|Publisher:||Egmont Interactive, Xicat Interactive|
|Genres:||RPG / Classic Role-Playing|
|Release Date:||March 15, 2001|
The game that started the Gothic franchise was much less popular outside its German homeland, where it sparked much praise. But the series caught on nonetheless after the it went global. In this first installment, it tells the story of a fantasy maximum security prison as its outlaw inhabitants take over the joint. By joining their ranks and achieving greatness, you partake in their daring escape plan.
Built both as a prison and forced labor camp, the Penal Colony of Khorinis, as it was known, was a rich source of magical ore for the mythical Kingdom of Myrtana. Things go awry for the unwary guards as the prison populace rises up and takes the penal colony for themselves. Eager not to lose the ore, the King declares a truce with the prisoners and sends them outside goods for valuable shipments of ore. After ‘rotting inside a dungeon for two months’, you’re thrown into this chaotic affair as an anonymous prisoner, your ultimate goals and means of achieving them unknown.
And that’s one of the best things about Gothic. It doesn’t hold your hand but rather throws you into the world, ultimately leaving you to fend for yourself in a grueling world comprised of cutthroats, thieves and murderers. As you may have already noticed, Gothic is much more darker in tone than you’re average fantasy adventure, much of what you’d expect from the maximum security prison that is the Penal Colony. The game world stretches several square miles of hostile environment interspersed by human settlements. Located in different ends of the wilderness are three camps, each comprised of different inhabitants with different agendas. The humans that inhabit the world of Gothic act much more than virtual signposts for the player; they have their own tasks and troubles to see to and can be found doing different things in different hours of the day. Non-player characters tend to menial tasks such as cooking, forging, washing and such, but occasionally stop for a chat with other NPC’s they get along with. In short, Gothic has a living, breathing game world with an active populace, and this makes for some great immersion.
Communities have their own code of law to keep everyone in check. Stealing, trespassing or committing acts of violence will result in swift reprisal if you’re caught. Petty crimes are treated more leniently, requiring you to pay a tax, while more extreme gestures (like killing someone without provocation) will result in instant death. Even suspicious actions like sneaking around or drawing your weapon will get NPC’s to call out your behavior.
Greatness is achieved by first joining either one of the three major factions, or camps, of the Colony. The prisoners disbanded after they were left to their own devices and formed separate camps, each pursuing their own escape plan. The Old Camp is built around the castle that once housed the prison guards; the New Camp is formed of rogues while the Swamp Camp worships a mythical deity. The first portion of the game is spent deciding which one of these factions to join, then actively increasing you’re reputation within their ranks until. This is probably the best part of Gothic, since it involves the most freedom and exploration.
Characters are built by earning experience points, either by defeating beasts or completing quests for fellow inmates. As you level-up, you’ll also earn skill points, which can be used to increase your base attributes learn new skills provided you find the proper teacher. For a modest fee, a skilled hunter can teach you about archery while a thief can fill you in on pick-pocketing and sneaking. Players are free to expand their character whichever way they choose. There are no penalties for a mage to better himself at two-handed sword fighting or for a thief-type character to learn magic.
Those were the fun parts. As it were, Gothic suffers from a number of technical issues, some minor and some serious. The game can get incredibly frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing, not the least because of its technical issues. Combat is an absolute nightmare as you’re required to focus in one enemy at a time during a fight, while any other foes around your target is free to hack you to bits. Since there’s no way of fending off multiple foes, you must fight each attacker in turn, making combat much more difficult that it should be. Weapon controls are equally unresponsive and can take forever to properly manage. Point being, ever technical issue in this game is so geared as to get killed around every corner. This game is unmerciful.
Low level players without decent equipment can barely take on the lowest creatures. And while there’s no physical barrier keeping you from exploring the whole game world, there are many vicious beasts that new characters simply can’t kill. Overall, the game is enjoyable if you’re considerate enough to look past its clumsy control scheme, bugs and learning curve.
System Requirements: PII 400 Mhz, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB Video, 700 MB HDD, Win 98/ME/2K/XP