Post-Gothic: Risen

The Gothic series often gets mentioned in comments here (usually while you lot are slagging off other RPGs), at which point the RPS hivemind has to don a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and sneak away while no-one’s looking. We are none of us, you see, terribly familiar with the much-adored German RPG series – which just about makes us Antichrists in the eyes of the cRPG devout. I have a dim and distant memory of suffering almost immediate brutal murder when dabbling with Gothic II years ago, but that’s about it. One day, when I have 100 hours to spare, I’ll catch up. One day.

Until then, all I can do is point hopefully at the announcement of Risen, a brand new RPG and setting from Gothic devs Piranha Bytes.

Risen info is largely remaining sunken until Leipzig later in the month, but we get this brief summary:

The game’s protagonist is shipwrecked after a storm and finds himself on a mysterious island. An active volcano dominates the scene. Ancient temple ruins have recently risen from the ground, and bizarre creatures infest the island.

Which sounds like a perfect setup for a jolly adventure. And one hopefully free of Tolkienistic standards, too. With RPGs very much back in the ascendant at the moment, we can surely add this to the list of promising future-toys.

36 Comments

  1. Okami says:

    I loved Gothic. Adored it. I played through G2 twice. Once as a dragon hunter and once as a mage. I deinstalled G3 after an hour and regretted purchasing it.

    I’m cautiously enthusiastic about Risen. The whole problem of G3 was, that it moved away from what made Gothic unique: A small, contained and very compact world, that brimmed with life.

    In Gothic you had three major factions who interacted with each other in believable ways. There were the guys from the old camp, who traded ore for luxury goods with the outside world, there was the new camp, who kept their ore for themselves, but raised crops, which they used to trade with the old camp and then there were the whacky religious cultists, who basically grew drugs which they traded with everybody else.

    Gothic 3 had a huge world, but everything was kinda samey.. It just didn’t have the same sense of atmosphere..

  2. Legandir says:

    Other than the gothic 3 demo i haven’t played any of the gothic games. However, this looks like it might have some promise. While i like Tolkien as much as the next person, theres only so many orcs, elves and dwarves i can stomach before i want a change. This sounds like some of the cultures might be aztec-inspired which should make for a refreshing change.

  3. Pavel says:

    I loved Gothic 1. I loved loved loved loved loved Gothic 2 with its outstanding addon.Those two games were miles better than what Bethesda has ever done (and I am playing Oblivion just now, for a second time, and liking it).Gothic 3 – I finished it, enjoyed it, but…it wasnt as good.The world was too big – while Myrtana was beatiful and atmospheric, both Varant and Nordmar were too empty and boring.
    So am glad they are returning with a smaller world…it could be as good as the first two G games.

  4. UncleLou says:

    Yeah, Gothic 1 and 2 were utterly brilliant, and are still unsurpassed years later in many respects (unfortunately). Great dialogues (at least in German), and, while the setting and story are a little generic upon shallow observation, the games are blessed with a clever, political factions system.

    And, at the risk of sounding a little pathetic, the NPCs really became your friends and enemies respectively. The world in these games is so God damn alive, more so than in any other game I’ve played.

    Always found it utterly ridiculous how the English (or maybe more so the US) press underrated these games. Some of the scores they got were absolutely ridiculous. No hype, no known developer, and some people have no idea they’re playing a great game. Gothic 1 and 2 are excellent litmus tests if you want to know if a games site knows what they’re doing. :)

    Gothic 3 was a bit of a disappointment though, to put it mildly.

  5. Jante says:

    Gothic 3 felt rushed and was pretty hardware demanding, probably due to a lacking optimization of the engine. Despite that, I found myself enjoying it a lot. Probably not as much as the previous two games, but it was definitely a good game, it just lacked polish. I think I am cautiously optimistic about Risen, and hope the team gets the time they need to finish the game properly.

    What I really liked about the Gothic games was that the enemies were immensly hard to kill at first, and some areas of the games were just utterly lethal if you went there early on. The sense of accomplishment when you kill the first orc in Gothic 2, for example, was pretty fantastic. Bethesda should have taken notes, because Oblivion failed utterly in this regard.

  6. sbs says:

    I am curious about this, Piranha Bytes hopefully have learned a lot from the alleged fiasco that was Gothic III(I have not played it myself), and I recall hearing about them getting away from their publisher who may have contributed to the situation there in one way or another.
    Shortly after the G3 release, there was some talk about an Add-on that went back to the roots of earlier Gothic titles. That didn’t happen, of course. Now Gothic is still owned by Jowood and they are making their title now with the game, developed by some other studio.
    The “true” new Gothic will be made by Piranha, that’s a given. As I said, I am very excited about this.

    One thing must be clear: As a German Video game player, you should not have missed Gothic. It just has this certain flair which I can not quite describe properly, and the atmosphere sucked me in like few other titles before or since managed to.
    What’s worth mentioning, too: It never was frustrating, it always gave you an exact reason why you failed and made you load up your last save immediately, wanting to try again or just figure out the right approach.
    Since the world and characters were so fleshed out, it made progress in the story so insanely rewarding that I just could not stop playing this game. I have not managed to play any RPG as many hours and days in succession as Gothic I & 2 NDR, except for maybe KOTOR1 which I played in a week I was home sick. It also somehow kept you on invisible rails by design, and thereby made your experience feel very tight.
    That’s not meant as a direct comparison – Gothic is much more an Action-Adventure than KOTOR, but for myself it just _felt_ similarly engaging, in terms of “flow”, “motication curve” or whatever you want to call it.

    I have not played the localized versions for the English-speaking countries, but my guess is they are probably not less horrible than German localizations of English-language games ;). That should not stop anyone though, and may even make for some comedic value.

    edit: I just tried to shorten the post, but I couldn’t do it.

  7. Brokenbroll says:

    They had an awesome countdown on their site. Six day long countdown, with a picture of an island and a large volcano. The end of the countdown resulted in a close up of the volcano, the title Risen, and another countdown timer, this time for 13 days. Brilliant.

  8. Caiman says:

    I tried Gothic 2 once. My mum loved it, but I couldn’t get past the extremely crap voice acting and poor animation that greets you in the first 5 minutes. I know, I know, graphics are not a substitute for gameplay, but frankly when I can’t suspend disbelief because it all seems so amateurish I have a hard time continuing. However, when I find a bargain basement copy I’ll certainly try it once more if only to endure the beginning.

  9. McClory says:

    Damn Nazis!

  10. Eschatos says:

    I suppose I’ll go back to Gothic 3, try to finish it this time.

  11. Shawn says:

    lots of Gothic love here. I tried several times to get into Gothic 3, but with the poor optimization and CTD’s and a sloppy interface along with many bugs, it just didn’t hold me. You could see the brilliance underneath it all though, and another year in the oven and it would probably have come out nicely, but who knows. Jowood is making the new Gothic 4 for consoles as well as PC, and it’s a different developer, so one can only think this isn’t going to do the Gothic series any help.

    The Gothic series as it is now, is basically what is happening to Fallout, and what happened to the Elder Scrolls games after Morrowind. Mass Market games with very little PC love. :( Bioware is already talking about Dragon Age on consoles, the relentless media just can’t stop asking the goddman question, like DA somehow doesn’t deserve a proper PC release first without all the distraction.

    Man, the older I get the more annoyed I get at this industry. I guess that’s what getting old is all about, being a crank from time to time.

    Risen has my full attention, I hope it stays on PC first and not the ways of multiplatform, at least not during the dev cycle. With Jowood out of the way, that might be the best thing for PB, hopefully they can make this work with the time they have.

  12. Malagate says:

    This direction strikes me as very Lovecraftian, what with ancient temples rising up and strange creatures within, if only they were coming from the ocean depths instead of the ground…
    I’m one of those people who only heard of Gothic when the 3rd one came out and didn’t try it, but if I can find Gothic 2 I’m totally going to try it out judging by people’s comments. It’s been awhile since I’ve visited rpg, and it sounds like something I might enjoy, as does Risen.

  13. Batolemaeus says:

    Did you know that the Gothic3 engine had an irc client in it?

    Anyways, i’m slightly optimistic about the “new gothic”. But a gothic without the old characters? Meh..

  14. Ian says:

    Never played a Gothic game. Gothic 3 was a mixed bag of reviews and I never got around to thinking about buying it.

    As Gothic 2 seems to be getting muchos praise in here, how to people think it’d stand up after however many years to somebody with no prior experience such as myself?

  15. Incognito says:

    “Bioware is already talking about Dragon Age on consoles”

    Yes, but they are talking about a Dragon Age game on consoles at some point, not about porting Dragon Age: Origins to the consoles.

  16. Subject 706 says:

    Gothic 1 and 2 +Night of The Raven were great, though it took forever for NotR to be translated into english.

    With Gothic 3 the Oblivion complex was so palpable it was ridiculous. Whether it was the fault of the publisher or the devs, I don’t know. That, and the fact that it was rushed out in an unfinished state made it a terrible disappointment.

    Hopefully Piranha will rectify it with this game. And please, pretty please, with sugar on top, don’t release it in german first and english six months later.

  17. heliocentric says:

    needs more goth chicks, false advertisement abound. I’d always dismissed the gothic games not least after playing the demo to 3, another on my to play list i guess.

  18. Jochen Scheisse says:

    I have no idea why the localisation is always taking so long. Probably it’s a small team. Generally the German localisations are better, because Germany localizes most movies and lots of other stuff, and so there are pretty professional studios avaliable.

    Also, I liked most ideas of Gothic 3. But maybe the scope of G3 was a tad too big for a small house like Piranha Bytes.

  19. Flim says:

    Bought the gold edition recently – Gothic 1 was superb (if a bit dated on the control method…).

    Gothic 2 was more of the same, but bigger – very cool, though I had the version with the add-on. The expansion part through the portal was really cool, but when I got back to the main thread of the plot (dragons et al) it wasn’t quite as good. Graphics seemed dated and the plot wasn’t quite so interesting compared to the expansion one. It also needed me to be about 10 levels higher and I got a bit bored of instagibbing from lizardmen and dragons fairly quickly (since I had gothic 3 still to try).

    On to Gothic 3 – this was cool, very open, lots of stuff to do, but then I hit the third town and realised everything was pretty much the same everywhere and lost interest. That and it was crippling my poor computer (now I’ve not got a state of the art rig but it’s probably about the same age as Gothic 3, I’d have hoped it might run it bearably on more than lowest settings).

    Risen looks promising :)

  20. Briosafreak says:

    I played a bit of Gothic, and gave up on Gothic 3 just after playing the bug ridden demo.

    One thing I have to say is the Gothic 2 Gold version, with the patches and revisions made, is an incredibly underrated game.

    Once someone from a well known developer house asked me why I had given up on Oblivion so soon, since I could just played the game like an explorers sand box, Morrowind style, and would probably be happy. I replied that wasn’t possible anymore after playing Gothic2.

    It’s a game filled with all sorts of Lord of the Rings/D&D/Ultima cliches, but overcomes this by being, like Okami said:

    A small, contained and very compact world, that brimmed with life.

    You get sucked into this world really soon, and then there’s nothing to hold you back. While Oblivion has strong production values and a sense of being technically very correct, after you experience the way the world on Gothic is coherent and alive, the way your acts affect the gameworld and how what you do has real consequences in the future Oblivion just feels like a bland doll house.

    Really good, too bad about the Gothic3 debacle, don’t know what to think on this one.

  21. Jochen Scheisse says:

    In defence of G3, I really liked the game. It’s true that it was buggy, but I’ve seen few RPGs that give you so much choice and so much consequence. I’ll play it again when I have my hardware upgrade, as I was told it’s also very beautiful with highest graphics settings.

  22. Schadenfreude says:

    I really enjoyed Gothic 3 but only ’cause I managed to overlook how broken it was in places (Fighting wild animals for one). I’ll keep a sharp eye on this one, but I’m looking forward to Gothic 4 too though. Spellbound have put a lot of effort into fixing Gothic 3, something Pyranha Bites just didn’t seem willing to do; hopefully their game turns out well.

  23. Subject 706 says:

    @Jochen
    Well I kind of liked G3 too, but it was still a letdown. Played on the highest settings and it was beautiful. The world looked much more real than oblivions and was much more immersive. Except for the desert areas, which were sadly, shit.

    But it REALLY shows how much they wanted to imitate oblivion in some ways, and the result was much the same. Large and beautiful, but samey and empty world. Crossing my fingers for this one though.

    Are you german by the way? In that case, have you played Drakensang?

  24. Okami says:

    @Shawn: G3’s problem wasn’t that it tried to appeal to a mass market audience – dropping you off in a huge fight with only text boxes (that didn’t even pause the game) as tutorials isn’t mass market friendly. That’s just really poor design.

    Gothic 3 suffered from bad design choices, a dev studio that insisted on creating it’s own engine from scratch (a disease widespread among german developers) instead of using an exisiting one and from wanting too much. You just can’t create a world the size of Gothic 3 and still keep the atmosphere of the first two parts. Especially not if your team is as small as that of Piranha Bytes.

    Having Jowood as a publisher isn’t a big help either. They’re neither the financially most powerfull, nor are their producers the best in the world.

    @Ian: Go ahead and buy Gothic 2. Do it now. The graphics still look beautifull (they’ve got some very good texture work in there) if you crank up all the settings to high. And the game itself is a timeless classic.

    You’ll need a few minutes to get comfortable with the controls and you might very well die a few times before you reach the city (hey, I never said the game was easy), but the game really rewards you for sticking around.

  25. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Haven’t played Drakensang yet because I’m supposed to be working. I honestly don’t even know if it will run on my old deck. But I’ve already aquired a copy, it’s just a matter of days…ok, I just started installing it. Goodbye diploma.

  26. Irria says:

    Never could understand, why people are raving about Gothic being a great RPG. Personally, i really REALLY tried to like it. Started Gothic 2 like 3 times, but always dropped it halfway for one simple reason: zee levelups, zey do nothing.

    I could get it, when i was a level 1 nobody at the beginning, but when i spend over 25 hours questing and getting equipment (had the best paladin armor on me, mind you) and STILL get anally pwned by a single orc, logic kind of makes an exit. In a way, it’s just like Oblivion – combat-wise there’s almost no point in levelling at all, since every new story area is consistently populated with monsters who can rip you in half without so much as breaking a sweat.

    All of this says not just “broken balance”, but “balance, that’s been beat to death with a sledgehammer”. Though i could have endured it, if the action was moved along by an interesting story or some engaging quests (like those in The Witcher), but there’s none of that either. Which is why the game became downright unplayable for me.

  27. Ian says:

    Because I have zero willpower when it comes to good, cheap games (“It’s a bargainous gem, it hardly even counts as spending money!”) I’ve just ordered Gothic 2.

  28. araczynski says:

    i thought all 3 were equally good and had the same ‘feel’ to them.

  29. Rook says:

    Gothic 1+2 are definitely great little RPGs, and whilst the voice acting isn’t great, it certainly is tollerable and shouldn’t put you off. Gothic 3 I had to stop playing after about 50hours as the crashes just got too numerous. I think it was a bit too ambitious and wasn’t all that exciting but I never got anywhere near the end so it may have improved a lot.

    The first one in particular was great in how it made Orc’s to be unbelievably bad ass, and the first time you take one down feels like a major accomplishment.

  30. Shawn says:

    @Okami

    When I meant Mass Market, I was referring to the new direction for Gothic 4(and Fallout 3), not Gothic 3. Sorry for the confusion. All this talk about Gothic 2 makes me want to go buy it, which I think I’m gonna do right now

  31. Jochen Scheisse says:

    After playing a few hours of Drakensang, mostly experimenting and not following silly storylines (although the story is delivered in a nice way, to judge from the start).

    The Pros:
    – Everyone who knows the DSA universe will love the optic. I especially like the Dwarf Prospector, the Elvish Spellweaver and the Mittelreich Thief. The world also looks very beautiful, very medieval, although there’s a faint air of 80s airbrush about in the setting: bright, “pretty” colors.
    – They implemented the whole DSA system. While you can not put together your character from scratch, there are ~20 templates which you can change as you will, attributes, skills, advantages, disadvantages, maneuvers, all yours to customize. But you can not build the character from scratch: race, job and cultural background are predetermined in these 20 templates. DSA 4 also has a points system instead of that pesky dice rolling forcing you to spend 5 minutes to get good attributes. Good stuff overall.
    – Real time with pause. I like it, and it’s pretty intuitive, complete with a quickbar for special combat maneuvers and such.

    The cons:
    – The mission dialogue tree is not very extensive. Most options only seem to include I’LL DO IT and FUCK YOU. Still, small talk options are available, and skills sometimes give you access to more favourable options.
    – Some skills are not lovingly included. The pick pocket skill for example has no consequences if it fails, except the one that you will never be able to steal from that particular NPC again. I ran a little amok and stole from the captain of the guard until he noticed me, no reaction. Sucks.
    – The world is not particularly alive. There seems to be no day-night cycle and people stand around alone or in small groups, and sometimes wander about aimlessly in a small area.
    – Most NPCs only have voice for the first sentence they speak, the rest is soundless textbox (exception: In game cut scenes and an old woman in the first village ranting on about how everything is crap). And the German voices are pretty good. A shame.

    All in all, I’ll play on, because combat, graphics and story made a favorable impression.

    Ah, I forget: The German version’s extra gimmick is the Basic Rulebook of 4th edition DSA as a PDF. Smart move.

  32. YogSo says:

    I think no one has mentioned it, but apart from JoWood’s Gothic 4 and Piranha’s Gothic 4 Risen, there’s also a Gothic 3 add-on stand alone expansion on the works, Forsaken Gods.

    (I didnt’ know it was a standalone game until now. I thought it was going to be like Night of the Raven – the G2 add-on-, that integrates itself with the original game, in the same way that the Morrowind or Oblivion expansions work. Having finished G2 just three months ago, I was waiting for the release of this before playing G3, but if it’s going to be more a Gothic 3.5 and less an ‘ordinary’ add-on…).

    Also, to all the people who want to try Gothic 2 after reading all the well deserved praise, I would seriously recommend them to get a copy of the first one as well. It surely looks older and a bit rougher, and the controls and interface may be too much offputing to some people, but you will enjoy twice as much the story of the second game (don’t forget to get also the addon) if you have played the first and met all the recurring characters that reappear again, because they will remember the Unnamed Hero and treat him accordingly to what happened in the previous story. (There’s always the option in the dialogue to say “I don’ remember you”, and then they will briefly do a recap of your previous meetings, in order to not completely alienate all the people who never played G1, but it’s just not the same…).

  33. malkav11 says:

    Additionally, Gothic 1 is just a great game overall. The focus is tighter and the setting smaller than either of the followups, and it stands out a bit more because of that. It also helps immensely in adjusting to the quirks of the interface. Gothic II’s rather intimidating without the first game as reference (though there’s a couple of optional tweaks that make it play smoother than 1 did). I’ve beaten it and loved every minute of it.

    Gothic II I had succeeded in establishing a baseline save where I did all the non-faction quests early on and levelled up a bunch without much allocation of points so as to have a starting point for playthroughs for each of the three factions….and then I lost my save. And Night of the Raven saw US release. Now I really ought to get back to it sometime, but the distractions…ever present.

  34. Kong says:

    > Jochen Scheisse says:
    Generally the German localisations are better, because Germany localizes most movies and lots of other stuff, and so there are pretty professional studios avaliable.<

    Really? I stopped going to the movies in Gerrmany when the voice actor of Sean Connery said “Willkommen auf zze Rock.” (welcome to the rock). No more localized movies or games for me. I watch everything in the original with subs now, including asian and martian stuff because I can no longer bear localization. German localization usually sucks badly.

    Gothic is a great series, a shame that III is bugged. I like the big world, it provides great hunting ground for -er- hunters with herds of animals roaming about.

  35. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Short comment on Drakensang. Didn’t play it a lot further. It lacks most of the things I like about RPGs. Character generation and combat are good, but the world is one of the most static I have ever encountered in a RPG. No real choice in quests, no sympathy for the NPCs, and a world that’s in general totally lifeless.

  36. Elbee says:

    I read favourable reviews of Gothic 3 and gushing praise for the series in general, so I purchased it when it came out. It’s one of my most regrettable purchases. The controls are clunky, the game basically unfinished (the “Female Rebel” is also the “Female Slave”, weapons and all, for an example of the sloppiness) and every town feels almost exactly the same. Not to mention the ridiculous 1/100th damage ration NPCs do to each other compared to what they do to you … I haven’t played it since.

    If you all solemnly swear that Gothic II is much better than what its successor has become, though, I’ll give it a try.