and sit there watching" type of combat system used by most other role-playing games and came up with a more Hack 'n' Slash approach, but in the end, it appears as overly simple and not very entertaining - even though sometimes less tedious than the cliché style of gameplay used by other RPGs. Fortunately though, this won't stop you from playing at all because you will still feel the urge to explore the world of Gothic. Also, there's plenty of challenge to be had in the liberating of towns from opposing factions and exploring dangerous tombs of ancient power.
Gothic 3 offers a lot of things to do and I cannot imagine anyone doing all of them in less than 100 hours of gameplay (including exploration time, combat and looting). There are so many quests that it is simply mind-boggling! One of the reasons why this might take you so long is that it can prove to be quite challenging. Fight a tough enemy at a low level and it is certain that you will die. But the thing that makes it even more time-consuming is that you have to search for everything yourself. Gothic is the exact opposite of games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Dragon Age: Origins. It doesn't hold your hand all the way through the game, it doesn't point to where you have to go and you just have to pay attention to what the quest giver is saying. Neither does the game provide you with a fast-travel system and the only fast-travel-ish way of moving is by using Teleportation Stones. But these magical stones only teleport you to the major settlements and you need a specific stone for each city - finding them can also be a challenge. These gameplay elements appealed to me, but I am certain they don't to many other gamers, especially those who prefer to have everything set out in front of them, only a hand's reach away. Whilst games like Oblivion are more accessible and fun for the younger gaming crowds or those looking for something fairly easy, the Gothic series has always been a quite hardcore RPG series for older fans and/or people who enjoy some straining.
The atmosphere for the environments in Gothic 3 is not created by using visually powerful landscapes only, but fantastic soundtracks as well. This game has won many awards in Germany for its stunning music, it is not easy to find a game with soundtracks that are so strong and play such a major part in creating the atmosphere and setting the scene. When it comes to other audio elements of this game, they are good. Sound effects are great but the dubbed voice acting of the Polish version of Gothic 3 (which is the one that I own) is average. Some lines are very well done, especially the voice of the protagonist, while others sound kind of weak and the voices of other, less significant side characters can get very repetitive. Still, the atmosphere of this game just dominates that of any other open world RPG I've played before it.
So many great things make Gothic 3 a very immersive game - but bugs and crashes can break that immersion. While some of the glitches have been removed with patches, none of the crashes have been completely eliminated and as far as I am aware, they can't be fixed in any possible way. It is a shame that such a great game has to suffer from so many problems that never got fixed. These problems sometimes happen frequently enough that they will get you very frustrated and stop you from playing this game for a few days. At other times, you can play the game for hours without any crashes. Other things that tend to spoil the experience are looooooong loading times. If you get in a tough fight, especially at the start of the game, you will keep dying and you will have to keep loading your saved game. This tends to be a real pain in the backside and I'm not sure how it's possible for a PC game, even one as detailed and huge as this, to have such long loading times.
I will conclude this review with these words: if you are into open-world games and/or you like role-playing games, then you must play Gothic 3. It can be an absolutely amazing experience (even more so if you apply some enhancements made by modders who attempt to fix the game's problems). But beware of the problems that were mentioned before and have patience. Once you're hooked into the world of Gothic 3, you will want to save your game often in case of a crash occurring. It is a shame that Gothic suffers from so many problems, because it could have been an incredible game, and often feels like one, but is ultimately dragged down a bit by its technological problems.
+ Massive open world to explore with a great amount of things to do
+ Beautiful environments and landscapes teeming with wildlife
+ Difficulty strikes a nice balance between hard and just right
+ Great enemy variety
+ Fantastic soundtracks
- A few bugs and glitches
- Many crashes can completely spoil the experience
- Difficulty can be very unforgiving at first
- Average voice acting
- The only way to train is learning from NPCs
OVERALL RATING – 8.5/10 (Great)
NEW GS RATING – 8/10