A little bit Gothic
RPGs are in short supply until later on this year and Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol, next year. So Risen has appeared to fill that void, by the same developers of the Gothic series...a pretty decent if somewhat bugged PC RPG that did a lot of interesting things before Oblivion and introduced an artificial life system for the various NPCs that populated the world.
Risen can be described as a console remake of Gothic, which isnít really a bad thing.Story
You are a stow-away, along with a friend, on a ship thatís carrying the Inquisition to a far off land. During a bad storm you find yourself shipwrecked and cast onto a beach with this friend, now you must fend for yourself against the many hostile creatures and people on the island, discover whatís going on and more.Gameplay
Risen is a third person action-RPG adventure that brings to the table similar systems used in Gothic. The combat is tricky at first but once you get the hang of it, the battles become a matter of skill and timing rather than just madly pressing a button and hoping that your enemy falls down before you do. You can use simple 3 hit combos with the A button, block using the B button and when you learn the skill, Parry/Counter with the Y button. You can lock onto an enemy and the combat camera will attempt to keep them in view. If they evade your strike however, then it can break the lock and leave you vulnerable for a few seconds as you have to orientate yourself back to their direction.
Risen has no class based skill system, so itís all up to player choice as you undergo quests and reap the rewards of exploration. Kill enough monsters, loot enough people, do enough missions and the xp will come flooding in. A level up grants you with learning points and other boosts. This in combination with gold will allow you to use the many in-game trainers to upgrade your character.
You can take strength upgrades and weapon skill upgrades along with numerous other skills. All of these cost a certain number of learning points and sometimes a combination of gold too depending on the skill in question. As you raise the skills you unlock perks inside that skill like blocking, parrying and so forth. Magic is likewise the same, you can use it and develop magical powers, alchemical formulae and other abilities by spending points at various traders.
Risen is packed with side missions and it can be a tad confusing to work out where youíre supposed to go, since just like Gothic, there are various factions all willing to let you work for them and do their dirty jobs for very little reward.
The D-Pad controls your various character screens, equipment, skills and so on. Itís a bit tricky to navigate since once you open the screen you must now use the stick to move around rather than the D-Pad itself. That can cause you to close the inventory by accident if youíre using to navigating using the pad. The in-game quest log and journal does a good job of giving you the information you need but only tracks important conversations and can sometimes leave you with a very sketchy idea of where to go next. The map screen requires a physical map of the island or location in your inventory to work.
Risen also borrows the idea of character jobs from Gothic, you can learn to be a smith, forge your own weapons and magical jewellery. You can till fields, cook, and so on. This all helps to draw you into the game and builds on the gameís atmosphere.Graphics
Risen has a fairly decent graphical style to it, some of the characters appear to be copy/paste versions of the standard mercenary grunt in several of the locations, this does cut down the sense of immersion a little but itís tolerable enough. Overall the facial models arenít bad, there are some slight erroneous features and some of the characters look pretty ugly but it kind of fits when you consider the setting. The game has a nice day/night cycle with some pretty good weather effects, especially when in a thunder storm. In general the monster design and NPC design is fairly decent and there are some interesting bad guys to fight.
Texturing on the levels themselves looks a little wonky in places, especially in the one cave I explored. There was some serious texture warping inside across the walls and it really didnít look like rock at all, unless in the days of fantasy yore thereís a candy rock cave where delicious guarded sweet treats reside. The frame-rate is solid enough apart from a moment where a physics bug caused it to turn to slide-show treacle.