THQ Nordic is considering dusting off classic RPG series Gothic, which it acquired along with developer Piranha Bytes earlier this year. It wants to start right at the beginning, too, with 2001's original Gothic, but before diving into development, the publisher and the new Gothic team at Barcelona Studios have released a playable teaser to test the waters.
Gothic is a bit like a German Elder Scrolls, complete with an open-world sandbox, NPCs that have routines, and a freewheeling approach to character progression. The first game came out the year before Morrowind and was full of stuff that would become more familiar as more open-world RPGs started to appear.
The prototype contains the the mining colony of Khornis, and once you're done exploring, you'll be asked to complete a survey to let the publisher know if you want it to go into full production. If you own any Piranha Bytes game on Steam, it will show up in your library and you'll be able to download it straight away. Check out the comparison between the two versions below.
Piranha Bytes is working on a different project, to be announced next year, so Barcelona Studios will also develop the full game if it goes ahead. If the reception is positive, the studio will have to scale up, move office and start rebuilding it from scratch. Everything, aside from the world, story and music will be new.
Making a playable teaser for something that might not ever be made is a risk, too, and it's hard to untangle the term from the Silent Hill teaser, P.T., which unfortunately never spawned a full game. What Barcelona Studios has put together has some rough edges, but it still goes well beyond a proof of concept. Right now, it feels like the start of a full RPG, though one that could do with toning down the camera wobble and 'cinematic' effects.
There's more than a whiff of The Witcher 3 about it, surprisingly. The UI looks similar, the hero looks like Poundland Geralt, and the combat system isn't a million miles away from it, either, though it's got more in common with something like For Honor or Kingdom Come: Deliverance. You pick the direction of your attacks and blocks with the mouse, trying to find a weakness in the enemy's defence. It took me a couple of fights to get the hang of it, but it provided far more interesting duels that I'm used to at the start of an RPG.
In some places it sticks quite closely to the original, but it eases you into the adventure instead of immediately sending you on a quest. The original intro cinematic, for instance, has been expanded and turned into a tutorial where you need to get through a fire and some rather unfriendly beasties. And instead of just telling you there might be some weapons lying around, you're sent on a quest to recover a pendant, teaching you more about quests and combat, after which you're rewarded with a gross sword pulled out of a charred corpse.
Just pulling out your sword pisses people off, so you can end up in fights with people you'd maybe rather talk to, creating some rather embarrassing situations. You can be a dick on purpose too, of course, like lying and murdering and thieving. All the classics. This also leads to more fights and potentially cuts questlines short.
It's pretty grisly in general—lots of blood and corpses—and it strikes a more serious tone than its predecessor, complete with voice acting that significantly improves on the original's... unusual choices. And there's a fair amount of it, though none of it riveting enough that I couldn't have done with the option to skip some of it. They're a chatty bunch in Gothic.
I'd give an emphatic 'yes' to a Gothic Remake without a teaser, honestly, but it's helpful to see the direction it might go in. It's a reimagining with promise, and I definitely approve of the combat changes, but it's hard to predict how people are going to react to them.
The only way to get it right now is by owning a Piranha Bytes game, and while that will undoubtedly include people who have never played Gothic before, I still hope it's opened up to more new players to get a broader perspective. Fans of 20-year-old games might not always have the best judgement of what a remake should play like.