This game should've been called "Emo"
Okay, enough jokes making fun of goth kids. You see, I was really anticipating in playing Gothic. After reading some reviews and how this game was really popular in Europe, I bought it on Ebay, hoping to play a very enjoyable game. And, I wasn't dissapointed.....until, five minutes later into the game. The end result of Gothic, is a very unintuitive Elder Scrolls game with trial and error gameplay.
Well, maybe I shouldn't compare Gothic to Elder Scrolls, mainly because it's more like Ultima IX (in fact, the lead protaganist looks very identical to the Avatar in IX). But, if you thought that Ultima IX was unintuitive, wait till you play Gothic. Before we talk about that though, lets talk about the story first. While the setting is nothing new (orcs attacking human kingdom), The actuall story is pretty creative..yet confusing.
You see, the Kingdom is trying to protect their ore mines from the invading orcs, so the king ask these mages to create a barrier around the ore mines, but this action turned out to be a flaw, because the barrier also trapped the mages. And for whatever reason, the barrier can be penetrated easily and then the king sends the prisoners into the mines to obtain the ore for the king, but if enter the barrier, you can't get out, which makes me wonder why the king thought he could get ore in the first place?
Anyway, the prisoners are now divided into 3 factions: the polite Old Camp, the rebelious New Camp, and a cult of scientoligists called, the Brotherhood. You are a prisoner (which your can't create by the way), who has been sent to the barrier for unknown reason, and have to decide which faction you want to work with.
Now that we got the story out of the way, lets talk about the actual gameplay. Like I said earlier, Gothic is more of an RPG version of Ultima IX. You control one character in a third person point of view, and you do quests, level-up, fight monsters, explore the world (inside the barrier) etc. Now, some of these elements are solid and satisfiying, but there are others that have been done miserably. Let's begin with the flawed elements.
The most noticably flawed element of Gothic are the controls. Especially the ones used for interacting with objects and people. You see, interacting with these things requires you to use 'control+up arrow'. This is also used to buy and sell things. Now you can change the controls but not the exact way you want them. You can't mouse-click your way to get things. This is the most stupid idea in a 3D action/RPG nowadays. Why can't I just use one button to do something so simple? When you play Resident Evil, do you have use a combination of buttons just to open a door? No.
Speaking of purchasing items, Gothic does something so simple as purchasing an item, and turn it into something so difficult, it makes playing Ninja Gaiden seem easy. Buying and selling items is similiar to the system used in Fallout, but terrible. Other than the lack of using a cursor (gawd kill me), the way of buying items is so unintuitive, you would want to scream to death. There's also difficulty in the machanics of trading items, itself. Say that you want to sell some of your stuff to earn currency. When you do this, you realize that you didn't earn any money, and you just gave away your stuff. What you have to do is trade those items for the currency the seller/buyer has. This is made worse by the fact you can't manually select the exact quantity you want. This is total bullshit, especially when this system is not even mentioned in the manual. Another thing not mentioned in the manual is how to create items (spells, potions, weapons). Because of this, it's impossible to actually do those activities.
Now lets talk about the fighting mechanics. When I first read about it in the manual, I thought that it was going to be strategic, but it's really clunky and unresponsive. Plus, it's pretty much only built for fighting one enemy, and it's pretty much a death-trap if you encounter two hostile creatures, and you're going to find most enemies in groups, which is going to be extremely difficult. The unbalanced difficulty is enough to turn you off from Gothic.
What I like in Gothic though, is how, you choose the type of "class", by openly give players the choice of upgrading the type of skills you wish to upgrade. Basically, you can be anything you want, like a spell casting warrior, a theif that's skilled in strength, or anything you wish. I also like the way you upgrade these abilites. Instead of the usuall spending of exp. on your character, you are required to go to these trainers and ask them to train you in whatever skill they are proficiant in. This requires you to spend skill points, and ocassionally money. Alot of gamers may not like this system of leveling-up, and I can see why, but I like the concept. In actuall practice though, it's extremely tedious.
At the begining of Gothic, you are only proficient in melee attacks. If you plan to use a bow, or a magic spell/scroll, you're going to have to wait. All of the attacks for those, are incredibly innefective. In order to actually hit something, your going to have to ask a trainer to....well...train you. The problem is that the closest person to teach you how to use bows is far away, and with the high difficulty of fighting enemies, it's impossible to progress through anything. If Gothic had a balanced difficulty and a combat system that was intuitive, I'd probably tolerate this, but sadly, it's non-existent.
Gothic also hosts numerous bugs. These bugs are not just graphical glitches. These bugs hurt the game pretty bad. Even the patch available dosen't help much.
Despite all of these problems, there are some other elements of Gothic that I like. First of all is how joining a certain guild effects the story and gameplay. One thing I hate about the Elder Scroll games, is the fact that joing the fighters' or mage guild dosen't really do anything other than give you extra side-quests and items. In Gothic, joining one of the 3 factions affect more than that. They actually effect the outcome of the game. Another thing I like is the A.I. of the NPCs. They actually walk around, do errands, and talk to people. You also have the freedom to do anything you want. You can travel around the world/barrier freely and accomplish the quests anyway you want like in Fallout.
I really wanted to like this game. I would like to see an RPG similiar to Elder Scrolls, but one that isn't in the same franchise. Sadly though, Gothic is just unintuitive and unbalanced. I don't understand why this game got good reviews (especially in europe). I guess that's as difficult a question as finding out the meaning of life.