|Gothic - Retroview|
A Not So Gothic Tale That Entrances
By: Lael Brown
| Battle System
| Replay Value
| Time to Complete
What the heck is Gothic? To be honest, no one seemed to know the
answer to a simple question like that. I bought it anyway, and I have
yet to be disappointed. Published by Xicat here in North America, the
game was developed by Piranha Bytes in Europe. Gothic is a semi-linear
role-playing game with several branches within the game to help the player
develop the story line from at least three different faction viewpoints.
Now, since I'm having trouble putting down the game itself, and this review
is taking up my time, let's get into the nitty gritty of the good and bad.
Well ... mostly good.
As per any RPG, you have enemies that you fight. In Gothic, these
can be either monster based, or human. Human and Orc battles tend to be
more difficult in a one on one situation because they fight back hard and
are quite often very unpredictable. For instance, one human has an axe whereas
another has a stronger axe, and in the next hallway is someone with a hefty
two-handed sword. Monsters can be hunted, pulled from their groups, and
systematically removed from the scene. The most annoying thing about using
something like a bow or crossbow is that using it tends to attract the attention
of the entire group, causing a swarm effect that can get your blood boiling
- especially if you've just pulled 8 black goblin warriors and you're only
level 12. But I digress.
The game boasts 130 different weapons to acquire and use, and
considering that your strength or dexterity plays about half of the role
in damage as the weapon does, you'll be looking for the biggest and best.
Now, this is not simply a hack and slash adventure, as one of my friends
so kindly put it. It plays a bit like a cross between Asheron's Call and
EverQuest. You have to upgrade your fighting skills with skill points gained
at each level - 10 per level - and with each skill level gained comes a different
stance and combo system for the weapon. Say you start off with a rusty sword.
This is a one handed weapon, but because you are untrained in one-handed
weapons, you are slow and can really only swing it in three directions.
Once you upgrade to the first trained level in one handed weapons, you stand
differently, hold the weapon differently, and swing differently to include
combo hits. There are 4 weapons categories to be experimented with - one
handed weapon, two handed weapon, bow, and crossbow. It may sound a bit light,
but I find that the simplicity has helped me to appreciate the story line
and action much better. Each level you gain through experience allows you
the 10 skill points to save or put towards training a skill or an attribute.
I've already touched on some of the battle skills, but you can also spend
them on Strength, Dexterity, Mana, or handy other things like Lockpicking,
Pickpocketting, Sneaking, Acrobatics, or a level of Magic. If it sounds a
bit confusing here, don't worry, it's actually simpler than it seems.
|Dino Swarming Will Be Painful.|| |
Magic is something that I have only played with when required to,
and I find it rather slow. However, with a little practice, it can be extremely
powerful. Several times I have found myself confronted with a magic user
and ended up running away from them while burning alive. Each circle of
magic, as weapons, requires a certain amount of skill points to progress
into the next circle. The higher the circle, the more powerful magic you
Unfortunately, there is a down side to the battle system. The
learning curve is a pain, especially if you're a player of online games
as I was. You can't walk around in combat mode all the time as the inhabitants
take it as a threat, so when you want to fight you draw your weapon. Agreeably,
this is more realistic ... but when you REALLY have to fight someone or
something, the wait to prepare your weapon is deadly. To attack once in
battle mode you have to hold down the 'use/action key' and use the directional
buttons. For example: My 'use/action key' is the left ctrl button and I'm
using the directional buttons to move. I hold down the ctrl key and press
left or right to swing accordingly, up to take a forward step with a swing
and begin a combo, and down to defend for a short time. When you're being
attacked by something that has the power to rip you to shreds, you sometimes
want to move out of the way, so you have to release the 'use key' and move.
This still frustrates me when I'm in a heated battle with a large Orc Temple
Warrior or something of the sort that takes me down 2/3 of my health in
The beasts of the field don't respawn in large amounts. In
fact, the only time that they do respawn is if they are part of a quest that
you haven't completed yet, and they respawn for the quest, or when you enter
the next chapter of the game ... and even then they spawn in smaller amounts.
Don't think that this is a down side to the game. Far from it, you just
won't be able to gain many levels from beasts that you can one-hit
Battle flow goes like this at the beginning of the game: Make
sure your weapon is equipped. Find a beast to slay. Remove your weapon
from it's sleeping place and have it at the ready position. You can either
allow the beast to come at you if you are patient, or you can run in and
attempt to get the first big strike while running. If there are no other
beasts around to support it, you now have a one on one fight. Swinging left
and right, when timed correctly will produce multiple hits doing some pretty
good damage. You can defend if the beast attacks, but avoiding the attack
is altogether better once you begin fighting things that chain different
attacks together. Remember that you have to release the 'use/action' key
to move again. Once you defeat your opponent you may feel free to loot the
body of anything valuable.
|That Is Some Powerful Magic|| |
The story seems simple to start. During the Orc war, the king
sentenced every single male convict to work in the ore mines. To ensure
that they never escaped, wizards were sent to put up a barrier around the
'colony'. However, during the event something went wrong, and the barrier
expanded beyond it's original intended size, trapping the wizards in with
the convicts. The convicts took advantage of the distraction created by
the barrier to kill all of the guards and take over the 'colony'. You are
have been convicted of something - we're not told what - and sentenced to
work in the mines. The only mission you have been given is to deliver a
letter to the High Magician of Fire. You will learn that there are three
different factions that you are able to associate yourself with and within
each are different occupations that can be worked for and gained. The plot
is muchly the same for each faction, but within each there are different
missions, goals, and relationships to be developed. I'm looking forward
to playing all three and entering all of the occupations. If you follow
the missions in the order you get them, or at least the order you are able
to complete them, the game flows incredibly well. I always was waiting to
see what happened next, but was never finding myself impatient for the story
to advance. The game fits together completely in every aspect.
The interface is simplistic to a fault. Unfortunately the manual
tells you how to do most everything, but I spent the first 45 minutes of
the game trying to figure out how to do everything thinking that there must
be more to it. Well, there's not. The 'use/action key' that I have already
spoken of is your central key. Get used to it, and keep it as your new
best friend. You have to hold the 'use/action key' in conjunction with
your 'walk forward key' to pick things up, open doors or chests, talk with
people, fight, etc. Within your inventory menus, the 'use/action key' is
combined with the 'walk forward key' to either equip or use, or the 'walk
backward key' to drop. To cycle through the different categories in your
inventory is just right or left. What I found to be frustrating when looting
or purchasing is that if you slip and pop over to your side of the purchase
screen, it defaults to the miscellaneous category and you have to cycle all
the way through the other categories in order to pop back to the merchant
or corpse selection. Other than these little irritations that can grate
on your nerves at 3 am, even when you are accustomed to it, the interface
accompanies the rest of the game quite nicely, keeping the emphasis on the
game itself and not the juggling of items, weapons, or spells.
Gothic has a tendency to play fairly slowly out in the open,
but only if you know what you are doing. If you are always running into
the thick of battle, it will be very fast, and you'll most likely end up
loading the last saved game. From the moment you get into the game, you
realize that you aren't in for an easy ride. Your welcoming committee gives
you a quick thrashing as a 'baptizing' into the colony. From there you have
to talk with inhabitants, learn information, and draw your own conclusions.
Without giving away the story, you have to learn that things can change
very quickly both for you and for the rest of the colony. Aside from tedious
running when you're playing the role of an errand boy - which eventually
can be remedied by handy potions of sprinting - the story keeps driving you
forward and throwing twists at you.
|I Want Them On My Side!|| |
The sound and music score fits the medieval setting quite nicely.
Every so often I find myself enraptured by the spooky music when in a temple
or tomb, or a wonderful harmony while standing beside a huge waterfall.
The sound created when you pull your sword from its scabbard is metal on
metal, like nails on a chalkboard, but I absolutely love it. Now, whoever
else is in the house at the time when I have it turned up to the maximum
possible effect doesn't particularly enjoy it, but I just yell at them to
not worry ... I'll silence it in some beast flesh! The voices are fabulous.
I don't think there has been another game that I have played recently that
did such a good and commendable job on the quality of the voices. The only
thing that I see that can get annoying is the reuse of some of the voices
for, say, the peasants or generic greetings. The library of voices for those
NPCs is limited and sometimes drives you to not want to talk to the regular
people. I also noticed that the reply to something you say or ask an NPC
could overlap what you are saying, especially if you are not talking to the
person for the first time.
Though I can't raise Gothic up on the platform of total originality,
I must say that this is just a rehash of old stuff. The game gives a simple
view of the weapons system, but doesn't just give you everything at once
... and that it does give you, sometimes you still have to work to be able
to use it properly. I never have really enjoyed a third person game as much
as I have this one. No, it doesn't really play like Tomb Raider, in case
you were wondering.
The translation is supurb, as it seems the game was originated
in Denmark and relased in Europe a while ago.
I have to give some kudos to replay value. With three different
factions to join, there are quite a few relationships and roles that you
can develop. I will definitely play the game at least three times, and probably
more just to explore the different class occupations.
The visuals this game treats the player with are fabulous.
Gothic basically installs completely on your hard drive, so if you have a
fast drive all the better. The sunspots are blinding; the shading and lighting
effects are superb. I do have to mention a few faults though. For instance,
entering each area on the world map is seamless. There are no loading times
unless you enter a dungeon or someplace huge like that. However, when you
are walking near the forest you can see the boxy outline of its edge until
you get close enough. Also, there have been several times when I've gotten
myself stuck in the ground or wall by jumping at the wrong time - which I
do a lot. When you're standing on a mountaintop, looking around, I think
that the distances could be increased ... but to be honest, the stress on
my system would have been outlandish (P4 1.4gHz, 512Mb Ram, 64 MB GeForce).
Yes, the game is huge.
The game itself shouldn't give you the 'hair-pulls' or the
'kick my computer' feeling. However, there are several battles that you
just wish you could be faster, or have better armor. I save often, especially
when entering uncharted territory and exploring.
To beat this game you're looking at about 60+ hours. Of course,
you can do it faster, or you can be like me and do anything and everything
you can discover. If you want to fully experience everything and get the
full experience levels for each mission, you're probably looking at about
I bought it. I don't regret it. At first, I had no idea what
I was getting into, but now I want to spread the gospel of Gothic. Even
though I find myself wishing constantly that I could have another friend
in the game watching my back when hunting Orcs, I spend too much time on
this highly addictive game. Combine the visuals with the story and the music
and soundtracks, throw in the exhilarating rush of actually controlling battle,
and the desire to get the armor that "That guy has", and this game is pretty
much a must buy. Add the fact that it doesn't require the CDs to play, and
you and your friends might like it even better. The game itself cost a fraction
of what I would expect. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to
figure out what's happening with whoozits and the other guy, and get a sweet
axe and some promised nearly indestructible armor! Play the game!