Gothic (PC) Review

By Athanasios 11.03.2021

Review for Gothic on PC

Gothic is the quintessential Piranha Bytes title. It's a low budget, extremely rough-around-the-edges, and pretty hardcore RPG; one that's not exactly a looker, or which takes place in a world that is outlandish enough compared to other similar games. Despite the many odds, and although a victim of rushed production, it became one of the most beloved cult classics of the genre. What is it that made people stomach is many flaws, and more importantly, what did it have, that other RPGs didn't? Cubed3 tries to answer all that, by going back into the past, and into the year of our Lord the Sleeper: 2001.

The kingdom of Myrtana is fighting a losing war against the invading Orcs. In an attempt to gain the upper hand, its monarch decides to use the magic ore to forge powerful weaponry, and in order to maximise production he imprisons everyone who works at the mines via a dome-like barrier. Unfortunately, the spell that achieved that soon went out of control, trapping the wizards who created it, and giving the convicts the chance they needed to slay their wardens, and claim the Colony for themselves. This puts them in a position where they can "bully" the king into providing them with all sorts of resources, in exchange for the precious ore that only they can now acquire. You, the hero of this tale, will soon join them.

This guy is a nameless nobody, who is thrown into the barrier only to get punched senseless by the "greeting committee" moments after. Gothic isn't done with him yet. This will make sure to engrain into the one behind the keyboard that this man is a green horned weakling, who will struggle to survive in a hostile world that's basically a prison. Expect lots of pleasantries from the townsfolk. They will bully you, try to deceive you, ask for protection money "or else," and generally make you know your place. The wildlife surrounding the few tiny pockets of civilization isn't a pushover either. Expect swift death from simple, low level beasts, especially if you meet more than two.

Screenshot for Gothic on PC

In order to get his hands on any decent equipment, improve his stats, and eventually begin his quest towards freedom, the protagonist will first have to work really hard in order to join one of the three camps. Typical of pretty much any Piranha Bytes title, progression is slow, and mostly revolves around doing side-quests to strengthen the character before getting to do… well, anything actually. In the vast majority of RPGs, and especially the mainstream ones, players eat dragons for breakfast - in here, a simple group of critters can kill you in a few swoops, and seeing a pack of wolves when you muster the courage to enter a forest will make you wet yourself. You can also forget about any kind of hand-holding.

At times, Gothic puts Dark Souls to shame when it comes to not explaining things. One needs to pay attention in order to learn where is what, and how something needs to be done, with no quest marker pointing the way. This is one of those RPGs that treats players like adults; adults that can actually fail, and not just receive a slightly different outcome when choosing option B over A. As an example, someone will have the hero buy an ornamental sword from another person, but mention how their relationship isn't exactly very good. If one makes the mistake of informing the buyer for whom the item is for… then it's bye-bye ornamental sword, and, more importantly, bye-bye to the XP that goes with it!

Screenshot for Gothic on PC

Is this game's unforgiving nature the reason why, after all these years, this remains a cult classic that most people don't really know of? Frankly, no. The aforementioned FromSoftware gem is extremely popular despite it being far more "sadistic," for the simple reason that it is tons of fan AND works as intended. Sadly, this is a pretty flawed piece of software. A victim of rushed production, it was almost unplayable back in the day due to its many bugs (especially when it comes to climbing ladders), and things are even worse nowadays, since the installation of a couple of fixes (official and not) are a must for those who want to run the darn thing on any modern machine. That's not all, unfortunately.

Once one gets past the bugs, the next obstacle is the way this actually plays. Starting with the controls, while not necessarily broken, they are inconvenient to say the least. Why should you press 'Action' + Forward when trying to pick up an item? Why should the simple act of opening a chest need more than three button presses? Why is the combat such a bloody mess?! Gothic also tends to sacrifice some of the genre's quality-of-life mechanics for the sake of realism. As an example, when it comes to raising stats, the hero can't just self-improve - instead, he must go to a trainer, and pay him to do so. A specific trainer, that is, as most aren't versed in, say, lock-picking and one-handed weaponry.

Screenshot for Gothic on PC

There are RPGs out there that are far more entertaining - so why have so many fallen in love with this? The key word here is 'immersion.' Starting with Gothic's look, whereas most of its kind go for a striking, "cool" style, like Skyrim, or a more bizarre one, like in its contemporary, Morrowind, this offers a more mundane world, that mostly strives to engross, not simply impress. This focus in realism helps in letting the fictional elements stand out more when they eventually make an appearance. Spending 10 hours with simple humans and their simple human affairs can make a towering Orc that comes towards while growling look much more frightening than it already is.

There are many little touches here and there that add to the Colony's believability, with one notable example being how when the night falls, it really falls, and the light of your torch barely helps you see what's up ahead. The thing that really brings life to this microcosm, however, is the way it is structured. The three separate camps, for example, aren't just bases were the NPCs live, but distinct societies with their own traditions, architecture, and way of thinking, and that's reflected into how each of these factions is organized, and, more importantly, into their approach to freedom, whether that's the pragmatic strategy of the New Camp, or the metaphysical one of the Sect Camp's religious cult.

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What this tries to say is this: Gothic makes sense. There's only a handful women in the Colony, and those women are mostly sex slaves? That's because this is essentially a freaking prison, run by a bunch of ruthless and/or desperate convicts. Said convicts are aggressive, rude, selfish, and far from the charismatic heroes of fantasy novels and games? Well, what else would such a place be like exactly?! Even the aforementioned way one levels up the hero's abilities actually adds to the realism of it all, as well as how it doesn't rain 'Epic Claymores of Death' and Legendary 'Potions of Instant Resurrection' (just add water), with exploration usually providing you a few measly XP points, and a herb or two to replenish - some - of your health with.

No. This isn't the perfect RPG its fanatical fanbase will have you believe it is (especially in Poland or Russia). It's actually one that's hard to recommend to just anyone. Apart from the flaws explored so far, many will find it hard to remain invested for more than 10 hours (out of the 30-40 this needs); the world is interesting, but the plot is just decent, and there's not much lore to read; the realism is godsend, but too much uneventful walking between the major areas has to be endured. In the end, none of this matter. Gothic, like all cult gems, is a love-or-hate kind of deal. Do check it out if given the chance, though. You might be one of those lucky people who'll fall in love with its merciless world.

The often goofy English voice-acting is a treat, by the way…

Screenshot for Gothic on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Tired of RPGs were you become the chosen one after the intro? Then check out Gothic. This cult classic gem by Piranha Bytes might not be the most polished one, and its purposely "hardcore" mind-set might not be for everyone (especially if spoiled by modern representatives of the genre), but few titles can claim to be as immersive as this is.

Developer

Piranha Bytes

Publisher

THQ

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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