Risen 3 has just been released, but this is a review of the original Risen released in 2009 for PC and Xbox. In a reversal of the usual trend this is a great PC game with a terrible port to console, so if you’re thinking of getting it for PC – absofiggin’lutely! Xbox? Give it a miss.
I loved this game. I’m a big fan of the RPG genre and Risen has everything a good RPG should have, and rises above many. You start out shipwrecked on a beach, your first weapon is a stick and the rodents fight better than you do. You’ve come from nowhere but nobody has had visions of you, nor are you the goddamned Chosen One! The characters you meet do not say ‘Oh look it’s the Player’ in fact they are quite surly and distrustful until you have proven yourself. It’s an immersive world with life, character and humour.
When you die (and you die a lot, particularly at the start because you are a nobody and you suck) there’s a short pause before the game auto-reloads and you get to see what the thing that killed you does. Animals will start eating you, whilst Gnomes (curse you Gnomes!) will loot your corpse and probably do a victory dance on top of it. In general humans will give you a good hiding but won’t outright kill you (likewise you will rarely wish to kill them) but they might go through your pockets and grumble about how little gold you have, call you an idiot or praise you if you came close to winning. Fighting is the street? A crowd will gather and start yelling “Hit him!”
The voice acting is good and the dialogue natural. Most characters have their own voice, so you feel they are individual rather than interchangable. Many have jobs and sometimes an animation of them actually doing it! Plus they have, well, personality. Opinions. Agendas. When you earn a promotion your friends will congratulate you and your haters will spit on you – just like real life! A lot of effort has been put into making character motivations and actions believable.
There are two factions, The Bandits or The Inquisition. The Bandits are a mixture of Freedom Fighters and petty thugs whilst the Inquisition is an oppressive Lawful regime that forces people into it’s service. Regardless of which side you choose the plot plays out the same, with you as either a Fighter (Bandits) or a Mage (Inquistion). I chose the Bandits, ran by The Don, because they seemed the least dickish, and really enjoyed the close-quarters combat.
Enemies will move about and try to flank you, which makes groups especially dangerous, and you quickly learn to fight with your back to the wall or find a bottleneck. You have to watch your opponent to see when they are open, and time your attacks to get past their guard whilst, hopefully, not getting hit yourself. It’s realistic without being over-complicated. Practise does make perfect, however, and you can train to gain better moves. You may need to find help to defeat certain things or come back when you are stronger.
Even as a Fighter you have access to some magic via scrolls. These are largely utility scrolls with things like telekinesis, levitation and transform (which turns you into a snail-like creature, to crawl through small spaces). The summoned skeleton was kick-ass and did not die easily.
The story is partly to do with the factions fighting over the island, but there is a deeper plot to do with the storms that ship-wrecked you here, and mysterious ruins that have ‘risen’ out of the ground, bringing monsters with them. It’s the usual ‘ancient evil unleashed which you must defeat.’ Whilst the final battle itself in a little underwhelming getting there is a real joy, particularly if you enjoy exploration and puzzles. Each dungeon you go through has a unique design and different challenges to overcome in order to reach your objective.
The graphics are somwhat sub-par and sometimes downright dingy, but they serve their purpose. Something I did find remarkable though was that you could walk from one end of the island to the other, in and out of buildings, without once encountering a loading screen! Risen is not the prettiest game but it nails it where it counts; the gameplay and atmosphere are a total delight. I highly recommend Risen.