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Gothic 3

Oblivion may be the big RPG story this spring, but sooner or later, even that massive game will end - and when it does, you know you'll want The Next Thing. That could be Gothic 3, Apsyr's ambitious swords-and-slashery epic, which already looks fairly promising, even if it's months away.

In the third installment of the big-in-Europe Gothic series, you'll find yourself at the losing end of a battle between orcs and humans. The soft pink people have been enslaved by leathery green overlords, leaving only a handful of humans still roaming free. Some have formed pockets of resistance; others have fled to nearly uninhabitable climates. The rest live in fear and oppression - and that's where you come in.

The decisions you make while playing Gothic 3 will help shape the story and decide its outcome. The non-linear structure frees you to roam the enormous world of Khorinis (three times the size of Gothic 2), completing missions in whatever order you see fit and forging associations that affect everything else you do. If you're okay with orcish oppression, you'll have to ignore the pleas from your fellow humans - but siding with the freedom fighters will get you a dangerous reputation among the brutish rulers. Your alliances will in turn create or deny opportunities and change the way people treat you, so balancing the politics is as important as building up your magic and combat skills. And the choice between life and death is yours as well - if you move from knocking enemies out to slaying them, expect that to affect your reputation too.

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