Ah, the tried-and-true mining prison – a plot staple of dozens of sci-fi and fantasy movies, books and games. Such places tend to serve as a hellish underworld for a hero to claw his way up from the abyss. In Gothic, this isn’t necessarily the case. This single-player RPG was released for the PC late last year, and is now heading to the Xbox.
In Gothic, the player is a real criminal tossed headlong (along with secret letter to an imprisoned wizard) into the melting pot of a penal mine. This prison camp was formed to supply the king of the realm with enough labor to produce weapon-grade ore. In order to keep supplies high, all criminals, regardless of crime, are sent to the magically barricaded camp.
The magicians responsible for the barrier were overzealous, creating a shield so enormous that they trapped themselves inside. Not surprisingly, the prisoners revolt, taking over the mine and forcing the king to negotiate for his ore. There are several distinct areas in the mining prison: the original camps, the newer expansion, and a third section overrun with religious zealots. The main character is thrown into this stew only to be promptly knocked out by a band of ruffians.
Revived by a friendly inmate, the main character sets out to deliver his letter and earn respect among the uneasy prison factions: taking on jobs which may improve or worsen his relationship with these groups. An important part of the game is how interactions with the hundreds of non-player characters develop. The game’s progression is built on these relationships and the trust fostered. By making friends and allies, your avatar will gain acclaim and respect, but make too many enemies and face exile or death.
The quest structure is often open-ended, letting players choose which side to join and how to execute given tasks. NPC’s will react to your actions accordingly: drawing your sword in town will attract attention that may lead to a brawl. Likewise, if you saunter into someone’s house to root through their belongings, expect a fight from the owner. Leveling up is accomplished through real-time fighting, and uses a skill point-based ability system.
With a focus on character interaction, world exploration and combat over a lengthy quest, Gothic could be a strong addition to any console owner’s RPG library.