What do you get when you combine the depth of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with the accessibility of Fable?
You get Piranha Bytes’ new fantasy RPG Risen. Following in the footsteps of Piranha Bytes’ other RPG franchise Gothic, Risen offers gamers a unique blend of challenging combat, accessible crafting, and rich environments to explore.
In Risen, you control an unnamed adventurer who is shipwrecked on a spooky island; although this one is seemingly without polar bears and time travel. On this land mass, mysterious ruins have started to rise out of the ground, releasing hoards of monsters into the wild. Through a series of predictable events, you align yourself with one of three factions to help investigate what is causing this menace.
RPG Veterans will feel perfectly at home with Risen‘s gameplay. The standard mechanics of “talk with NPC: get quest” are brought forth once again. You then have to go from point A to point B, and depending on the quest, kill a monster, talk to somebody, or retrieve an item. While it does get a little repetitive, the lush environments keep you interested. Also, when you’re on the road, it helps to keep your eyes open because there is a ton of treasure just hiding in the wilderness.
One interesting aspect of Risen is that there is no classic character creation system, like the ones in Oblivion or Mass Effect. Instead, your character is essentially a blank template who you modify by leveling up and training with different skills. In Risen, there are three distinct character classes, however, they are presented in an interesting way.
Depending on which of the three factions you align with, it will determine your player-class, as well as which quests you have access to. For example, if you side with the mysterious Order of the Flame, you essentially become a mage. If you choose to go with the Warriors of Order, you become a fighter-mage combo. Finally, you can side with the Don’s bandits and become a standard fighter.
The interesting thing about these factions is that they all have their own stories and motives for what they are doing. I never felt like I was siding with the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” For example The Warriors of Order, who seem like the “good guys,” will fight you on sight, and if they win, you are forced to join them.
Like with all RPGs, in Risen you gain experience points by completing quests and killing monsters. Once you level up, you receive more hit points, more mana, and ten ability points. These ability points can be spent on improving your stats, learning new skills, or adding new combos to your repertoire.
Combat in Risen manages to be both simple and complex in regards to the fact that you essentially have two buttons; block and attack. At first, you only have access to one combo, but as you level up and add skill points to whichever weapon you are specializing in, you learn more versatile combos, adding a level of complexity. For example, if I have 10 points in sword fighting, I have three combos to choose from: the ability to charge up attacks to do more damage, break an enemy’s block, or the ability to parry enemy attacks.
One important thing to note is that combat is extremely challenging. Most of the time your enemies are going to be stronger and faster than you, making button mashing impossible. You actually have to watch how the enemy attacks and look for openings to strike, which takes the game beyond the button basher you would expect it to be with such simple controls, instead making combat based around skill rather than skill level.
Risen also features an accessible crafting system, in which crafting breaks down into two categories: items and potions. The items you can craft are either swords or jewelry. In order to make an item, you must first have the prospecting skill, which allows you to extract minerals from cave walls. Then, once you have enough ore for your recipe, you have to find a blacksmith and convert the ore into either weapon blanks or jewelry.
To make potions, first you have to have the alchemy skill, then you have to find the right herbs out in the wild. Once you have enough herbs for a recipe, you then have to find an alchemist’s table and make the potions. All in all, the crafting system does its job; it provides gamers with the option to make their own items, but it doesn’t force you to.
While I had an enjoyable time playing Risen, that’s not to say the game is without its flaws. One of the biggest issues I had with Risen was its poor journal system. Like with most RPGs, you’re given a journal that logs all your quests and people of interest: well, this one doesn’t give clear enough directions. When I beat the game, I had several quests that I was never able to turn in because the journal never said who I was supposed to turn them into.
This may seem like a small issue, but when you are trying to sort though 15 quests, all of which have you talking to five people, it gets pretty easy to get confused. Piranha Bytes could have easily remedied the situation by allowing the gamer to make notes in the journal.
Another issue I had with Risen is the swarthy amount of glitches. There was one time when I was exploring a dungeon and every time I went through a specific door, I was instantly warped to the floor above it. At first I was unsure if this was just another one of the game’s elaborate traps, which you will frequently run into when in a dungeon. After an hour of testing this door, I figured it wasn’t worth my time and took a break. After restarting my computer, I was able to walk though the door with no problem.
Despite my few minor gripes however, overall I was very pleased with Risen. Despite having a weak story and generally being buggy; the gorgeous environments, challenging combat, accessible crafting system, and unique character development system will keep you enthralled for the 60+ hours of gameplay. If you are a fan of hardcore RPGs, you definitely should check out Risen.
Risen features a lush tropical environment full of detail. You won't get bored looking at it, even after 60 hours of gameplay.
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Risen is a challenging game with a rich world to explore. It's guaranteed to please most RPG fans.
The music and effects are all solid. Sometimes the voice acting can get a little annoying.
With three factions to choose from and 60+ hours of gameplay, Risen is sure to keep you entertained for weeks, if not months.
Risen is a challenging, well rounded game certain to please most, if not all, RPG fans.