Review by DandyQuackShot
A Dangerous Island Beats a Deserted One
If you have not heard of Risen well you probably are not alone. There are a quite a few console games coming out that sneak under the radar now that the Xbox 360 is own its fifth year. In some cases you might run into a gem of a find in one of these lesser known titles from even lesser known developers. Risen may be a gem to some hardcore role playing gamers but as a PC port to the 360 it is a very average RPG game that contains all of the classic elements of RPG gaming but lacks in many areas with issues in the graphics, framerate, and overall game play. Risen has a very open-ended style so that you will not have a linear experience in how to pursue things. You begin a shipwreck survivor with nothing and must become the ultimate authority on the fantasy island of Faranga.
If you have seen Clash of Titans you might think this game is a ripoff of the tale of Perseus. Nothing about Risen seems very original but perhaps the movie took from the game. Either way you are a stowaway on a boat and end up encountering some wicked stuff on the high seas and end up washed ashore on a mysterious island. There is a counterpart that gets washed up with you but this lazy chick seems to totally not care about moving on with you and decides to enjoy the first deserted house you come to. The backstory gets kind of lost as to why you were a stowaway but as you progress into the island you find out that a crazy cult from the mainland has set up shop in the only town on the island while a band of ruffians and cut throats have been forced out to live in a swamp. There are three factions you can join up with to continue your progress. You can join up with Don Esteban and his swamp bandits, the mages (who are the closest to being the "good guys" in the game), or the crazy Inquisition cult who have more to do with the main story.
The story is somewhat interesting due to having to decide what route you should take to play this game. Almost every person you run into has some kind of task that you will need to help them with, but as you may win over hearts and minds you do not get much of a following and still have to be a loner. The guy you play as does not even get a name in this game.
As with any open-ended, free roam world setting you always run the chance of glitching the quests before you are ever even presented with the tasks. This can happen a lot in Risen so my biggest suggestion (if you want to try this game and are not a big RPG fan like me) is to use a FAQ or walkthrough for this game. I basically became lost in the first chapter and due to the frequent auto-save feature I kept getting even more lost. Of course you can always be creative and have way too much fun in games like these. After getting so far lost in trying to progress to the next chapter of the game I ended up luring an Ogre to the Don's camp in the swamp and had him wipe out half of the bandits including Brogar, the angry pushover.
Having to gain experience and skills is the next biggest thing you will notice about this game. You have to work very hard to be able to go out exploring. I died a lot even on easy when encountering pack after pack of wild beasts and wolves. You have to pay out to have trainers teach you the skills you need to be able to earn to survive but earning gold is probably the easiest thing to do in the game as there are a lot items to collect and trade off to dealers.
The combat system is rather basic and easy to master. You can block and attack as needed against enemies but have to be careful when they side step you or you have multiple enemies on your flank. Magic spells are available to mages but you can collect and use scrolls as well as use healing potions and herbs that you find. Not being a big fan of RPG's this stuff was nothing new even to me. What I did like was being able to hit up the inventory menu and fill up on the healing potions while other fights were still going on near me but nothing attacking could hit me. Also if you accidentally hit somebody or even knock out their life bar you can avoid getting killed when they knock you out and take your stuff for spite. So measures were put in place to prevent you accidentally starting something.
Risen is a very long game especially if you do not know what you are doing. It boasts over 60 hours of game play and I definitely believe that. There is plenty of exploration to do and hundreds of tasks to complete.
The graphics were way off on the characters. The scenery in Risen is actually very good and the detail to the effects of light and weather create a unique setting. The people in the game look like they could have had a better time on the Xbox with simple mouth movements and spastic gestures during dialogue. All of the women are clones. The framerate is particularly bad no matter where you go in the game. At times I thought the island was experiencing earthquakes but it was actually the camera just shaking. The view is in the third person where you can switch to a close up or far away view and the camera is fine but some glitch will make you think you are experiencing an earthquake.
The music sounded like a huge ripoff from the Bethesda games. It's nice but sounds way too familiar. There is a lot of dialogue in the game as everybody you meet will have something to say to you so be prepared to chat a bit or tap B to hurry the conversations.
I made it only so far through Risen before I realized that this would probably be a one time through experience for me. The story won't be the same depending on who you join up with or kill off, but the game is very long. With so many tasks to complete in the game repetition is not really an issue so you won't get bored as there is a lot of variety. The achievements are rather easy to get with plenty of total kills and tasks to complete or quests to finish. As for me I ended up getting very creative in trying to kill off the island's population. There are plenty of things in the game that make it controversial and likely to be banned by now in Australia such as drug use and visits to the Harbor Town brothel along with language, but there is nothing too graphic or explicit. Perhaps this is the only selling point for a game that has little else to offer outside the classic RPG style that it has.
Final Recommendation 6/10
Risen would be fun if you are heavy into the RPG genre or have spent late nights on Runescape. For casual gamers and others like me it just isn't worth the new game price tag. I did not think this game is original enough to stand out from the competition and being a PC port it definitely lacks in visual quality. If you have heard of this game then it is very likely you have heard of it because it was on the PC. If you haven't heard of it and are a fan of RPG's then this is a game that is very basic to the genre and I would only recommend this game to fans of the genre and for everybody else I would recommend Elder Scrolls Oblivion.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Risen (US, 02/22/10)
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