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Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Xicat Interactive
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Gothic sports a solid, if not mind-blowing, graphical engine. The environments are massive, which helps explain the painful load times at the beginning of each play, and the passage of time is portrayed quite nicely. Over all this sits the ominously glowing dome that surrounds the entire area, keeping you from escaping. It's a nice effect, even if the environments are a little more polygonal than I would have liked. The same can be said for the characters; they're not particularly well articulated, but they get the job done.

The game's sound is solid as well. The voice acting is good, if occasionally a bit overdone; there's so much of it, though, that you have to be impressed by the sheer quantity of speaking roles in the game. The music is subdued and rather unmemorable, which is better than loud and obnoxious any day of the week. And the sound effects are solid, if well within the realms of Generic Fantasy Effects.


Gothic sports one of the most original fantasy settings that I've ever seen in an RPG, and the ability to fully explore it. It also sports one of the most god-awful interfaces ever invented, which detracts from the experience entirely too much for its own good. Combined with a shallow combat system, the few major problems knock the game down from the high stoop to which it aspires, especially for the novice gamer who has never played this sort of thing before.

The game starts off weird, and just keeps going from there. In the kingdom of Mertana, there exists a sort of prison surrounding a number of mines. Unfortunately for the King, the prisoners revolted a while back and took control of the place, so now there is an uneasy agreement between the two sides; the King provides goods, and the prisoners provide the ore that the King needs. The prisoners inside the mine area have divided into three camps, each with their own agendas and ways of life. Into this tense situation your character is thrown, with a letter to be delivered to a group of mages. These mages are the ones who created the barrier to begin with, and are trapped inside.

>From there, it gets even more interesting. Gothic doesn't really bind you to any one course; you can make friends and enemies with just about anyone in the game, but you have to reap the consequences that you sow by your actions. It makes for a delightfully different experience, considering the static nature of most RPGs nowadays.

Character advancement in the game is fairly standard, reminiscent of the Ultima Underworld games. You gain experience by killing enemies and the like, and you can have people train you in different skills that come in handy in the world. This way your character develops the way you want them to, rather than the way the designers geared it. The game is big enough that you can play it just about any way that you like, which is nice.


Unfortunately, for a first time player being dropped into the world of Gothic may be entirely too overwhelming. There is no 'training' period, where you're given time to get the hang of the game as a whole. You're simply thrown whole-hog into the situation, with only a few clues as to what you need to do. It's easy to undertake tasks that are entirely too difficult for your character at the beginning of the game, so you have to be extremely careful and pick and choose what you do. Going into the Old Camp the first time can be entirely overwhelming, considering the number of people to talk to and things to do; the game branches like crazy, and newbies may find themselves rapidly lost. Those who are old hats to the genre, on the other hand, will find themselves pleasantly surprised by the number of choices that they can do, from simple to challenging.

Game Mechanics:

All right. The number-one problem with Gothic is its completely counter-intuitive interface. Instead of using a number of different keys for different actions, you use the 'Use' button in combination with particular directions to pick up items, swing in combat, trade, and the like. While it's certainly a savings in terms of keyboard space used, it's also extremely obtuse and counterintuitive. It may be well suited to a console system, since the number of buttons that are otherwise used are minimal, but that's no excuse to saddle PC gamers with such a binding control scheme. Once you get past that travesty, though, the game's mechanics are quite solid. Character advancement is entertaining, I didn't encounter any major scripting bugs (although I'm sure that in a game this large there's one or two hiding about), and you can get used to the controls. The game does have an inordinately long load time for a PC game, but as I mentioned before it's probably because of the huge environments.

With a steep difficulty curve and obfuscated control scheme, Gothic will appeal only to the hardcore gamer who doesn't mind toughing their way through the first few hours of a game to get to the more interesting parts. With a revamp of the controls and a gentler introduction into the world of Mertana, this would be one of the best RPG experiences I've had on the PC in a while. As it is, it's still quite solid, even if one can only recommend it to veteran RPGers. Those who this term applies to, take note; Gothic is a fascinating world to explore.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me/2K, P2 400, 128MB RAM, 700MB HD Space, 3D accelerator w/ 16MB VRAM, 4x CD-ROM

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Giants: Citizen Kabuto Windows Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated