The Gothic 1 Remake was officially green-lighted according to a new announcement made yesterday by THQ Nordic. The publisher went on to share the good news on Steam and Facebook while also mentioning that the massive amount of feedback received from fans played a huge role in the decision. While we don’t know exactly what to expect from the final version of the game, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of Gothic.
Back in December of last year, THQ Nordic took Gothic fans by surprise when it released a playable porotype of the classic RPG on Steam. The demo was rough around the edges but it gave us an idea of what a potential Gothic 1 Remake could look like. The teaser wasn’t developed by Piranha Bytes, the creators of the original, but by a newly-formed studio known as THQ Barcelona. There were plenty of concerns right off the bat that a different developer might not be able to capture the essence of the original and, for the most part, that’s exactly what happened.
A Different Take on a Beloved Classic
The demo we got was a huge departure from the original, to the point where it barely felt like a Gothic game. THQ Barcelona made significant changes to the opening sequence and transformed the once (mostly) silent protagonist into an obnoxious wisecracking smartass. To make matters worse, the world was now bright and colorful, the game paused when you opened the menu, and there were invisible walls everywhere. And those were just a few of the changes, but more on that later on.
Despite all of that, however, the mere mention of a possible Gothic 1 Remake was enough to rally tens of thousands of fans of the original who voiced their support for the project. As a result, the upcoming title is now entering production with THQ Nordic’s blessing. The publisher noted that a grand total of 180k people played the teaser since December, 43K of which went on to leave feedback via a survey that was only available to participants.
Fans Share Their Thoughts on the Demo
In the interest of being completely transparent with the community, THQ Nordic publicly shared the results of this survey. At this time I’d like to take a moment and give props to THQ Nordic for this move. Not only did the company give away the playable teaser for free (to anyone who owns a Piranha Bytes game), but it was also willing to put itself in a vulnerable position by sharing all the data. Now there’s no excuse for turning the Gothic 1 Remake into a wildly different game than the community wants it to be. Although I will blast the decisions made thus far with the demo later on in this article, I do appreciate the publisher for being so upfront about everything.
According to the survey, 94.8% of those who played the teaser expressed their desire to see it develop into a full game. Meanwhile, 85% of them said they would consider themselves to be diehard Gothic fans. The survey also revealed that most of the participants, by a large margin, were PC gamers who prefer to play with a mouse and keyboard. Hopefully, THQ Barcelona takes this into account because the teaser was clearly developed with consoles and controllers in mind.
Another interesting thing revealed by the survey is that a lot of people appreciated the graphics, music, and sound design. However, many participants were on the fence when it comes to the combat system, voice-over, and UI, among other things. The demo got overall decent scores, with 18.4% of participants giving it an 80/100 while 17.9% gave it a 75/100, and 15.3% gave it a 70/100.
Personally, I think the community was very generous with some of the scores in order to not discourage THQ Nordic from making the game. That said, participants also left close to 24K comments as part of the survey and one can only imagine that some of them were kinder than others. The company said it will read all the comments but we don’t know if they will be made publicly available as well.
Ahead of Its Time
The original Gothic launched in 2001 and was a truly innovative title that paved the way for games like The Witcher and many other fantasy RPGs. Gothic was one of the first 3D open-world RPGs, with a huge emphasis on open world. While other RPGs of the time like Morrowind had bigger maps, Gothic had a world with no loading screens. Fine, there were two of them (if I remember correctly) in total but this was still miles ahead of other RPGs that loaded a new instance every time you entered a building.
Not just that but the entire map was completely open from the moment you stepped foot in the Colony. In Gothic, you won’t really find any parts of the map that are blocked until you reach a certain level, complete a certain quest or posses a certain item. Instead, you can go anywhere you want from the start. However, you probably won’t get far unless you’re well-equipped because the world of Gothic is a very dangerous place. I know, I know, you hear that in every game, but in the case of Gothic, it’s actually true. Forget about demons and giant monsters; in Gothic you can’t even hope to kill a lowly wolf until you’re 4-5 hours into the game. And that’s if you know what you’re doing.
So how does the teaser stack up against the original in this regard? Not that great I’m afraid. The intro sequence is entirely scripted, which I personally consider blasphemy, and you can’t go anywhere you want because you’ll run into invisible walls at every turn. The enemies are not nearly as menacing as in the original and you can easily take on a pack of wolves with a broken sword thanks to the fact that you can pause the game mid-combat to recover health. That wasn’t the case before and hopefully, it won’t be the case in the final version either.
A Bland New World
The world itself looks decent enough but lacks the dark and oppressive atmosphere that made the original so immersive. The Gothic 1 Remake in its current form is not immersive at all. The game is supposed to take place in a prison colony encased inside a magic barrier where criminals from across the kingdom get sent to slave away in the mines, with no hope of ever escaping.
The moment you step foot in the Colony you are greeted by a punch in the face and the first character you talk to, Diego, admits that he’s only being nice because he wants to recruit you. In fact, you’re lucky he “can’t show his face around the Fire Mages anymore.” Otherwise, he would have probably killed you for the important letter you’re carrying. You don’t really matter to him, or anyone else in the Colony. You don’t start off as the hero. You arrive in the Colony as just other common criminal and people will see you as a good-for-nothing until you can prove them otherwise.
In stark contrast, the playable teaser takes place in a colorful world where the same Diego takes you under his wing from the get-go. For no apparent reason, I might add. There’s nothing to be scared of in this world because the game holds your hand throughout each section and every character seems remarkably friendly, all things considered. Even Bloodwyn, who bullied you for protection money in the original, seems like a great guy to hang around with now.
I guess the developers wanted to make the Valley of Mines more welcoming to newcomers to the series but that was a very weird decision. The demo was made available only to those who already own a Piranha Bytes title so, needless to say, most of the people playing were either going to be veterans of the series or familiar with Risen or ELEX. Both of which are essentially spiritual successors to Gothic. There was no real reason to turn an oppressive prison colony, a nest of scum and villainy, into a generic fantasy world inhabited by friendly people and marginally challenging enemies.
We Hope You Like For Honor
Setting aside, the developers also made significant changes to the combat system. This is probably one of the most divisive changes, with some players appreciating the new system while others not so much. The new combat system is clearly inspired by games like For Honor and while it can work, provided the developers refine it, it’s not really suitable to Gothic in my opinion. At least not in its current form.
This type of combat system is great for 1v1 duels against human opponents but it’s an absolute hassle when fighting against groups of monsters. And if the remake sticks closely to the original, you’ll be fighting monsters a lot more often than humans throughout the game.
Discount Nathan Drake
But while the new combat system does have some redeeming qualities, the new protagonist doesn’t have any. The Nameless Hero is by far one the worst parts of the playable teaser. The over-the-top intro sequence directed by Michael Bay was bad enough but when you also add a blabbering buffoon into the mix, the whole thing turns into an absolute mess.
I’m not sure why THQ Barcelona felt the need to completely change NH’s personality but they should go back to the drawing board with this one because the current iteration is abysmal. Or better yet, just bring back the original protagonist because there was nothing wrong with him. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Speaking of characters, the Nameless Hero wasn’t the only one who received a complete overhaul. The aforementioned Diego also saw dramatic changes and, once again, not for the better. The new Diego is some sort of Inigo Montoya/D’Artagnan/generic dashing rogue archetype, which is a far cry from the original.
I get what they were going for here and it would have worked perfectly in a game like Greedfall or even Risen, but it doesn’t work here. Put simply, you have a game that takes place in a medieval fantasy setting and you’re throwing in a character inspired by the Renaissance period. The end result is that the new Diego feels out of place and sticks out like a sore thumb in the world of Gothic. I just hope they don’t plan to transform Gorn into a Roman gladiator or something.
More Remaking Less Re-imagining Please
Based on yesterday’s announcement, the upcoming game will be an actual Gothic 1 Remake whereas the playable teaser is more of a re-imagining. Presumably, that means the developers will stick a lot more closely to the original formula, which is already very good news.
“We are up for the challenge to develop a full Gothic remake which will stay as faithfully as possible to the original experience and transport the atmospheric world of Gothic into a high-quality look and carefully modernizing certain gameplay mechanics,” said Reinhard Pollice, business and product development director at THQ Nordic.
The Good, the Bad, and the Cockney
Alright, so what can THQ Barcelona do to improve upon their current work? Well, the first order of business should probably be to make the Valley of Mines a darker, more oppressive place where danger lurks at every corner. It is a prison colony after all.
Next, the Nameless Hero needs to be reworked from the ground up and given the personality of the original version. Changing his accent is a must in my opinion, and the same goes for all the other characters. A lot of fantasy settings feature characters that speak with British accents and I think it’s a very tired trope at this point. Not every fantasy world has to be Lord of the Rings so give the characters their American accents back.
Another thing that needs to make a comeback is the open world with no invisible walls, the ability to climb onto most surfaces, and just more freedom to explore in general. It also goes without saying that cut scenes, prompts, and tutorials should be kept to a minimum. Gothic is meant to be a very punishing game that doesn’t hold your hand and kicks your ass at every turn if you’re not careful. It was basically one of the first 3D RPGs where you needed to “git gud”, a full decade before Dark Souls. Taking away that steep learning curve is taking away the very essence of Gothic.
The new menu is pretty decent for the most part but it shouldn’t pause the game when you open it. I know Skyrim and a bunch of other RPGs do it but here it feels very out of place and turns every fight into a piece of cake. Once again, Gothic is supposed to be very difficult and pausing the game mid-fight to restore your health just doesn’t make any sense in a game like this. Especially since Gothic has a lot of other features and mechanics that make it more realistic than your typical RPG. What they should definitely keep is the Glossary because that’s one of the best new additions I’ve seen in the playable teaser.
Diego Will Remember That
The other new addition that stood out in the demo was the bait mechanic. I wouldn’t mind if that made it into the Gothic 1 Remake as well. And I definitely wouldn’t mind if the developers implemented even more ways to interact with the environment. I’m not sure if the pissing mechanic from the teaser added anything to the experience, though. Personally, I would prefer mechanics that are a bit more useful, but that’s just me.
As far as the dialogue wheel is concerned, just no. Fallout 4, or any other Bethesda title for that matter, is the last place where THQ Nordic should be looking for inspiration. Same goes for the whole system that lets you know when NPCs are happy or upset with you. “Diego will remember that”. Of course he will. Choices have consequences in Gothic but you’re meant to find that out the hard way.
The music is pretty good but they’re trying too hard to emulate The Witcher 3 with it. I know imitation is the highest form of flattery but this is ridiculous. Maybe tone it down a couple of notches. The original score composed by Kai Rosenkranz was perfectly fine and contributed immensely to the game’s eerie atmosphere. I’m willing to bet most people wouldn’t have any issues with using a remastered version of the original score. Or, if they could get Rosenkranz to compose new music, even better.
Going back to the combat system, it would probably be best if they removed the stamina attribute entirely because it doesn’t really add anything to the game. The original didn’t have it and didn’t need it either. In fact, the only Gothic title that had a stamina system was the third one and we all know how that turned out. Other Piranha Bytes games since then have continued to use stamina and the combat was subpar in every single one of them. Maybe now would be a good time to break the mold and come up with something different. A directional combat system – if done right – would be challenging enough without stamina management, especially if you also remove the ability to pause the game mid-fight.
In closing, I’m all up for a Gothic 1 Remake if done right. Gothic is one of my favorite series of all time and I’ve replayed all three titles (we don’t speak about Arcania) countless times over the past 15+ years. I’m not a big fan of THQ Barcelona’s re-imagining and would much rather see a remake that sticks closer to the original and adds a bunch of improvements without stripping away everything that made Gothic a fantastic game in the first place.
In a perfect world, the remake would be developed by Piranha Bytes, but since the studio is working on a different project, we can only hope that THQ Barcelona will pull it off somehow. The studio’s first attempt wasn’t very promising but I think that’s only because the devs took way too much inspiration from current RGPs and tried a bit too hard to create a ‘modern’ version of Gothic. I think that’s the last thing the community wants seeing as how most modern RPGs are boring and uninspired.
They should take some inspiration from the likes of Dark Souls and The Witcher 3 – and none from The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age – but not to the point where the game loses all its uniqueness. At the end of the day, Gothic was the type of game that inspired others, and can be again, not the other way around. If anything, there should be more features borrowed from Gothic 2.
We’re starting to see more and more examples of good remakes in recent times, with the Resident Evil 2 Remake probably being the best example. It’s going to be a difficult task to do justice to the original Gothic but not an impossible one. I think THQ Barcelona has plenty of motivation to do it right because this is the type of project that can either make or break the newly-formed studio. May the gods have mercy on their souls if they mess this up because the community backlash will be worse than Beliar’s wrath.
And for the love of Innos, make the PC version first and then work on the console ports, not the other way around. I know this is set to be a multi-platform release, but if you alienate the PC community, the Gothic 1 Remake will almost certainly be dead on arrival.