Posted: April 16
Risen is a game of 'let's pretend' for both its developers and devoted fans - let's pretend that it's a hardcore RPG; let's pretend that it's acceptable for a game to be bad until the second act; let's pretend that the combat isn't a chore to sit through. Risen wants to be seen as a no-nonsense "classic" RPG, but all it really does is make the game little more than a chore to sit through. The game starts out with promise, where humanity has forced the Gods from its island, only to face a new and much deadlier threat: the Titans. With the Titans coming to power, powerful storms destroy anything outside of the islands, and mysterious temples rise from the ground to spread fear and, to the adventerous, the urge to explore. Your character is a shipwreck survivor, and a wreck in every other way possible, and is stranded on an island he's never been to before. You're completely neutral from the start, with no intentions of saving the world or conquering it, making it very much like some of my favourite RPGs where you start with no goal. This however doesn't take long to change.
From the very start of the game, the combat begins badly and is only worsened over time. At first, sluggish one-two punches and weak waist high kicks are tolerable, but as one acquires weapons, they feel weighty without being visceral. Fighting in this game is nothing like a hardcore RPG, in which you have to know each enemy inside out and strategise before every encounter because, quite frankly, it's impossible. There's absolutely no flow or grace to the combat, instead having clunky dodge mechanics and weird AI, not to mention the animations which make it look bad as well as feel that way. Despite all the moves you can learn with new skills, there's just no variety of moves - it's simple 3-clicks of the left mouse button, and perhaps a bit of moving involved. The worst part about this is that some minor tweaks to the fight engine could've made this significantly better. Instead, I'd sooner avoid fights than risk my sanity for some wolf pelts and raw chicken.
Speaking of which, the loot is pathetic. With armour only being available from a few vendors (and so far I've counted 4 pieces of armour in total, two of which are just ordinary clothes), expect to find crummy weapons like sharpened branches, clubs and rusty blades. Don't be disappointed either when you find little gold from the mobs you kill, most of which will be animals anyway, so unless you can find quests where meat and hides are the requirements, you won't get rich quickly, or really at all.
But you need to be wealthy in order to make use of your skill points, as with each level up you get 10 skill points to spend on combat and non-combat skills. Seeing as only your health increases when you level up, it's best to spend these points as soon as possible with a clear idea of what you want from them. Oh, and you have to pay the trainer too. Essentially you can learn about 2-3 skills per level, increasing either your stats, combat abilities with certain weapons or learn professions and thievery skills. However by level 10 you'll have learnt the most interesting stuff like pickpocketing (which in fairness is the most useful thing in the game), lockpicking and Alchemy to make potions, so you'll be stuck with saving up to learn how to fight competently.
Not that you need to worry about fighting well too much, considering the best time I had in the game (and perhaps this will apply to you; it definitely will when you get into a scrap) was doing fetch quests and talking to people. I'm not one to tolerate MMO-style questing especially in a single player RPG where I want to get away from it all, but when you experience the worst Risen has to offer early on, anything looks better later on. Getting involved in both factions' stories, especially when they escalate in Harbour Town, was far more interesting than whatever's going on with the gods, titans and whatever main story I'm supposed to actually care about.
The biggest issue that plagues this game is not its combat, its painfully average writing, its lame voice acting, poor visuals or forgettable - but excellent - sound design; it's the pace. In a nutshell, it takes far too long to get to the decent part of the game, and even then it can be hit or miss. The game requires about five to ten hours, possibly more if it's your first time playing to get to Harbour Town where the two factions can be seen at their best. It's there where you'll find better gear and supplies, plus you'll probably be powerful enough to take on basic to average-level monsters. I don't know about you, but I firmly believe a game should be good the moment I boot it up, not have some potential, and then have to slog through 10+ hours of the most tiring quests I've ever seen to get to what may or may not be better quests.
However, the game may appeal to those who can live without quest help and fast travel, for a time. Having to listen to quest dialogue and take notes about important locations or items is as "classic" as this RPG gets, because there's little in the way of map markers or quest pointers; instead you have to rely on the maps you've obtained and find the route to the red dot on it yourself. However if you're a TESIV: Oblivion generation player like myself, this may take some getting used to.
I'm not mad because of the lack of modern features which could make the game significantly better; I'm mad because this game wastes too much of the players' time before they so much as feel competent. It's more depressing than disempowering, and for that I cannot recommend Risen. If you need a second opinion, check out my video review below.
WARNING: CONTAINS SWEARIES.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agsjny6tN5k