The Gothic series has enjoyed widespread popularity throughout Germany with an expansive, open fantasy world that preceded the ever popular Oblivion by several years. Unfortunately, it looks like the series will continue to only remain popular with its hardcore fan base as clumsy combat, frustrating AI, and graphical anomalies will prevent most players from enjoying everything that Gothic 3 has to offer.
And there’s a lot that Gothic 3 offers for role-playing enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. Whether you’re sharpening your blade on a local smithy’s whetstone, hunting wild game, or just admiring the view, there’s always something to do in this immersive title. Over every hill lies another area that you’ll want to explore in Mirtana’s grand landscape, and with three separate factions to align yourself with and a seemingly never ending chain of quests, Gothic 3 could have knocked our socks off. But the finer pleasures of Gothic 3 get lost in its clumsy combat system, which demands frequent saving and loading.
One wrong move and you’ll be stuck in a stunned or knocked down animation while weak, low level beasts and unarmed enemies have their way with you. On the other hand, this can also work to your advantage because you can just keep swinging at opponents much stronger than you - keeping them stunned as you slowly chisel their health away. But we found this cheap - not challenging.
Battling more than one enemy at a time in melee combat is a death wish and you’ll want to save frequently to avoid losing hours of progress in case you unexpectedly run into a pack of hostiles or a foe that gets a few lucky swings in.
Fortunately, with some planning you can take care of hordes of enemies by exploiting their weak AI. There’s always a ledge to climb or behind a fence to run behind that can be used to exploit their poor path finding abilities as you rain down arrows or long range spells till they’re done for.
This results in frustrating button mashing battles as you frequently save and load to give those groups of wild animals or camps of orcs another try. Eventually, you’ll find yourself coming up with all kinds of hair brained schemes to overcome your foes like trailing a group of wolves into a camp of enemies to thin out their numbers.
Graphically, Gothic 3 looks stunning with gorgeous environments and a gigantic world to explore that dwarfs the size of Gothic 2’s landscape. Picture perfect vistas are almost everywhere you look with lifelike clouds drifting across the sky. But don’t expect to feast on the game’s eye candy unless you have a high end PC. Even if your system meets the recommended requirements, you’ll probably still experience occasional chugging and frozen screens on the low and medium detail settings. And without the detail levels set on high, the environments and character models don’t look as impressive when compared to other titles with much lower requirements
On the other hand, even if you're lucky enough to have a rig that can run Gothic 3 smoothly, there are still all sorts of laughable graphical anomalies which take away from the game’s otherwise awe inspiring look. In one area we murdered a rather rude orc and watched his lifeless head disappear into the graphics of the chest at his feet while his arms extended through the wall on his right. Couple that with text that runs off the screen in your quest log and flashing white screens when you look at a tree the wrong way and Gothic 3's great graphical front loses even more of its impact. Hopefully, patches are on the way to fix at least some of these woes.
The Gothic series has been praised for its realism and difficulty. But waiting patiently for our mana to regenerate after raining down fireballs of death from a ledge on hordes of orcs that couldn’t figure out how to climb up to attack us didn’t strike us as realistic or difficult. Still, despite our frustrations, we found ourselves returning to Gothic 3 because underneath the frustrating battles and occasional crashes lies an engrossing and deep RPG.
For now, only the hardest of hardcore RPG enthusiasts who make up the bulk of Gothic 3's US fan base should consider picking up this title if their system can handle it. You can expect more post-release patches from Piranha Bytes as they continue to work on improving the technical issues in Gothic 3. But at this moment, we found Gothic 3 to be more frustrating than fun as we saved, loaded, and crashed our way through this epic, yet tedious title.