Having played most of the computer RPGs over the last 20 years or so I’ve seen the games develop beyond the simple hack and slay 2D games, into the graphically fantastic and immersive video games that we see today. With game like The Witcher, Dragon Age and Oblivion setting the standards for future games, it’s an exciting time to see new RPG games emerge and join the ever growing catalog of quality games.
These days, when you spend $50 on an RPG game you want a game that is re-playable, has a deep and evolving plot and also has superb graphics and sound. Gothic 3, released several years ago, looked very good and was a sound hack and slash game, it was therefore exciting to here that Gothic 4 was to be released and I was hoping to see the game expand into the realms of Oblivion, providing a more in depth and satisfying plot while improving the graphics and combat. Overall, while the Graphics are definitely excellent, I came away disappointed with the lack of an immersive plot, and a combat system that really needs little thought to get the best out of. While followers of simple hack and slash games will love Gothic 4, there’s no doubt that the increasing number of serious RPG gamers will be sorely disappointed by the lack of depth and quality in the main plot, and the limited game play time.
So what is Gothic 4 like?
You have to say that the graphics are pretty impressive on a top PC. Interestingly, the makers have created two ‘graphics’ options, one for Europe and one for US, to try and create a larger audience in the US – personally, I liked the feel of the European mode more, although the graphics in both modes were impressive.
As you’ve come to expect from RPG games these days, the attention to detail in the graphics is excellent. Grass sways, and weather and lighting changes effectively, creating a great atmosphere for game play – some of the animations of the character are a little ‘awkward’ but overall the look of the game is great, and as I started to play, I really liked the way the game ‘felt’.
As you begin to explore, with the very atmospheric sound really enhancing the game, with pleasant melodies, wonderful spot effects and some good voice acting you perhaps feel that you may have found a gem of a game here, and as you begin to face some of the denizens of the world, you begin to wonder what happened.
The combat is good, but once you’ve mastered the tactics against one enemy you can use the tactic against any enemy – there’s no real thought involved in it; it just is unacceptable in this day and age to have an RPG game that doesn’t required different tactics for different enemies – some enemies should be tougher to kill without magic, while more intelligent enemies should be tactically aware and be able to counter some of my moves – this simply wasn’t the case, and combat seemed to become a simple case of hack, slash, crash bang wallop – some may like this approach, but hardened RPGers probably will hate it.
OK so combat aside, as games become more in depth, the combat is becoming secondary; in the modern RPG the choices you make often have an effect on the plot, creating a evolving game that is intriguing and satisfying. Sadly, this is not the case with Gothic 4. Go back a few years to the era of Baldur’s gate and you’ll instantly remember the constant ‘fetch, protect’ type quests that were inane and really didn’t do much to stretch your mind – this is what Gothic 4 gives you. You simply don’t have much moral choice, or any kind of choice in the plot – the plot does get better towards the end, but I can’t see many people replaying the game once they’ve beaten it, there’s simply not too much left to do once you’ve played the game once! This is a shame as games like Dragon Age have really added a plot that is changing and relies on your choices, thus making it vastly re-playable.
All told Gothic 4 will probably take you about 20 hours to complete. Don’t get me wrong, Gothic 4 isn’t bad – it does have great graphics and will definitely please players who don’t mind a one dimensional plot and want to do some mindless hack and slaying. The mechanics aren’t that bad, and the game play is not too bad either. I just felt that they had an opportunity to build on the recent RPG trend and produce a great and immerseful game that would satisfy the owner for months, not weeks.
If I had a choice I would have waited a few months and bought the game on discount – it’s probably a good buy at $20; but for now I’d save your pennies and wait for Dragon Age 2 next year, or for Fallout 3: New Vegas in a couple of days!