Risen is a third person clumsy RPG with some basic gameplay features but look close enough and there is the start of some good ideas from piranha bytes, just none of them explored fully or used in a constructive manner.
The starting story cinematic looks good but is incredibly random, doesn’t tell you anything about where you are, who you are, or who the guy is with the ruby stuck in his eye. A huge monster appears and the man with the ruby eye tries to attack the creature but fails miserably then vanishes, a huge wave knocks over the ship you are travelling on and smashes it into many tiny pieces. This is where your frustration begins.
You’re washed up on a beach with multiple dead bodies around you, your tutorial will start here but is no help what so ever. So I’m stumbling around trying to get used to the movement of my character which is pretty poor, you can’t change the sensitivity either so swinging the view around violently will happen quite often. The only positive thing I can say about the movement is the side stepping, it’s useful when you pick up multiple objects on the ground but otherwise expect to fight with the character view often, which is especially annoying when in small rooms and not open spaces.
You will also get your first taste of combat if you venture left along the beach, combat is extremely poor and quite unfair. Fighting one enemy isn’t so bad, just takes a bit of thinking and guessing when the enemy is going to dive forward to attack you but when you parry enemies’ attacks you still take damage, I do not understand this myself and it really isn’t helpful. When you’re confronted with more than one enemy almost certainly expect death, multiple enemies just run round you attacking you at will, the view point makes it almost impossible to change direction to face a foe and the movement makes it extra hard to set yourself up to just fight one enemy, never mind five.
The start of the game is also not user friendly, I wouldn’t expect the main stream audience to be able to play this at all as I had trouble locating myself on the map and even finding the map in the first place, you aren’t told any advanced controls leaving you stranded and lost in the game. There’s a woman you know washed up on the beach too you go up to her to start your quest, the way the conversations are set up is pretty old school RPG but done in a cheap vulgar way, some voice acting can be appreciated especially if it’s funny in a stereotypical RPG fashion but otherwise you will be pressing skip alot. When you skip conversations you miss out on important detail to get you submerged into an RPG world, Risen having very poor voice acting and dialogue means it will suffer almost immediately in the way of depth and a decent story line, you don’t feel part of the Risen world you just wander over the top of it trying to force yourself to enjoy some terribly designed old RPG elements.
So I got used to these problems and continued to play just to be confronted by more problems, I did think the gameplay would become hollow/boring for a while after the initial tutorials and starting story but it isn’t for the simple fact you’re barraged with a multitude of problems even during just relaxed play, exploring is a key part in RPG games and the way the area’s are set out is just confusing and misleading especially when your map is unusable and quite frankly pointless, even games with a small budget can get the level layout to a certain standard with a little bit of level testing and thought.
As you explore round the areas you can pick up random objects up off the ground, there’s not a huge variety but enough to ease the stress a little from the combat. You can check these in your inventory, your inventory works well enough for you not to get angry with it every ten minutes but because the menu system is small and fiddly you might have a problem seeing and reading when you have which is not great, I ate something random thinking it was a life potion, it wasn’t a life potion and I died because of this clumsy fault. I do however like the basic idea of the inventory you can bring it up while you’re running about getting your ass kicked and I like the little squares, it makes everything accessible and easy to use it’s just a shame they didn’t spend more time refining it.
Not only does the game lack some much needed thought it also makes you jump through it’s ridiculous hoops as you try to do the simplest of tasks in the menu. You can bring up the map using the D-pad, you can also bring up the quest information menu but it brings the world map up alongside the quest info making reading quests out of tiny boxes very irritating and hard work. When you bring up your equipment screen you can see what armour you have on and what advantages/disadvantages some items have, you however bizarrely cant change your equipment here it makes you bring up your inventory to equip an item, then you have to open the equipment info tab up again just to see what effect it has on you…. this is a major annoyance and takes all the fun out of changing weapons and armour.
This game either makes you go without RPG elements or forces you to do things the hard way, travelling round the Risen world is time consuming and difficult, and not in the rewarding way either. There are no waypoints making travelling well just about impossible, wasting time running from one place to another is annoying but not the biggest problem you will face. When you run from place to place no doubt you will be set upon by multiple foes that are much harder than you, you can’t gain exp to get to a higher level as enemies are too hard and are in too greater number, this is a really nasty gameplay hole you will end up falling into, training your character is supposed to be enjoyable it’s not supposed to be neon impossible and irritating.
The fact the game looks pretty messy and below average doesn’t help, character models look ancient and very stereotypical and the maps and areas around you are quite despicable. There are odd patches of grass on top of flat texture less ground and the loading of level detail like the grass and bushes is very poor, they fade into shot when you’re just two steps away from them. The screenshots I saw are hard to believe now I have the title, I haven’t seen anything as beautiful or interesting like it has on the box, which annoys me as customers could be mislead. All the vegetation and trees look flat from every angle which makes the game feel flat and boring and the lack of texture on most surfaces adds to this problem further making the visual experience very poor indeed.
I did read into the history of the studio Piranha bytes and it sounds like they are trying to bring their old Gothic series back under another name, I also read this series was popular back in the day and I have come to the conclusion they just haven’t improved the layout of this series and have failed to evolve the game so it would fit this generation of gamer. I am disappointed, this studio has obviously produced games that are playable and people have enjoyed, it just seems like they haven’t tried too hard with this title and there are alot of great and epic RPG’s out there which just put this title to shame.
Some aspects of this game do remind me of the online 2D MMORPG Tibia, the way you can cook food, join guilds and the inventory system also reminds me of some of the old school features that Tibia has, which is a different direction/slant to bring to the 360 but Piranha bytes fail badly in making a game you can play and enjoy as the basics and foundations of the game just aren’t right and you can see this quite clearly from the start of the game. Everything is either boring for example quests, wandering around and talking to other characters, or faulty and difficult to even perform, like the combat, equipping of items and movement. Overall it’s a pretty irritating experience with many fault’s which is a shame as I love Sacred 2 and Elder scrolls for the original Xbox, and Risen had some of the same vibes and I thought there might have some parts I could have enjoyed, however I didn’t and I can’t see anything apart from achievement’s that would keep you playing this for more than a day.
Gamer Rating: 3
Buy, Rent or Pass: Pass