Gothic is an RPG made by a German developer known as Piranha Bytes. It was released a long time ago - back in 2001. After the tragedy, that was Ultima IX, 3D RPG devs had an opportunity to shine - PB didn't waste it.
Gothic takes place on the island of Khorinis - the most profitable place in the world in terms of magic ore. There's a war going on between humans and orcs, and the human king, Rhobar II, needs magic ore to make enhanced weapons for his men, which would provide an incredible advantage in the war. The ore mining is a task assigned to convicts who were sent to the Valley of Mines for their crimes. Since the situation started getting worse and worse, the King started imprisoning people for the smallest of crimes, and to make sure nobody could escape, ordered 12 mages to erect a magical barrier, that would kill anyone who would dare to flee. Something went wrong and the mages trapped themselves inside along with the convicts and guards. The prisoners quickly took advantage of the situation and took over the Colony. They divided themselves between three camps - the Old Camp, whose members trade with the King; the New Camp, full of rogues and bandits, and the Brotherhood of the Sleeper, a Sect who believes in a being called the Sleeper.
The story begins with our Nameless Hero getting thrown into the Colony. The first priority is to survive and establish yourself in this place, while hoping that maybe a chance to escape will come soon. The Hero isn't an idle man, so he takes action and seeks this opportunity. You know, this makes for a really good and original (at the time) setting.
For 2001, when 3D RPGs on the PC weren't that huge of a deal, this game looks pretty decent. The character models look pretty good, and the environment is nothing to spit at. The Colony is an interesting place to explore. There are a lot of places that seem unfinished, though.
The atmosphere is probably one of the best aspects about this game. It's dark, awesome, medieval, and really draws you in.
The soundtrack isn't very long, but the music is fitting and supports the wonderful atmosphere of the Colony. The outside areas have a medieval feel, while the mines and dungeons provide a variety of ambient sound effects. There even was a German band - In Extremo - who provided players with a piece of their usual medieval metal, but they were removed from the version that came out outside of Germany, due to copyright issues. Pity.
The sound effects are about as generic as they get, but for some reason, they work really well.
The English voice acting is pretty terrible. The only salvagable part about it is its cheezyness.
Now, this is the part that aged the worst about the original Gothic. The battle system is really clunky, and the interactive stuff is really unintuitive. You'll find your character stuck in an animation, which can get you killed. The game is also really glitchy (typical for a WRPG, especially this old).
As far as difficulty goes, it's really hard at the beginning, but you'll break it very soon, which will make this game a cakewalk. It's not that bad, so I won't consider it a con.
The stat system, magic, and weapons work as desired. The most problematic thing is the bow/crossbow combat. Whether the projectile hits is a random factor influenced by your skill with the weapon, dexterity, and distance from the target. So yeah, you can't aim manually.
STORY & CHARACTERS
The story is pretty good for back then, and even for now. I can't go into much detail without spoilers (I don't care if the game's 15 years old now, shut up), but I can guarantee it has its twists and turns, and keeps you interested. The lore is also very rich.
Since this is a WRPG, most of the characters are NPCs, who aren't memorable. They feel realistic enough, though. Characters worthy of note are the Hero, Xardas, and the four friends of the Hero - Diego, Gorn, Milten, and Lester. You'll see as you go along. The main character does his job really well - you know nothing about his past which allows you to associate with him more, but he's not a silent protagonist, so he does have character. He fits into the setting really well.
Gothic is a game with a good story, an excellent setting and atmosphere, but with gameplay that leaves a lot to be desired. The game is glitchy and ridiculously unstable. It crashes left and right, and when you reach the final dungeon, you'll most likely encounter a missing/corrupted sound file related to the bosses in there, which will cause to you reinstall the game. The game also crashes when the GameOverlayRenderer.dll file is present. I recommend it, but have a careful approach.
+Excellent setting and atmosphere
+"From zero to hero" feeling
+World that seems alive, the day-night cycle and weather effects also help
+The Barrier is one of the better excuses for world boundaries I've seen
+Interactive world elements - most of them don't do anything, but it's a nice touch
+Rather decent difficulty...
-...but the game is easy to break
-Buggy and crash-heavy
-Terrible voice acting
-Doesn't support the Steam Overlay
-Clunky combat and unintuitive gameplay
-Some enemies have a weird hitbox, which makes them immune to damage, and you can't damage stronger enemies at all until you reach the sufficient strength amount
-Some cut/unfinished content
-Rather bad final boss fight
-A lot of settings are in the .ini file instead of the game itself
-Ladders (you'll see what I mean)