My First Thoughts on ArcaniA

I was a little bit of a latecomer to the Gothic series, having only recently played Gothic 3.  I didn't actually beat it, which is partly my fault because life interrupted my play on this game, but also partly the game's fault because it was buggy and the best patch was produced by the community and is not an official Gothic patch.  But I really enjoyed some of the gameplay, particularly the vastness of the world and some of the choice given as to how problems would be solved and when the player would tackle certain missions.   I understand Gothic fans will probably say Gothic 1 and 2 were much better, but I haven't played them and at this point the graphics may be too dated for me to be able to get into them.
So, ArcaniA is very different in these areas.  The world seems substantially smaller, and the game seems pretty linear so far.  I am maybe 5 hours into the game, and it seems like there are levels, more or less, that encompass each area.  In that level, you have a handful of side quests and a main quest that must be completed before you can move on to the next area.  Each area is pretty self-contained; I haven't had to go back to a previous town yet.  Further, there is very little of the map that isn't used for a quest.  So there isn't much benefit to just exploring the world, which is something I really enjoyed doing in Gothic 3.  You don't really seem to find any special hidden items or story points interspersed throughout the world.  Every cave you find appears to be related to some quest or another, and built such that the end of the cave takes you back to the beginning of the cave.  I understand the reason behind that last item (no one likes back-tracking), but it really hurts immersion for me.  It's just hard for me to believe that every cave in the world is built more or less like a circle. 
So the game is pretty, and the combat is a bit better than in Gothic 3, but the design of the game and the scope of the world seem a lot worse to me.  And that has generally made me pretty disappointed with the game so far.  I'm going to keep giving it a shot, but for now I'd say I regret getting it; I'd probably prefer playing Gothic 3 again.