Gothic is a single-player action role-playing video game for Windows developed by the German company Piranha Bytes. It was first released in Germany on March 15, 2001, followed by the English North American release ten months later on November 23, 2001, and the Polish release on March 28, 2002.
Gothic has been well received by critics, scoring an average of 80% and 81/100 on Game Rankings and Metacritics aggregates, respectively. Reviewers credited the game for its story, complex interaction with other in-game characters, and graphics, but criticized it for the difficult control scheme and high system requirements.
The main character must complete quests and slay wild animals and monsters to earn skill points, which are used to increase basic attributes, improve skills, and learn trades. They are spent by finding the appropriate teacher. Several skills have only one "level" (Sneaking, Acrobatics), while the fighting skills (one-handed weapons, two-handed weapons, bows) have two proficiency levels. If the Hero chooses to be a Mage (or joins the Swamp Camp), he will be able to learn Circles of Magic; there are 6 of them. The main attributes are increased in 1 or 5 point increments, up to 100 (they start at 10). However, the limit can be surpassed with the use of potions.
The game places a special focus on the interactivity of the environment. For example, while anyone hunting wild animals can gather raw meat (an item that heals damage and can be sold) from them, this can be turned into grilled meat (a much more effective curative) by making use of a stove or frying pan. Similarly, most of the activities other characters can be seen doing (playing musical instruments, stirring soup pots, urinating etc.) can be done by the main character as well (although with the exception of forging weapons these activities have little bearing on the game).
The player can choose which camp to join but the quests get increasingly linear and the distinctions between the different factions wane in the latter parts of the game. The major difference is that Swamp Camp members cannot become mages, because they are limited to 4 magic circles (out of 6). However, they gain access to magic earlier.
The game takes place in a medieval fantasy realm in which humans are fighting a losing war against the Orcs, a humanoid race. In order to fight back, the king needs to extract magical ore from mines, which can be used to forge more powerful weapons. Therefore he decides to send every man who has committed a crime to the ore mines.
To prevent the convicts from escaping he orders his 12 most powerful magicians to erect a magical dome over the mining colony. However, the Barrier goes out of control and grows large enough to cover the entire valley, trapping the magicians inside, and giving the convicts a chance to kill the distracted guards and take control over the colony. The king is thus forced to come to an agreement with the prisoners, trading goods for ore.
Soon after, the convicts separate into three different groups: the Old Camp which controls trading with the king, the New Camp which refuses to trade the ore they mine, and instead plan to use its magical power to explode the Barrier, and the Brotherhood, whose members believe in a god called the Sleeper which will help them escape from the colony. The magicians that created the Barrier also divided; they formed the Fire Mages, who joined the Old Camp, and the Water Mages, who joined the New Camp.
The player takes control of an unnamed prisoner who has just been thrown inside the mining colony. Before being sent in, the player receives a letter which he is tasked to deliver to the Fire Mages of the Old Camp. After getting the chance to talk with the magicians, the protagonist learns that Xardas, the head of the Fire Mages who is supposed to receive the letter, deserted in order to study black magic.
After joining one of the three camps, the protagonist ends up aiding the Sect Camp prepare the invocation of their god, the Sleeper, which they believe will show them the way to escape the colony. During the ritual the members have a vague vision and YBerion, the leader of the Brotherhood who performed the ritual, collapses after getting in contact with the Sleeper. In the vision, the sect members are shown the way to an old Orc cemetery. A guru and a few templars, together with the hero, set off towards the indicated place. Once there, however, the templars die fighting the Orcs they meet, and only the guru and the protagonist survive. After searching the entire underground complex the two fail to find anything. The guru then goes insane and starts accusing the hero that it is because of him that the Sleeper refuses to reveal himself, and attempts kill the protagonist.
After defeating the mad guru, the hero returns to the camp of the Brotherhood where he finds YBerion still weakened after the ritual. Despite efforts to help him recover, YBerion soon dies. Before dying, however, he warns the rest of the camp about the true, evil, nature of the god they thought was leading them on the path to freedom, and places his hopes on the escape plan of the Water Mages from the New Camp to blow up the Barrier using the power of the magical ore.
Bearing important information about the recent events in the Sect Camp, the player is given permission to see the Water Mages, who ask for help with their escape plan. After the hero acquires all the needed artifacts with the help of four convicts he has befriended, the Water Mages now need the help of the Fire Mages to channel the magical energy. However, the protagonist finds out the Old Camps gates have been closed after their ore mine collapsed. Fearful that this incident might deprive him of his power, the leader of the Old Camp sent his men to take control of the New Camps mine and killed the Fire Mages who were protesting against his action; only Milten, the youngest of the magicians, managed to escape.
Having no other option left, the Water Mages send the hero to ask for Xardas, the magician who deserted the Fire Mages, to help them. However, Xardas refuses to help the Magicians of Water and thinks that their plan will not succeed. He instead tells the protagonist that during his studies he learned that the Sleeper was summoned by the Orcs in order to help them against their enemies and that the demon is in a temple deep underneath the Orc city. With the help of Xardas, the player manages to enter the Sleepers temple. Upon defeating the demon, the Barrier collapses and sets the prisoners of the colony free.
Piranha Bytes worked more than 4 years on the development of Gothics technology. The engine was created completely in-house, with a modified version later used for Gothic II. These are the only games to use this engine. The Engines Codename is ZenGin, because of the *.zen file technology.
The game has received generally positive reviews from game critics, scoring an average of 79.35% on GameRankings and 81/100 on Metacritic. IGN concluded that "Gothic is a solid role-playing experience" and Eurogamer said that it is a game that "developers should look to as an example of how a role-playing adventure should be done". GameSpot gave the game a slightly more negative review saying that despite Gothics achievements in terms of story and dialog, players might still be disappointed by its shallow character development and poor combat mechanics.