Gothic is an established franchise that has been charming us since 2001, when a daring and different RPG was released, a game which featured the Nameless Hero as the protagonist. But because the producers were German, Gothic was first released in its native country, while the English edition only got on the store shelves at the end of the same year.
Despite this, the new approach was a success, even if it was somewhat difficult for novices. Piranha Bytes tried something new and were rewarded for it, despite the fact that the first Gothic was not without its share of problems and had a hefty learning curve. In 2003 Gothic 2 saw the light of day, and the game was more accessible for those who weren’t masters of RPGs. It was followed by the Night of the Raven expansion that brought many new things to the table.
Unfortunately, Night of the Raven also had to be expected for more two years by the non-German fans, because the English version was not available until Jowood released the Gothic 2 Gold Edition. Grumpier fans or those who didn’t really want too much of a challenge complained about the increased difficulty, which tended to become exasperating here and there if one did not properly choose his skills, but the more hardcore fans were very satisfied with the new adventures.
In 2006 the third incarnation of Gothic was released, anxiously waited for and with a huge potential, but in the end it proved a disappointment. Not as a whole, but it wasn’t what it could (and should) have been. But even with all the problems, the franchise was a successful one and was very appreciated by a lot of gamers.
Unfortunately, Piranha Bytes had some disagreements with Jowood and gave up on the series, so the Austrian publisher passed on the work into the hands of the Indians of Trine Games. Being stressed by the short time that they had for development (or so they said), they decided it was for the best to just recycle instead of creating something new. Obviously, an expansion set in the same realm as the original game is supposed to have a lot of common elements with its predecessor, but unfortunately in this case there is only a massive copy – paste that doesn’t justify the work of the producers and the rush to release the game.
Bed-time stories for fans
As with many other recent titles, there was a lot of potential, but I can’t even begin to guess where it vanished. The game begins from the premise that there was an argument between The Nameless Hero and Xardas, his mentor and the man who helped him along the series. The argument seems to have political origins, with the reckless hero whishing to return to Myrtana to bring peace, while the wizard believes that things should be left as they are now.
The end result is a fight between the two, out of which the Nameless Hero barely makes it alive and ends up in Myrtana. All this is presented by an intro made up of questionable artworks that might have well been created by fans and not by a company that respects itself. After this “magnificent” intro, we find ourselves in Inog’s house, one of the known characters from Gothic 3, who seems to have rescued us from sleeping in the bushes.
From this point forward, the story can be found only if we search for it in the deepest caves. There’s no telling where it is, what it is and what it wants from us. The series fans already know that we must choose a faction and fulfill certain missions in order to gain reputation, and that we’ll end up fighting with the opposite faction. If the story were well presented, this aspect would have been more than enough, because the hero returns to make peace and this doesn’t require many twists, given the situation. But it is a long way from such a simple idea that almost worked in Gothic 3 to its very accomplishment.
From the moment we leave our benefactor’s house, the story fades away and leaves only a stroll to here and there, and a pointless one for the most part at that. The individualized NPCs are so few that we are usually walking between generic warriors, citizens and generals (it seems that the orcs have a lot of generals, but all of them are incompetent).
The other Gothics had a similar style, but we also had a whole range of NPCs who gave us quests, had something interesting to say and who helped us unfold the story. Here though, progress means mostly roaming the woods like a maniac. The very few NPCs that do have a name don’t even have something important to say. There are a lot of them that didn’t tell or ask me anything, although I went almost everywhere and done all that I was supposed to do. They are, as it seems, placed in the world more for art’s sake and because of this we get the respectable number of five NPCs with something to say per city, compared to a minimum of 20-30 per city in its predecessor.