Posted: December 14
This "review" may be very stream of consciousness.
See, I don't think I'd call the Risen series a good game series, save maybe the first game. Well, that's probably a bit unfair. They are good in a variety of ways, just not the traditional ways most games are. The combat just kinda stinks in these games. There's no real way around it. Again, Risen had this issue too but was far lighter on combat than either of the sequels, at least for the majority of the game. It's incredibly basic and spammy, and there's far too much of it.
So why am I so compelled by this series? I think one of the things Piranha Bytes does well, is exploration. There's always nooks and crannies to explore and side quests to find. These random adventures with the sidequests are among Risen 3's strengths, are often very funny. Risen 3 lets you have almost unfettered access to the game's world once you complete the tutorial area. There's about 20 percent of the game walled off for story purposes, but other than that, you can really just do what you want. You'll have a few major goals, but they are so out of reach that often just following your wandering heart is the best course of action. You'll probably find your way into the main story eventually by sheer accident. There's a spell that turns you into a parrot that you can use
That brings me to the story. In order to account for that free form exploration, it's pretty basic. You are the son of a legendary pirate (and brother to series mainstay Patty) who gets his soul stolen by someone in the underworld, but you've managed to retain your human body. So you'll need to set out and find your soul, and in the course of doing so basically solve everyone's problems along the way. Now, the series has never had a strong story. For some reason you're a new character, despite that this new guy kinda looks like the old guy, and he's sort of a similar character (the previous hero is probably a bit more polite). So it's kinda weird that you're a new guy that's not very different from the old guy. Like you can actually read reviews for the game and people are actually confused about it, thinking it's the same character. Well, anyway, it's even weirder because like, the game is pretty heavily invested in Risen 2's story. You recruit 3 of the party members from the 2nd game. So, anyway, just a bit weird that they made this new character that's barely different and have him interact with everyone anyway. I'd get it if they were like "we don't want to reset the hero again," but they kinda do it to you anyway at the start. Just sort of a strange decision.
Speaking of things back from Risen 2, the game heavily reuses some of the areas. Most of them are vastly expanded or changed, but still felt a bit like a retread at times. There are a variety of quality of life improvements, like a fast travel system similar to something in an Ubisoft game. The game has the most ridiculously in depth quest tracking system, so if you're lost you just need to use your log and put "show map marker" so if you're not in the mood to explore, you have that option. Crafting's a bit easier now too. There's more trainers, and most trainers train multiple skills so you likely won't have to worry too much about not having access to someone to train you. Trainers and merchants are all marked on the map after you find them once.
The levelling system is largely the same but has been reorganized, and not really for the better. For instance, melee skill increases your skill in all three weapon types, so there's not much specializing. Similarly there's like a Silver Tongue (charm) and Intimidate dialogue option often, and these skills are on the same stat too. Most games would force you to pick, be a charmer or be a brute, perhaps tying them to related stats. So it's a little boring that way.
Anyways, game starts off hard, like the others. You'll need to choose a magic faction for story purposes (and also, c'mon, free magic). This magic makes the game substantially easier, at least for the faction I chose, which favors direct damage. To be honest, and I find myself saying this with complete surprise, but I'd advise people to take a melee path. The combat does ever get good but there's some fun to be had once you get the parry ability. The basic magic attacks act sort of like weapon attacks, so you can't really use them with swords. So eventually when I got bored of how easy the magic was making the game I invested in melee and only use the cooldown abilities. Combining sword, a magic attack, and then a pistol shot while dancing around enemies could actually be fun at times. Random gripe but, hey, PB, you're a PC developer. Don't give me 30 moves and make them all need to be on the 10 hotkeys. Give me a scrolling hotkey bar or something. That's something to be said about this game over Risen 2 is that you have a lot more stuff to use, and it gives you it often. Even the magic of the other factions can be used via consumable items, so it really adds to the value of exploring. In R2 it seemed pretty rare to find anything too useful outside of a sword upgrade here and there.
The game does a good job of feeling "alive." It has a small cast of characters but this allows them to do NPC scheduling. I liked that as you clear objectives like taking back a mine overrun by undead, the miners that were displaced by the undead will go back to work. That sort of stuff. Small touches a lot of games would ignore.
Voice acting is weird. The PC sounds like someone's trying to do a Bale Batman voice via Aaron Paul, and I really hated him at the start. I got used to him though, mainly because his deadpan delivery really works well given the odd stories he gets himself involved in. Most of the party members are good, and I rather love Bones' voice actor. Very strange performance in both games. Graphically it's not going to stun much but most enviroments are well done, and it seems to be far more technically sounds than Risen 2. Fairly certain I had better performance in Risen 3 than R2 on the same hardware.
Anyways, I preordered it so, a quick review of the DLC, in case you ever get the game. The Gnomes isle one is kind of bland. About 2 hours. Not much to do there, honestly, and it feels rather disconnected. One of the big appeals of the game to me was sailing into a port, finding treasure maps and quests that take me to a different island, and just bouncing around. The DLC, by nature, can't be involved in this, so it loses that. The second major DLC is the Fog Island one. This one I like better. It's more involved in the main story, and has some decent atmosphere. Also had some good treasure to be found, while the other one didn't. Still suffers from being disconnected. Both are about 2 hours each, which isn't too bad for 5 bucks, but I'd probably wait for at least a small discount.
Writing this all out sounds negative, and it kinda is, but as much as I have issues with some of it, I enjoyed my overall time. I think PB are really good at creating areas to explore. The aren't too big, not too small, and there's always something around the corner, and they give you. I just hope, now that they have the rights to Gothic back again, that we see them address the combat in the future. I don't need much when it comes to action RPGs, but something's gotta give. Even something as simple as making combat rarer.
Alright, ramble done. I don't think I can recommend it outright. Have a tolerance for Eurojank, and like pirates, humor, and good exploration? Probably worth getting. Liked Risen 2? Get it for sure. Hated Risen 2? Ehh, it's an improvement but not leaps and bounds. Wait for a sale.
Final clocked in time is 45 hours, for those that care about game time. Minus the DLC and a few deaths / idle moments I'd say most people will get 35-40 hours out of it.