by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
An RPG Messiah?
Before its European release last month, Gothic 3 was envisioned by many as the RPG that Oblivion should have been, the RPG that was touted as the last hope for hardcore RPG fans on the PC. Unfortunately, the crystal ball they used has several flaws, distorting reality. First and foremost, Oblivion was a fantastic game. Sure, it was hack-and-slash in some ways, but it was very much an RPG and a wonderful one at that. Another caveat is that there are once again enough RPGs coming out for PC, and the big RPG drought we starved through in the mid 90s does not seem to be repeating itself and there is no need for a 'last hope' kind of game. The last point where this vision clashes with reality has only become apparent since the release; Gothic 3 has got quite a few issues that keep it from reaching the same 'high' that Oblivion did earlier this year. Read on to find out what they are.
While comparing Gothic 3 to Oblivion is pretty much unavoidable, I will try not to do it too much. However, Gothic 3 is quite similar to Oblivion. Both have large, open worlds which the user can traverse and quest with almost complete freedom. The basic mechanics are pretty much the same as well so it is the storyline and the way that their worlds have been shaped and molded that sets the two games apart.
Return to Myrtana
In Gothic 3, you once again assume the role of the unnamed hero of the previous two games. You arrive in Myrtana to find the country in shambles. The Orcs have overrun the country with the help of a rogue magician who has found a way to drain the magical abilities of other Wizards and Paladins alike. Without magic, the balance between might (the Orcs) and magic (Humans) was lost. The massive Orc hordes easily conquered the human settlements and have taken over the rule of the country. Throughout the land, small pockets of resistance fighters fight a losing battle trying to reclaim their freedom - and the throne.
The King might still be alive. Protected by a powerful magical barrier, conjured with the very last strands of magic, he has entrenched himself in the capital. Then again, he might be dead. No one really knows what is going on inside that barrier. With most citizens enslaved by the Orcs, the situation is looking very grim indeed. Your task is to restore the land to its rightful rule and it looks as if the only way to do so is by finding a way to restore magic.
As a rule RPGs start you off with an undeveloped character, gaining experience, skills and specializations as you travel through the game world solving quests. Gothic 3 is no exception to this rule, with the possible disclaimer that some of these quests are a little more diverse and challenging than in your average run-of-the-mill game.
Of course the game has tons of the standard 'errand boy' quests and in fact, most of your experience will come from these. Oh yes, requests like 'find 10 wolf skins', 'find the runaway slave and bring him back' and 'rid the mine of evil beasts' will positively litter your quest log. But when someone asks you to rid the town of Orcs, things can get really interesting. You will have to fight them, that cannot be avoided, but leading up to that moment, you can do all sorts of things that can tip the incredibly uneven odds a little bit more towards your favor. Rebel conspirators may be hiding in the city. Identifying and then helping them by providing them with weapons, means that they can help you fight the Orcs. After you have won, the town will slowly be inhabited by humans again, making these 'quests' among the most gratifying I have ever done in an RPG.
By now, I may have left you with the impression that you are on the side of the Rebels, and my explanation of the storyline certainly points that way. However, you are totally free to join the Orcs and fight the rebels instead, or even 'play' both sides at the same time. Many quests will not only gain you gold and experience, but also 'reputation' with the factions in the game and it is entirely possible to be in good standing with several factions at the same time. A higher reputation means having access to higher placed individuals and armor. The latter is important because while you will find plenty of weapons and other items, armor can only be bought from merchants aligned to a particular faction.
No Pros and Cons at this time