By Lady Ramkin
Some of you may know about the Gothic series of games from German developer Piranha Bytes and if you do, you will probably remember that while they were a little rough around the edges, they were damn good western RPG’s that were way ahead of their time in a lot of ways.
Risen comes in as the latest offering from Piranha Bytes that tells the tale of the Island of Faranga which faces the standard world-ending evil threat that we have all come to expect. Just their luck then that an outsider happens to land up on their little rock to take the role of hero.
Risen comes in as a bit of an unknown title in the sea of games that are releasing, but fans of the Fallout/Fable area of games may just want to pay attention.
As previously mentioned, the story is one that most of us are already very familiar with. Some strange distant land is in trouble and it is up to you to explore the land, do missions, pick a main faction/class and save the day.
Risen offers the ability to roam a large open-world with busy little streets in the towns, talk to the locals, do missions, fight, make money and even sleep with a prostitute if that’s your sort of thing.
Risen seems to fit in quite perfectly, as far as Western RPG’s go and even besides not being a huge budget title and having the aforementioned rough edges, has some very nice features that a lot of other games haven’t been able to achieve.
By this, I mean that the entire game is voiced, which means no need to read everything and even has some big names in the cast such as Andy Serkis and John Rhys Davies (Gollum and Gimli from The Lord Of the Rings movies) as well as Lena Headey (Sarah Conner TV series and Mrs. Leonidas from 300). The voice acting is very well performed and does a great job of pulling you into the game.
There have been some very interesting design choices that have allowed Piranha Bytes to really pull the player into the game. The game does not hold your hand and in many ways requires the player to be apart of the game. When NPC’s talk, you need to listen or you won’t know what’s going on, as I said, there is no hand-holding here.
Also, day/night cycles make a difference, especially at night as you find yourself unable to see and having to make use of your items such as torches to actually get around. Meat can also be cooked using different methods and you can even get recipes to make food that has better healing properties, which really helps as the game doesn’t dish out health potions for nothing.
All of these elements combined mean that you find yourself very well immersed in the game and experiencing the world in its entirety.
Graphics are not Risen’s strongest point on the Xbox 360 but do a decent enough job and once you are pulled into the game, they are not something that you will worry about, although I found the game to be extremely dim and lacking in contrast.
As far as combat is concerned, do not think for one moment that you can get away with button mashing, as this game requires your full attention for any encounter. On the whole, the controls can be very difficult to grasp initially and aren’t exactly intuitive (the fact that our review copy had no manual didn’t help either).
The real overall truth about Risen, and one that was pretty similar with the Gothic series is that it is not very kind to you at first. You will struggle to learn the controls and realise what it is that you are actually supposed to doing (there are no tutorials) but once you are sucked into the game and get a grasp of things, you will find yourself enchanted by it’s sublime atmosphere, its rewarding combat and interesting story/setting.
Risen is not perfect and it would be difficult to compare it to the likes of Fallout 3 and Fable, but that being said it is still a damn fine Western RPG and fans of the genre may find themselves very impressed with a title that almost came out of nowhere.
Takes some getting used to, but ultimately rewarding.
Not the best looking game, not the worst either.
Great voice acting, accompanied by good use of sound.
A 60-80 hour game that could even warrant a second, or even third play-through.
Not for the casual gamer but offers an immersive, lengthy Western RPG experience for fans of the genre.