The life of a games journalist is a strange one, especially with the advent of internet journalism and the rise of fan-boy culture. It's odd in that you can spend several months or weeks waiting for a game to come along, with information, screen shots and movies bombarded at you, then find that the game isn't anything like you expected it to be. I've seen this happen with several games; Monkey Island 4, Deus Ex 2, and a whole list of other titles that I don't have time to mention. Gothic 3 seemed destined to fall into the same category, but things didn't quite turn out like that.
I was well aware of the furore on the internet about the game's unfinished, buggy state when played off-the-shelf. I had also tried the first game in the series and had dismissed its supposedly grand RPG experience as nothing but poorly written garbage. I was, in short, fully prepared for disappointment. And I was right, kind of.
Gothic 3 starts off badly and gets worse. A dialogue-lacking cutscene shows a load of Orcs fighting in a city and then suddenly there you are in a small village with a sword and some bad-guys. The tutorial is so brief it might as well be absent and the frame rate immediately plummets to near unplayable levels. Played in an unpatched state all character models appeared to me as rapidly moving black boxes with names above them and in the game's patched and tweaked form the graphics aren't actually much better - although problems vary from system to system. There is no explanation to the situation and no proper sound effects, only epileptic fit inducing (no, seriously) white boxes that flash across the screen if you happen to look at an inanimate object wrong. After the combat subsides things don't really improve as, even on my mighty self-designed rig, the frame rate still lingers about your ankles and the story is narrated in poorly written dialogue, spewed forth from awfully animated NPCs. Or maybe it's just the terrible voice acting that makes it seem so bad, placing the wrong emphasis on every WORD! I mean, ON every word. Ugh, never mind.
So, what have I listed up so far for Gothic 3? Terrible graphics, dialogue and narration, and a needlessly resource-hungry engine that renders a large amount of the game unplayable? Yep, check all those. But, ludicrous as it sounds, Gothic 3 has some strangely addictive and compelling qualities that I really have no explanation for. I've been playing the game for a fair while now and I've waged war in one awful duel after another. Each time I've lamented the lack of exciting, realistic sound effects as swords bounce silently off each other. Each time I've been in fear of another game crash or stutter-bug. Each time I've sworn that this is the last goddamn time I will try to kill a bandit in my life.
But each time I end up coming back for more. And I don't understand why. The game is obviously unfinished and badly made; it's the very type of game that developers shouldn't be allowed to release as, in my opinion, an unplayable game must be in breach of some trading standards law somewhere. It goes against the very nature of a game.
And that's why Gothic 3 is one of the most brilliantly evil creations to ever be released to the games buying public. Well, in a while anyway. There is no other comparable experience in the world to playing Gothic 3, because while you absolutely hate its awful, rushed state and you immediately want to demand your money back, you just can't. The game is somehow too much fun and the world is too massive to leave unexplored. The story, while predictable and unimaginative, is enough to carry the limping gameplay and graphics. It almost seems impossible, but the game, despite being bad on so many levels, gives you an odd sense of excitement, as you push further and further into the world of Gothic 3.
Ultimately, Gothic 3 is like getting into a cold bath on a hot day - it's refreshing, but somehow painful, and no matter how much you love it, you have to admit that it isn't much fun to do. As such, for those considering whether the purchase is worth it (and I'll admit that I present a mixed case) I can only offer the following advice; do buy the game, but wait for a bit before you do. Let the patches pile up and the fan-made tweaks appear before you indulge in what is currently one of the most badly made classics available.