Gothic and its sequel, Gothic II, offered a challenging role-playing experience but had technical issues that caused the games to run poorly. You can pretty much say the same thing about Gothic 3, although the sequel is better in some areas. It still suffers from performance problems, especially on computers that don’t have a lot of horsepower under the hood, but its strengths make it worth a look if you have a computer that can handle it and you’re in the market for a challenging, open-ended game.
Like the previous games, Gothic 3 places you in the role of the series’ nameless hero, a soft-spoken adventurer who can eventually pursue one of three career paths: warrior, archer, or wizard. The game’s story–which puts you in the middle of a nation enslaved by brutal orc oppressors–may seem a bit opaque to players who haven’t played the previous games, but those who have will appreciate the references to characters and items from Gothic and Gothic II. Like in those games, the nameless hero starts off with little to no basic training in the game’s many different profession skills (which include various schools of sorcery, mastery of different hand-to-hand weapons, and animal skinning, among other things), and can eventually learn these skills by gaining enough experience to gain levels and visit advanced trainers who can teach him.
Gothic 3 makes some real improvements over the previous games. For instance, though you’re still expected to progress through most of the game by taking quests that are kept in a less-than-organized journal, the overall quest structure is much better defined and more cohesive. You’ll find yourself taking on fewer long-term quests that require travel to many different areas and more short-term, local quests whenever you enter a new area. Though they’re sometimes a bit shallow and often require you to kill a certain number of monsters or retrieve certain items, these shorter-term quests are much easier to keep track of, and they’re designed to keep you moving throughout the game’s vast world in a logical progression–one that can actually affect how the world is laid out.
A lot of Gothic’s real estate consists of wilderness broken up by small encampments led by a powerful chieftain character. If you can gain enough of that village’s confidence by completing faction-specific quests, you can get the chieftain’s attention and, usually, a quest to exterminate an enemy village, which will then be repopulated by the faction you were working for. But the world of Gothic is huge and the game is quite long, so you can still wander all over the place and get lost if you care to, though if you wander too far, you may be ambushed by tough monsters that will make short work of you.