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Gothic 3 (PC) artwork

Gothic 3 (PC) review

"Open terrain and laughable dialogue, paid in spades."

Gothic 3 (PC) image

The Gothic brand called to me from the depths of my Steam library. "You're not done yet," it said. I told it that I needed to rest, because I was still exhausted from playing Gothic II nearly a year ago. You see, a Gothic or Risen game doesn't merely soak up your time; it consumes you. You feel an itch at the back of your mind every time you're away from it, reminding you that you need to explore some out of the way cave, or nab a lost item for a villager, or bump off a pesky gang of highwaymen. The hell of it is that none of those things pertain to the storyline. You could skip the cave, tell the village to get bent or go around the robbers. But something pushes you to experience every bit of the game's content: swipe anything that isn't nailed down, slay all hostiles, complete every job you come across, reach for every and any advantage available to you...

Gothic titles do this because they are cruel lovers. They enjoy throwing you straight into the deep end of the pool, armed with only a veritable toothpick for a weapon and maybe two or three consumables (if any), then watching in ecstasy as you struggle and falter and fail and dust yourself off repeatedly. These games want you to learn to pull yourself up and develop your character into the hero the common folk need. Each campaign is a rags to riches, geek to chic kind of story.

Gothic 3 is no different, except now it throws you into a lake rather than a pool. It gives you a couple of objectives, before turning you loose into the vast, open world full of nasty monsters, ne'er-do-wells aplenty and treacherous terrain. The game leaves you to travel from one town to another, completing quests and gathering clues at your own leisure. Of course, you can always ignore the cities and enjoy the countryside. Sprawling landscapes comprise each region, with snow-capped mountains, grassy plains, forbidding forests, sandy dunes and innumerable caves. Hell, I lost myself in whole sessions of wandering and hunting for secret stashes and unique locations that sat off the beaten path.

Gothic 3 (PC) image

If you prefer more structure to your adventuring, there's plenty of that on tap. Locals might ask you to fetch something or murder someone, or even beg you to take up asinine quests like speaking with an NPC across the map. Thankfully, they reward you handsomely for these tasks. You might bump off a few weak goblins and receive some much needed supplies and a ton of experience. Before you know it, you're racking up "learning points," which you use to acquire new skills. You then grow from a terrified adventurer into a man who can hold a bow properly, smith a basic sword, pick a few pockets, cast some spells and withstand poison.

As you accomplish tasks, you begin to understand the situation you're facing. Several factions battle for supremacy, with orcs and their desert-dwelling "Hashishin" allies controlling most of the land. Meanwhile, rebels, nomads, Nordic warriors, mages, paladins and druids all attempt to either retake or defend their property. On top of that, each group has its own agenda. Orcs murmur about artifacts, while the mages and paladins urge you to find some special chalices. Rebels conspire to liberate enslaved cities, and druids wish to rid the world of orcs.

Where you sit in the grand scheme is entirely up to you. Gothic 3 doesn't force you down any routes or push you to commit to a single cause. In fact, you can play all angles of this war, and profit from just about every quest on offer. You might clear out a bug-infested mine to help the orcs, only to slaughter a few of their patrols to please the druids and rebels. Perhaps you'll gather some weapons for the nomads, and murder one of their leaders, as per a request from a Hashishin merchant. During my playthrough, I did everything in my power to bolster the orc-occupied river town of Sildis, then rained arrows down on that city's conquerors and mercenaries so the rebels could take it back.

Gothic 3 (PC) image

And believe me, you'll engage in boatloads of skirmishes and decisive battles. Thankfully, combat is intuitive in Gothic 3. You don't have to fuss with multiple keys to execute a single attack, and only need to utilize the two main mouse buttons to block and strike. Melee battles play out terrifically, with you constantly on your toes, waiting for openings in your foe's defenses while trying to maintain a decent defensive stance. Meanwhile, you're constantly checking your hit points and stamina to make sure you don't need to drink a potion or rest for a moment. There's nothing worse than attempting to block an axe slash, only to realize you don't have enough stamina to keep your shield raised.

Gothic 3's enemies may be hand-to-hand specialists, but ranged battle is not their forte in the least. In fact, if you hone your hunting ability, you'll learn that most of the opposition is extremely stupid. If you climb to a lofty perch, your enemies will wait on the ground below. They'll remain within the vicinity indefinitely, even after you've fired a dozen or so arrows into them. You can bump off whole contingents this way without receiving a lick of damage. Now and then, a bowman or a mage might show up, forcing you to strafe side to side for a few seconds. They perish just as easily, though. Gothic 3's adversarial AI sports a huge blind spot that you can easily exploit, and it demeans the epic thrill that should come with liberating whole cities and wiping out herds of beasts.

Gothic 3 (PC) image

Gothic 3's dumb AI and rare crashes neither hampered my experience nor prevented me from spending hours exploring and discovering new locations and neat features. I'd find chests full of unique and uncommon items all the time, and delve into Easter egg-ish locations filled with goodies. I recall finding once place that looked like a satanic paradise, complete with an occult stone circle, pissed off gargoyles and an altar dedicated to an evil god. Plus, this place also held some herbs used for brewing potions that permanently improve statistics. I know I haven't even seen half of the content Gothic 3 holds, as there are nooks and corners and crevices I haven't explored. Choices I never made still remain, alongside alliances I didn't strike and loot I neglected to steal. Suffice it to say I have plenty of reasons to revisit this adventure one day.

Gothic 3 presents a huge world that might overwhelm anyone who adored its predecessors' more contained real estate. It also provides you with the kind of cheesy material that earned Piranha Bytes a fanbase. No, you're not going to find much of a playable drama here, with award-winning acting or mind-blowing visuals. Think of this RPG as less of a blockbuster and more of a wonderful B-movie. It's rough around the edges, but it provides you with enough charm and freedom to hold your attention. Once it sinks its claws into your warm flesh, it begins to suck all of the free time and sleep out of your life. You'll end your stay exhausted, but if you're a Piranha Bytes fan, you'll also end it satisfied.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 08, 2019)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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EmP posted January 08, 2019:

You see, a Gothicor Risen game -- fix your space error, heathen!

You're right about the Piranha RPG's though. I got a buggy pre-release copy of Gothic 3 waaaaaay back in the day and managed to just about beat it before release (had the first English word review of the game up. Was beaten mercilessly by Germans), but I put on some really long shifts on that one. It wasn;t super stable, either, so I would crash and lose hours and just dive back in and do stuff a slightly different way. Same with Risen. I stopped at the first because it was so draining.

Gothic 4 never looked as appealing. I guess I'll wait a few months and see what you have to say about that one! Gotta beat 'em all. unless you're me!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 10, 2019:

Geez. I didn't realize you wrote the first English language review. I'm sure it was hell getting through the initial build of this game. I remember you talking about the boars. They're not so difficult to mess with now, but the lurkers can be a pain in the ass when you're at a low level.

With Risen, you're not missing much with the second one. It's probably PB's most disappointing game, mostly because it's incredibly simple. The plot is still kinda fun. Risen 3 is good, but pretty flawed and a little buggy.

I'm a little over 100 minutes into Gothic 4, and it's probably the blandest RPG I've ever played in a while. I've been through just about every early game trope so far, from heavy-handed tutorial missions to delivering items to a witch in the middle of the woods.

The best part is that they make the woods sound perilous and immense, like getting to the witch's hut is going to be a lengthy journey. In almost any other Gothic game, it would have been, and you can guarantee that you'll run across at least one shadowbeast. In Gothic 4, these deep, dangerous woods contain a whole five weak wolves, and it takes less than a minute to reach the witch's hut. You practically have to go out of your way to aggro the wolves, too. Such a stark difference between this and the previous three titles...

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