Although my Steam time says 22 minutes for this game, I played it mostly offline because I've had internet troubles. I completed the game after 31 hours.
I had never heard of the Gothic series before, but I got interested in checking it out after watching an interview with Jonathan Blow, the creator of 'Braid', where he talked about gameplay and game design. In that interview, he described the Gothic series as, "like Skyrim, but with good gameplay". Such zing!
I then found it on Steam and got a deal for all three games. I've heard 1 and 2 are amazing, and 3 is just okay (according to most hardcore fans), after which there are some spinoffs that are considered absolutely appalling. I'm yet to play 2 or 3 though, so this is just based on my experience with Gothic 1.
I really enjoyed Gothic 1. It's an RPG adventure type game with open world exploration. The story is great, the characters are interesting, the world is a good size (large enough to explore, not so large that it's overwhelming). The controls take some getting used to, and I recommend reading up on Google for some explanation and guidance on it. After about two or three hours though, it's a piece of cake. (You can also find the original manual for the game - yes, it was made in the era of actual game manuals - which will help in explaining a lot of how the game world works)
The main thing about the controls is that a person or item needs to be selected first before you press something else to interact with it. For example, if there's some berries on the ground, you press the select tool and then press action to pick them up. If you're trying to pick up a particular item on the ground amongst others, you press the select tool, press left or right to toggle through which item is highlight and then press action once the item you want is highlighted. Same goes for interacting with people and even moving items around when trading (explained more below). You also need to highlight a creature and then press action to attack when you have a weapon ready.
You start off being introduced to some characters and one of the three main camps. You eventually learn about all three camps and you'll need to choose one to join (each with its own way of living, style, etc). You can access almost any part of the map at any time, although early on there are places where the people and creatures will absolutely crush you until you're strong enough to survive (kind of in a Dark Souls way). You can learn all kinds of skills, including one hand or two hand weapons, agility, stealing, getting resources from animals you kill, etc.
A lot of your time will be spent trading with people, so take your time to collect everything you find as it will be worth something. The trading system appears odd at first, but like the controls, it's a piece of cake once you learn in. You put things into the middle you want to trade from your side and get from the other side, then you press 'Enter' to make the deal. The values at the top will show you if you're getting a fair deal or not. The NPCs you trade with will accept any deal that's equal or where they get an advantage, so be careful. You could end up trading away things worth 1,000s for 10 worth of stuff.
Most of this stuff you will learn over time, and there's a joy in exploring and learning to understand the world. However, there are other things that you'll wish you knew at the beginning. Some things I learnt after 20 hours into the game just by accident that would've been good to know from the get go. Here are a few of those things:
1. You can switch weapons using the number keys, but you can also hold down the space bar to toggle through them.
2. When your character is out of health and not breathing on the ground, he is dead. The game will not load a previous save for you. It's up to you to pause the game and manually load up a save. Otherwise you'll just sit there staring at your dead corpse forever. :O
3. Armour really matters in this game, both for you and enemies. There are some enemies you won't be able to even damage unless you really stagger them and get a lucky hit in. For those ones, you'll need to wait until later in the game to get some better weapons. Same goes for you though. Once you have some quality armour, a lot of enemies won't be able to really do anything to you.
4. If you're falling from a great height, hold down left or right and you won't get damaged. Can save your life and also make travelling the world a lot faster at times. (this is obviously a glitch and not an intended game design, but still)
This is not a positive review based on nostalgia for this old game. This is the first time I've ever played or seen a Gothic game (in 2015). Gothic 1 is not a perfect game, but if you can get past the graphics (although there is a mod that will help with that a bit), and get used to the controls, it has great gameplay with and an interesting storyline. I'm looking forward to playing Gothic 2 (considered by most fans to be the best in the series).