The plot is standard fantasy fare: the hero returning to his country only to find out it has been conquered by an army of Orcs.
The greatest achievement of Gothic 3 is the world in which the adventure takes place. It's huge, with three main countries (Myrtana, Nordmar and Varrant ), believable and never repetitive: each location has a wonderfully distinctive look, from the strongholds of the clans in the North to the deserts in the South, from crocodile-infested swamps to a monastery in the mountains.
There are some interesting details which I loved. For example, I entered a cave in which a couple of miners had disappeared, but it was too late, a monster had killed them. I loaded a saved game and tried again: they resisted longer and I saved one of them - and a third time they defeated the monster with no help from me! This kind of unpredictability runs through the game, and it's a good thing.
Each time you pass a level you get some "learning points", but you can't automatically acquire new skills (there are many, from more conventional like fighting and magic to others like alchemy and blacksmithing): first you have to find someone who teaches you these skills, then to pay him or to complete some minor quests. This makes for a more complex but ultimately more realistic gaming experience.
Not that Gothic 3 is flawless. The characters you meet are rather nondescript. The dialogues have a good sense of humour but they lack the flair of, say, the Baldur's Gate series: you can't choose between many lines and often you can't even decide whether you want to be friendly or arrogant, solemn or ironic. I do like, however, that people from different regions talk in different ways. An odd detail is the fact that the people living in Gothic's world are mostly male - women are *very* few. Weird.
A.I. is passable - many enemies pursue you with a surprising insistence. Incidentally, wild animals should have been faster - it doesn't make sense that you can outrun a tiger. But this is a nitpick. A much bigger problem is the fact that enemies can't jump: you can easily slaughter a huge group of them if they don't have long-range weapons or a wizard. You just have to be a good archer and stand on a much higher ground,, and you can shoot them full of arrows without getting a scratch on yourself, as they will be unable to reach you. Ladies and gentlemen... gamebreaker!
The soundtrack is epic, with some great vocal work and different themes depending on the location you are visiting.
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