Several months ago I was handed the preview copy to the game Gothic. The preview, despite its faults (it was a beta version) had me hooked with its innovative storyline and gaming potential. I wrote up what I believed to be a fair and concise preview noting that I was looking forward to the end product. Well, the game has finally been released and I, dear readers was given the finished copy to review.
An unholy war against the orcs has been fought for years. The malevolent King Rhotbar has done just about everything he can to keep the tides of war from swelling into the kingdom. Countless lives have been lost and yet the good King can't help but think the way to win the war against the orcs is trapped within the prison itself. You see, in an attempt to keep up the war effort in the early years, the king decreed that all criminals, no matter how petty the crime, were to work their penance off in the ore mines; digging for the ore necessary to make weapons and armor. So the king sent his most powerful mages to do the unthinkable, erect a magical barrier that effectively traps the prisoners inside'you can go in, but you can't come back out (unless you want to be barbequed). Tragically, something went wrong and the barrier grew too large too quickly and the mages themselves were trapped inside. Not knowing what was happening, the guards inside took their eyes off the prisoners and paid the ultimate price. Yes, in mere moments, Khorinis was now being run by the prisoners. Not wanting to send any more soldiers and guards to their deaths, the king made an uneasy treaty with the prisoners; "Keep mining the ore for me and I'll continue to send in supplies, food and even more prisoners as they are arrested."
So that brings us to you; an unnamed character who is about to be tossed into Khorinis when an emissary of the King shows up. "Deliver this sealed note to the high Fire Mage and any desire will be granted." Of course, who could refuse? So in you go. Since the barrier kills anyone close to it on the inside, you are tossed off of a cliff so you can fall quickly past the kill zone. Subsequently, you are dragged to the shore by fellow prisoners and beat up. Welcome to prison life.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Gothic is an RPG hybrid viewed in the 3rd person perspective. Players can fine tune the controls to their liking but ultimately won't be happy with any sort of tweaking. Yes, let's get to the problems Gothic has right away, so I can end this review on a high note.
In Gothic, the control scheme is fairly common for most games of this type. You primarily use the arrow keys to move and the mouse to steer and jump. Now for the most part, this works just fine. But let me explain something. If you kill an animal or enemy, you can walk up to their corpse and the name of whatever it is you are trying to examine pops up on the screen. No biggie, so far. Then you must hold the left mouse button down and press up. This switches the screen to an inventory type of screen where all the objects on your victim are listed on the left. Using the arrow keys, you can highlight the different items. Once you have selected something that you want, you must hold down the mouse button and press right, effectively moving the desired object into your own inventory. Pressing the wrong key in this menu locks you out of all inventory functions (at least I found it to be this way) and you must back out entirely and start over. A frustrating experience when time is crucial.
This same setup plagues the bartering screen. If you go up to a merchant or anyone else willing to barter or trade the same screen pops up with the addition of two smaller empty slots in the middle, one for you and one for the merchant. You then select the item(s) you want from the merchant and put them in the center left menu and put the items you want to trade with from your inventory to the center right menu. Now, remember you must use the same "hold down mouse button and press right" (or left concerning your side). The two center menus list the values of the items in it. If you think you have a trade you'd like to make you then hit the enter button and a window pops up where you can select trade or don't trade. Now if the items aren't exactly even in value (or more in favor for the other side) you won't get a trade. Now, this part I don't mind so much, but the "my side" part of the inventory is still confusing to me. You see, your character has several different columns of inventory items. Columns like weapons, items, text items and such. When you move the highlight cursor over to your right side items when trying to barter, the cursor is dropped on whatever the last column you were working with. So, you select the item that you want to trade and then press left to go back to the center menus, instead you scroll through the several columns. So essentially, when you went right to select an item to barter with, when you press left, instead of going back to the center menus, you must scroll through the several columns. OK, I know, it might sound petty, but this interface is best described as clunky. Surely there could have been an easier way of doing the whole inventory thing? Whatever happened to click and drag? Either way, it's a frustrating (mildly frustrating, but frustrating nonetheless) addition to an otherwise solid game.
OK, enough whining'on to the good stuff.
When you first arrive in Khorinis, it pays to keep your wits about you. Khorinis' occupants have broken into three camps; on of which is the "old camp," run by the Ore Baron who maintains the ore trade with the king. The old camp is the only camp that receives new items and maintains the largest military type presence. The next is the "new camp," which seceded from the old camp because they believed that there is a way to escape from the force field. The new camp is run by the Mages of Water and a man named Lares. They exist by farming, stealing and digging ore for themselves. The third group is "The Brotherhood." The Brotherhood stopped believing in all Gods and that a "Sleeper" would awaken and become their new God. The Brotherhood is filled with strange cultists and magical types who, if you do the right things, will teach you magic
That's one of the great things about Gothic'in order to complete your mission you must join one of the camps. And when you do, there are limitless possibilities. Each camp has a sort of hierarchy that must be adhered to. I chose to play as a character that joined the Old camp. In the beginning (I suppose this applies to all camps no matter which one you choose) it pays to be smart. One of the first missions I accepted was to find out where a missing guard was. Rumors around the camp said that the guard (Nek) had gone off to join the New Camp, but upon further inspection I found Nek dead in a cave. In order to prove that I found him I needed to deal with the three large molerats that were mulling around the cave. Well early in the game, my character was pretty much an armorless dud with nothing much more then a rusty sword. So, after dying several times trying to fight the molerats I figured out that I could get them to chase me right up to the Old Camp's gate, where the guards quickly dispatched my foes. Yep, that's how I dealt with a lot of monsters in the game. By running those to whatever guards were handy.
Now don't get me wrong, this non-linear adventure will have you running all over the prison. And don't think that by joining one camp you are banned from the others. It doesn't work that way. The magical dome is so large and the monsters that roam its areas are so powerful, that most humans look out for one another. Not to say that there won't be times where you are fighting other humans. Don't worry, there is plenty of intrigue, back stabbing and even an arena where both money can be won and respect will be earned.
As you adventure on, your character never gets relegated to a particular class. If you learn magic, you can still use all weapons. By the end of the game you could essentially be a sword-swinging sorcerer. I liked this gameplay; it reminded me of those old Commodore 64 games, Legacy of the Ancients and The Legend of Blacksilver. Games where pretty much everything you find, can be used for your own benefit. And trust me, you will find tons of stuff in this game. There is well over 100 different weapons to be used and various armors to be worn. Food can be found almost everywhere (berries, mushrooms, etc.) and all of it will increase your health. Magical amulets and rings can be worn and the various combinations of them will increase your character's statistics. Magical scrolls and runes are used to cast magic and strange objects tend to pop up every once in a while. The game is absolutely limitless. If you want to find something new, just pick a direction and start walking, you're bound to run into an old mine or watchtower or something. And once you do, a new mission could very well present its self.
In order to keep things straight, the game contains a hot key that brings you to the status list. Here you can read the missions you are currently working on, (including all the clues that the game automatically writes down for you) the missions you have completed and the ones you have failed. The missions are original and don't always involve violence. Remember, you are trying to get on the good side of whatever camp you want to join, so doing favors and running errands can be rewarding since prison life is all about respect. Doing these favors and defeating enemies gets you experience points, which like most RPG's, increases your health points and other statistics.
Of course the game's missions will involve learning other skills. These skills can be learned by being taught by the right prisoner. Some will teach you the art of lock picking while others show you how to wield different weapons. With skills like "sneaking" and "acrobatics" you know that the game is going to get really interesting. Of course, the kind of people that will teach you these skills will require their own sort of "payment." Getting your hands dirty and bloody is all part of the game.
Gothic has those polygonal graphics seen in Unreal Tournament. The environments and locations are worth the money alone. Cool looking mines and decrepit castles dot the environment. The game has some truly stunning architecture. Now, while I did run this game on high detail, every once in a while I had items in the distance blinking in and out of vision.
My biggest pet peeve in any game, especially RPG's, is silly looking monsters. This game doesn't have them, thankfully. Monsters are plentiful and very well done. Wolves run in packs, giant lizard creatures storm across the fields, and goblins hop around looking for their next victim. The monsters move fluidly and all look dangerous. Color schemes blend well with both the creatures' body and the area in which they prey. One type of monster, the minecrawlers, were looked so much like giant bugs, I actually got the heebie-jeebies. If that isn't a selling point, I don't know what is.
Monsters, humans, buildings, landscapes'they all tie together so well, you would think that the programmers were actually there.
The game came through my computer's surround sound system beautifully. There was strong voice work by the many different characters that you talk with and clear environmental sounds that all came through my speakers clear as a bell. Being that I live in the Seattle area, I feel I am an expert on what rain sounds like, and with rain pouring down at random times during the game, I can only say that Xicat's recreation of the sound of rain was near perfect.
Pentium II 400 or equivalent.
128 MB RAM.
700 MB hard disk space.
16 MB 3 D accelerated graphics card.
AMD 1.4 processor.
512 MB RAM.
40 gig Hard Drive
Geforce 2, 64 MB graphics card.
I was a might bit disappointed with the manual. As I stated above, I found the whole "inventory" screen to be a bit frustrating. Unfortunately, the manual doesn't really explain the inventory process at all. The control setup seems was little more then a blurb on one page of the manual.
Man, this game is just flat out cool. Gothic is high adventure for anyone willing to take the trip, and a lengthy one too. At an estimated 100 hours of gameplay, you can consider yourself busy for the next several weeks. This title is a truly epic quest with excellent replayability. This game got under my skin so bad that I remember getting out of bed at 2:00am and going downstairs to play it. Any fan of RPGs or adventure should do themselves a favor and purchase this game. Sure, it has some minor issues, but they aren't anything that can't be overcome. This game rocks!
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP