Review – Gothic (Switch)

Way back in late 2001, a then up-and-coming dev team from Germany called Piranha Bytes released an action RPG called Gothic. It was a game praised for its then-impressive world building, level of freedom, and storytelling, but criticised for weird graphics (even for the time) and really poor combat. It kickstarted a franchise, and it’s even getting a full-on remake sometime next year, but it had never exactly been considered a bonafide classic, especially considering the fact Morrowind would be released just a few months later, forever changing the landscape of Western RPGs. Yet, THQ Nordic and Piranha Bytes thought it was a good idea to re-release this “gem” on the Nintendo Switch.

Gothic Switch presentation

That’ll be thirty of your hard-earned US dollars, plus tax.

Let me inform you right away that re-releasing older games on modern platforms is not a bad thing. In fact, I really like THQ Nordic’s efforts in remaking or remastering said games, usually followed by a funny pun on their title. They had previously done some great work with Spongebob, Darksiders II, and Red Faction. Gothic is not one of those cases. This is not a remaster, nor a Switch version of the promised remake, which is still months away from being released. This is the 2001 game, upscaled and in 16:9, with a brand new control scheme. As for the rest, it’s the same damn thing. A mere port of some twenty-two year old Eurojank.

This is baffling to look at. From the moment I booted Gothic up for the first time, it felt like I was playing a cheap Windows 2000 emulator, running a jurassic game at an improved screen ratio, but not quite at a better resolution. I was greeted by an incredibly grainy intro video, one that reminded me of when I used to download 240p trailers of upcoming GameCube games with a hardcore 56kbps modem. The introduction to the plot wasn’t much better, as it felt incredibly silly: the entire game is set in an area of land covered by a magic dome, with different factions trying to take control over it. It may have been really cool in 2001, but anything featuring a giant dome and people stuck inside of it is now bound to compared to the plot of The Simpsons Movie.

Gothic Scavengers

What if I told you this dino-sized freak of an enemy clucks like a chicken?

It was hard to feel motivated by the plot from the get-go. The intro presentation was ugly, the plot was silly, and once I was given control of my protagonist, I had to endure some really dumb dialogue. The voice acting per se wasn’t THAT terrible, considering the time the game was released, but the script itself… hoo boy. So there I was, lost in a hideous land that reminded me of Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage for the Nintendo 64, complete with lots of pop-in and, somehow, framerate issues. For some reason, this violation to any functioning human eye wasn’t able to hold a framerate despite clearly not pushing the limits of a GeForce FX 5700 from 2003, let alone the Switch’s GPU. Go figure.

Getting a hold of the controls and the gameplay as a whole was another ordeal. With no tutorials or even a freaking explanation as to how the menus work (it took me an hour to find out where the game was showcasing how much Experience my character had, and how much more was needed to level up), I had to pretty much press all buttons and pray that I was doing things right. That… didn’t work out very well. I got immediately demolished by Diego, the first NPC that greeted me once the game started, forcing to start a brand new save.

Gothic Switch glitches

You had twenty-two years to fix this one glitch here.

Well then… getting to know the controls didn’t exactly make things more exciting. Gothic was made with a keyboard and mouse in mind, so trying to play this beyond dated piece of lovely Eurojank on a pair of Joy-Cons felt… wrong. The button placement felt bizarre (A to attack? For real?), the responsiveness was laggy, and the collision detection was just downright randomized. Lining up my tank-like protagonist (as in, he moves like a tank, he is not as bulky as a tank) in front of an enemy was just the first arduous step when trying to kill a foe. I would then have to pray that my attacks would just drain a foe’s HP before they did the same to me. No matter the weapon I’d pick, no matter the kind of attack I’d deliver (magic or not), the combat just felt boring. Remember, this just came out months before Morrowind.

Dealing with the bland story didn’t exactly motivate me to keep on playing Gothic. Nor did the utterly bizarre and convoluted leveling up system, in which I’d have to talk to specific characters in the overworld in order to level up specific attributes with what little skill points I had in hand. This game is long, boring, and extremely grindy. While I do appreciate how easy it is to get a hold of healing items, be it by picking up berries or eating the flesh of dead enemies, it takes ages before your character is beefy enough to not die in a single hit to an enemy outside of your league, and ages before the story itself becomes interesting. Oh, and no autosaves or checkpoints. If you forget to save frequently, and just so happen to die unexpectedly by a strong opponent, get ready to lose hours of progress. I can’t be bothered.

Gothic Switch mole rats

They look like zombie turtles, they oink like pigs, but they are called mole rats. I don’t get the world of Gothic.

Gothic is the kind of ultra-janky game you’ll most likely grab on Steam or GOG, at a monstrous discount, at maybe two dollars during a sale, and play for a few hours whilst trying to cope with dated visuals, controls, physics, and so on. This is NOT the kind of game that deserves being sold for thirty bucks on the eShop, with little to no improvements, and a control scheme that just showcases this has always been meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard. This is one of laziest and most bare bones ports on the Switch, at an insulting price tag to boot. In a system filled to the brim with RPGs, you can probably live without this one.


Graphics: 2.5

Even for 2001 standards, Gothic was already a hideous little thing. Re-releasing on a modern platform twenty-two years later with very little enhancements just makes it look even more unsettling. Shout out to the ultra low-quality FMVs. Not even 2006 YouTube clips looked that grainy.

Gameplay: 4.0

Gothic was meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard. It is already janky as hell on PC, with all of its “optimal” settings. Trying to play this game on a controller is meant to test your patience more than anything else.

Sound: 6.0

The voice acting isn’t great, but also not entirely terrible for the standards of its time. The soundtrack is passable, but the sound effects are cheap.

Fun Factor: 4.0

This is the kind of ultra-dated game that you would only be able to somewhat enjoy on its original platform, at a monstrous discount, and with mammoth-sized nostalgia goggles. Paying thirty bucks for this bare bones port on the Nintendo Switch is insulting.

Final Verdict: 4.0

Gothic is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Gothic was provided by the publisher.