Into the “fun” of dropping hundreds of dollars on a video game console? How about the pain of PC gaming, which can basically cost infinite dollars? It used to be easy to write off the PC gaming costs because the consoles, your PS2s, your Dreamcasts, your Xbox360s, all needed surround sound systems and the largest, most powerful, most deadly TV possible. No longer the case.
Yes, we’re getting closer to not having to double up on a monstrous display and surround sound systems, but that’s only really if you trust Microsoft for all your nerd needs. Which brings us to an upcoming bit of nerdery for Windows, Gothic 3. We’ve talked about Oblivion before, and Gothic as a series has always been the gruff German cousin to Oblivion’s Elder Scrolls. But with Gothic 3 there’s a real chance that won’t be the case.
It’s not for a few reasons. Graphically, despite its issues, Oblivion appears to still set the gold standard for western RPGs. And there’s no reason to think that support for Oblivion will drop off in the form of user mods or official mods. The two things that truly impressed us during our recent hands-on with Gothic 3 are closely interlaced, and where we get into the tech part of the post.
Telling a story as a game puts a critical choice into the designer’s hands: how much freedom to give the player, in exchange for a focused, epic story with the player at the center? Gothic’s reaction, as a series, has always been to struggle to give the player all the room they’d like to play in but such a gripping story that the player actually decides to pursue it. In Gothic 3, the nameless main character finally returns to his homeland to find that it’s been overrun and his people are slaves.
Not save the princess, or “oh no, demons!” Humanity enslaved. Yes, by the traditional fantasy bad guys of Orcs, but unlike saving the world from demons, most people can relate to themes of slavery, power, and put-upon social groups rising up and taking power. Oblivion lets you lead an assassin’s guild; Gothic 3 will let you be quisling against your race.
All of which revolves around an AI system that is looking amazing. More play will reveal how much it can really do, but there’s something about watching the fantasy genre’s most disposable characters — town guards — employ realistic tactics to engage a character, and then watch them fly in fear, into a berserk state, or into cover to try to hide as the combat goes against them? It’s the sort of thing that occurs in films easily and effortlessly, and that’s what the real promise of Gothic 3 can be: To finally put players into the center of a fantasy epic.