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-   -   Retrospective: Gothic 1 (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20288)

Maylander May 6th, 2013 14:09

Retrospective: Gothic 1
 
It’s been a while since I’ve played through the Gothic series, so I figured it was high time to do so. A few years ago, I replayed Gothic so frequently it always felt natural to get back into it (5+ times per year).

This time, however, enough time has passed to make me forget certain things, making the whole thing a bit more interesting. Also, my impressions weren’t what I thought they would be, so it might be somewhat interesting for people to read. After all, it’s fairly well known that I am a rather dedicated Gothic fan, and my experience wasn’t quite what I expected.

First things first: I replayed Gothic 1 twice now (Guard + Magician), and I will replay Gothic 2 NotR shortly. I might also play through Gothic 2 vanilla and do a comparison between vanilla and NotR, as I don’t even remember what Gothic 2 was like back then. Finally, I’ll replay Gothic 3, with the community patch, but without any of the modes.

Each “article” will feature one game, unless people want me to split G2 and 3 up a bit to increase the level of detail.

Let’s get to it!
1) Installed Gothic.
2) Tweaked settings to maximize the graphics.
3) New game!

Bam. Video didn’t work. First glitch encountered. Ah well, let’s just skip it and watch the first in-game cutscene. The cutscene with Pyrokar and our nameless hero was roughly the way I recalled it except.. ugly. I don’t mean ugly as in “dented Porsche” kind of ugly. I mean train wreck ugly. I recently replayed BG1: EE followed by BG2, and they both looked fine, but Gothic almost made my eyes bleed. This is the main problem with 3D vs 2D. 3D is so tech based, once the tech improves it’ll look like crap.

My next impression was: The controls are sluggish. Moving, picking up stuff, inventory (where objects are still invisible, second glitch spotted), combat – it’s all got this sluggish feel that I didn’t remember. I suspect I’ve played G2 NotR a few times since I last played Gothic, as G2 is a significant improvement in terms of controls.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I actually quit once I got to the old camp. I didn’t feel like continuing. I’ve never had this feeling when playing Gothic before. I actually left the game for several days before coming back to give it another go.

Once I started exploring the old camp things improved greatly. The sluggish feeling was still there, and the square-looking graphics were most certainly still present, but the old feeling of exploring Gothic returned. There’s something special about exploring the old camp, the people doing their daily routines, the music (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JVtVyfAHNc), Mud. Oh, right. Mud. I usually avoid him by jumping over his hut, but this time I forgot, so I got stuck with Mud. He is quite possibly the most annoying character I’ve ever seen in a game. Luckily, he somehow vanished when I left the old camp with Mordrag to go to the new camp. I don’t know where, I don’t know how, but I don’t care as long as he left me alone.

In the new camp, I tried doing my usual thing where I upgrade my character to become a fighting machine. The thing is: You can get some really powerful weapons there if you know how, such as the axe of Lares or Silas. Unfortunately, it seems I forgot a certain thing or two because I just kept getting my ass handed to me by both of them. No worries, I know how to get a mediocre weapon first – Shrike or some such thing is near Gorn, and he’s a pansy. Or so I thought until he flattened me.

At this point, I was completely overlooking the crap graphics and sluggish controls. I was well and truly hooked again, and every time I got knocked down simply lead to more determination. This has always been one of the strengths of Gothic – yes, it can be hard, but it’s so damn sweet once you succeed!

In the end I did get my hands on Lares’ axe, but I didn’t have the strength to use it. Such a bummer. I don’t even know what I did different from my regular runs, but it must’ve been something.

After doing most of the stuff in the new camp, I always go to the sect camp (lead there by Baal whatever from the old camp). The sect camp is definitely my favorite, I really like the laid back style, the swamp, huts etc. I also love the heavy armor of the Templars. They’re still awesome. And let's not forget Baal Netbek, the "guru of the swamp" who thinks the trees are his servants, and that they're skipping and jumping about. He wants to turn the whole place into a flowery meadow. Good luck!

One thing I had noticed by now was the voice acting. I remember there being quite a bit of criticism, but I honestly don’t understand why. Yes, I’ve heard better, but I actually feel it’s among the better games out there. In fact, everything in terms of sound is still top notch in my opinion (sound effects, music, voices, etc).

Let’s fast forward a bit: Camp choice time. I suspect they wanted to do more with the camp choice – it now serves as a class choice, and a sense of belonging, which works out fine, but other than the game is (almost) identical from here on. It would’ve been fantastic for the replay value if there had been a few more differences.

While I was still on a roll and having fun, I had now become quite agitated with all the bugs (no, not meat bugs, though trying to hit them can be somewhat frustrating). I was crashing quite frequently, and even when it didn’t crash I often had to force a shut down as the main character got stuck mid-air when jump over stuff or down from certain places. This is the kind of thing nostalgia has a habit of removing from memory.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out in Gothic 3, because my experience in Gothic has convinced me it’s in a far worse technical state than Gothic 3 ever was. Either it’s been too long since I last played Gothic 3, or people simply had higher demands by the time it was released. Gothic 1 is also worse than any Bethesda title I’ve played in recent memory, and that’s saying something. There’s also a bunch of other glitches like Gorn attacking you if you get shot by a crossbow bolt (don’t ask me why) or Gorn getting stuck or Gorn accusing you of attacking him despite never having attacked him or Gorn starting a cutscene and then running in the opposite direction, meaning you have to open task manager and shut down the game manually and then reload. Maybe they should’ve done a little more Gorn testing.

At any rate, bar the bugs, I was enjoying it a lot. Going through one quest after the other, gaining power and then WOOSH it was over. Seriously. Once you get the portal runes, you’re 8 hours away from the end. It’s just bam, bam, thank-you-ma’am, done. I knew it was shorter than most people think, but I didn’t expect the “2nd half” being, in reality, the last 25%. It’s actually a bit similar to Risen in that regard, though it has to be said that the ending is still a lot more fun than the one in Risen, as it’s not just lizards in caves.

After completing it once as a Guard, I started over as a Magician. I can’t say that changed my point of view significantly – it’s a bit more challenging in most cases, especially in the start, but it’s not too difficult. Fairly well balanced I’d say. I normally play Templar, which I consider the most fun, but also the most demanding in terms of spending skill points right. Guard and Magician are so straight forward in that regard there’s no real way to ruin the character build without doing something really dumb.

All in all, I still think Gothic is a milestone in the RPG genre due to the living, breathing world. The level of detail is amazing and the content density is fantastic as there’s something interesting to experience all over the place. However, certain aspects haven’t aged well, so the whole “remake” thing that some people are suggesting isn’t a bad idea.

I didn’t take too many notes when playing through Gothic 1 again, as I wasn’t planning to write this when I played it, but I’ll be sure to take some notes during G2 to make it a bit more accurate. Also, it would make it easy to do a fairly accurate comparison between G2 vanilla and G2 NotR, which I’m fairly certain hasn’t been done in quite some time (if ever?).

Feel free to post comments, questions etc. If there’s anything specific I should add (examples, details, whatever) just point it out. :)

Edit: A bit of a funny thing that I don't think most people have noticed. You get a quest near the end called "The Meeting" where you're supposed to talk to Lester and Gorn about meeting Diego and Milten. Talking to Gorn is no problem. Talking to Lester leads to the weirdest conversation I've ever heard in a game. I suspect they forgot the voice over for it and just patched it together with different quotes or some such thing, as it doesn't make any sense at all. He keeps changing his voice and saying random stuff that is just plain silly. Worth a look if you ever find yourself playing through it again.

GhanBuriGhan May 6th, 2013 14:49

Thanks, fun read. I played a bit of the game not that long ago (also just to and a little beyond the old camp), and my experience was similar in terms of still enjoying the setting and the atmosphere of it, although I don't remember running into as many bugs. It definitely looked better in my memory than in reality though :p If you are doing a rerun of the whole series, it would be cool if you'd do a retrospective for the main site.

Alrik Fassbauer May 6th, 2013 15:04

Wasn't Baal Netbeck named after a real person ? I forgot, whom.

Maylander May 6th, 2013 15:07

That is actually true Alrik! I found this:
"In the swamp camp the player can meet an insane NPC named "Baal Netbek". He is named and modelled after Joachim Nettelbeck who was a reviewer for the German magazine PC Player at the time. He even lent his voice to the character."

Dez May 6th, 2013 15:56

Maylander good job writing this retrospective of yours. Reading all that made me fuzzy inside and made me almost install gothic 1 once again, so job well done :D Its been few years since my last gothic run, so I'd love to replay the whole saga, but I'm afraid it will have to wait for summer when things calm down a bit.

Gothic is a very special game and it really moved the whole genre forward. More time passes, more I value it.

Btw have you seen the swamp witch? ;)

HiddenX May 6th, 2013 18:26

Gothic memories are coming back!

Thrasher May 6th, 2013 19:15

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061196615)
Iíll be perfectly honest, I actually quit once I got to the old camp. I didnít feel like continuing. Iíve never had this feeling when playing Gothic before. I actually left the game for several days before coming back to give it another go.

hahaha That's exactly what I did 2 weekends ago. The thought of interacting with all those people in old camp and trying not to screw up a quest or profession or relationship held me back. I'll go back once my Realms of the Haunting playback is done.

JDR13 May 7th, 2013 00:02

Nice little write-up, Maylander.

The only thing that bothers me about Gothic 1&2 is the odd way the camera turns in those games. Something about about the lazy camera movement actually makes me feel a little dizzy if I haven't played those games in a while. It goes away after some time though.

I haven't done a full playthrough in a very long time, but I encountered very few bugs during any of my previous playthroughs. I suspect at least some of the bugs you encountered have as much to do with modern hardware as the game itself.

Overall, there still hasn't been an action-RPG since G2 that can match those games in terms of atmosphere and exploration imo.

Thrasher May 7th, 2013 00:12

I think Morrowind is better in that regard by far, but it's a matter of style and taste, I suppose. I do like the brooding atmosphere.

JDR13 May 7th, 2013 00:19

I do love exploration in Morrowind, but Gothic has superior atmosphere hands down for me.

I'm talking specifically about action-RPGs though. I don't think Morrowind falls into that category.

Thrasher May 7th, 2013 00:58

Sure it does. Just like Oblivion and Skyrim, except dice as well as skill determine whether you hit. Still action, just a little randomness added is all.

EDIT: Actually, I'd reserve the term "action RPG" for Diablo and its clones. But I am more of purist than most. ;)

JDR13 May 7th, 2013 01:38

Simply having combat being determined by reflexes doesn't automatically make something an action-RPG. TES is more of a simulation\sandbox RPG to me.

I compare Gothic more to games like Two Worlds or Dragon Knight Saga. Although I think it's far superior to those titles.

DArtagnan May 8th, 2013 12:15

Morrowind isn't an action RPG in my opinion. For something to qualify for that genre - action has to be a major focus, which it most definitely isn't.

I'd argue that Oblivion and Skyrim COULD be considered action RPGs as dice rolls exited the picture and reflexes entered - but I wouldn't personally call them that.

Then again, it's as subjective and arbitrary as the RPG genre in itself.

But we all know that Thrasher is likely to be wrong when I don't agree with him.

Thrasher May 8th, 2013 16:40

Wrong again. Combat is the focus, just because you didn't like it, doesn't mean it didn't exist. The world does not revolve around Dart, but he would like it to. Yeah I'm sure you think very highly of yourself. But we all know you have a lot of bad ideas.

Alrik Fassbauer May 8th, 2013 22:49

Do there really exist RPGs where combat is actually *not* the focus ?

HiddenX May 8th, 2013 22:52

yes - there are called adventures :)

SpoonFULL May 8th, 2013 22:55

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer (Post 1061197072)
Do there really exist RPGs where combat is actually *not* the focus ?

I don't think so, how else would you give the player a challange that he/she can overcome with mechanical movement (button pressing) to give them the sense of achievement, without killing someone or something. Moreover, I don't think that gamers will be content with illness, political unrest, raising children, paying bills, cutting lawn .. etc. as challenges in an rpg ;).

Thrasher May 9th, 2013 02:40

Yeah, really by today's definition of an action RPG, every RPG I have ever played has pretty much focused on action (i.e. combat). Torment even had its share of combat.

That's why I prefer to use a more strict interpretation of "action RPG" as one that is almost entirely combat (e.g. Diablo).

Kostas May 9th, 2013 04:53

Could certainly identify with your text. The enjoyment I got after beating opponents, especially in 1v1, was usually more that what I get from your average boss fight.

Just a note on G3. I would strongly argue that playing with the QuestPaket and the Content mode leads to a MUCH better game with a degree of variety and detail close to what you'd expect in G1/G2. My estimation could be wrong but when I replayed G3 with those 2 there was ~30% more content and more precisely the type of content G3 lacked, "chapter"+city+level spanning quests.

ToddMcF2002 May 9th, 2013 13:36

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thrasher (Post 1061197031)
Wrong again. Combat is the focus, just because you didn't like it, doesn't mean it didn't exist. The world does not revolve around Dart, but he would like it to. Yeah I'm sure you think very highly of yourself. But we all know you have a lot of bad ideas.

I have to both agree and disagree here. Everything you said about Dart may be true ;). But calling Gothic an action RPG is absurd IMO given the well established RPG trapping/definitions. Gothic has practically everything required to be defined as a hardcore RPG yet its combat is skill based. Lets not deminish it! And saying Morrowind doesn't involve player reflex is slightly disingenuous. Stats control "to hit" but once speed and athletics skills rise (inevitable) they factor into combat as player skill.


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