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Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below. Buckle up. This is gonna be...

Gothic 3 Review

Tim_Tackett By:
DEVELOPER Piranha Bytes 
T Contains Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Drugs, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Paint it wack.

Computer programming must be a hell of a job. Somehow these wizards turn a bunch of variables, math, and ASCII characters into living worlds, packed with beauty and functional interactivity. It must take forever to write, check, and fix all that code, but in the end it seems all that beta testing is worth it. Or, in the case of Gothic III, you skipped the QA part and instead went straight to the bar. Cheers!

This episode falls in line with the rest of the Gothic series, with the Nameless Hero arriving home from the wacky vacation of the second game to find that orcs have taken over the land and forced humanity into slavery. You can choose to aid the humans in their plight and lend the deposed king a hand, become a mercenary for the orcs, or do your own damn thing, pillaging or chasing deer or whatever.
click to enlargeHowever, problems arise from the very beginning. I’m a set-it-and-forget-it kind of guy (read: lazy), only downloading patches when absolutely forced to, but within minutes of starting Gothic III, I went looking for one, thinking it could improve the awful load times. Maybe it would keep the Hero from sticking to hay bails, or stop the skeletons from running through the walls. At the very least, I hoped it would keep the corpses on the ground and not a dozen feet in the air.
What I was really pulling for was fixes to the damnable combat system. You control everything from a 3rd person perspective, using the mouse to swing weapons, cast spells, and block with a shield. There are a few different ways to swing, but nothing actually works other than spamming the ‘fast’ attack button and hoping for a win. There’s a little stun effect anytime anyone in the game gets smacked, and it happens to last long enough for you to relentlessly pummel anything in the world to death. Then again, it also lasts long enough for fast attacking enemies to completely pwn you. The same lapse also occurs when using items, switching spells or weapons, and of course, when in the presence of any sort of rock, plant, or…object in the world.
For this reason, the forest wolf is the deadliest creature in existence. There’re only two ‘types’ of AI, enemies that block (and die) when attacked, and beasts which backpedal and then strike. If one of these little canines nips you, they’ll nip and nip again, shredding you in seconds. People, on the other hand, are gracious enough to only fight you one at a time; confronted by groups of five or fifty, they just politely line up to die.
click to enlargeAnd it won’t really matter who you kill anyway. After gaining some rep with the human rebels, I smote an entire camp of the suckers (treasure chests always make me a little crazy), and no one seemed to mind. No one batted an eye when I wasted towns full of orcs and their mercenaries either. Frequently in the midst of battle, an errant swing of mine would clip one of the rebels, whose side I was ‘on’ at the time, and even though I’m hacking orcs to pieces, the thankless humans would turn on me and attack just because I accidentally nicked one. Same went for the orcs when I tagged along with them as a mercenary. Outside of these two idiot factions, there’re desert people and frozen wasteland people to make friends with as well, all with equally short memories.
Talking to NPCs will score you errands to run and heads to chop off for gold and experience, and maybe a bit of reputation. You’d better pay attention though, since your quest log barely contains any pertinent information, just a snippet of your conversation to guide you. Anyway, gaining rep with a faction opens up the path to specialty skills like advanced magic or dual-wielding weapons, as well as better armor and such.  There’re a lot of ways to shape our Hero, with magic, melee, hunting, and thievery categories to focus on.
There’s also a ton to do. Gothic III sports a gigantic, seamless world in the vein of the Elder Scrolls series with random caves, herbs to pick, and secrets to find. The sheer number of quests alone could keep you busy roaming the countryside for hours, even if you knew where you were going. It’s up to you what towns you visit and where you progress, and that’s really cool. Just look out for wolves.
click to enlargeIn spite of the seamless realm, the game will load every time you die, and you’ll die a lot. The time you spend watching the same eight loading screen pictures will become more familiar than any other part of the game. It's hardly a seamless experience.
It is a mystery, though, how such a potentially great game could fall victim to such shoddy programming and awful combat design. The entire game is hit or miss, like how the great music and decent voice acting collide with the robotic and overused animations and the disproportionate character models, or the sweet spell effects clashing with the ugly, obtuse menu windows. When the scenery looks like a postcard, but the Hero wears his shield inside of his humerus, there are some major quality control issues going on.
So the world looks great, the people look awful, the factions aren’t paying any attention, the wolves are murderous, the combat atrocious, and the music fantastic. It’s as if a team of good programmers, and a team of evil programmers worked on different parts of the game and then their efforts were combined at the last minute and jammed in a box. Which is exactly the same thing I’m about to do with my Gothic III game discs.
D Revolution report card
  • Big, open world
  • Scenery looks good
  • Large, gaping holes
  • Worst. Combat. Ever.
  • Awful A.I.
  • Huge loading times

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