Let’s face it – nowadays the RPG genre is quite dry. About the same was the situation back in 2001. Two games then changed this – Gothic and Wizardy 8. We’re talking about the first. Gothic introduced a great amount of freedom, amazing story, atmosphere and classic RPG elements with not so classic ways to develop your character. The game took Europe by storm and the developer, Piranha Bytes immediately smelled the money. Next came the second game Gothic 2 along with an expansion. They were both taken well and rated high for not making any major changes, but en-richening the game’s world. In 2006, Gothic 3 was released. Most people gave it low ratings for the stupidly done battle system and the ton of bugs. That’s where Piranha Bytes went wrong. They gave too much attention to the world and the choices, and none to the core elements. JoWood(publisher) decided it’s time to change the developer. From one of the highest renowned role playing game developers, Piranha Bytes were accused of loosing their touch and being a mere shade of what they were. But they didn’t like that. So they decided to fix this by fixing everything with their next project – Risen, while giving us more Gothic. The result – a game that deserves to be nominated for RPG of the year..
The story of Risen is typical for Piranha Bytes. The humans decided to banish the gods from their world and of course, made them angry. Strange temples rose from the earth, filled with strange creatures. Almost every ship was immediately destroyed by strange force. Your nameless hero awakes on a small island after being a stowaway on one of the ships that was destroyed. The mystic element is present – you have no idea where you are or what you will face. The first thing you have to do, of course, is to find shelter and preferably, sane human beings. You will soon encounter that after the strange temples appeared on the island, it’s residents pillaged them, taking what they could. The inquisition them appeared, taking the nearby keep and everything they could. Whoever disagreed with them was, of course, taken into custody. Now the island is split into two factions – the Inquisition, also known as the order who reside in the monastery(that same keep) and the free people, serving under the Don, a very influential man. Who will you fight for – the Inquisition, trying to find a way to save the world from complete disaster or the free people, who just want what’s rightfully their’s. You see there is no good or bad. You have a very difficult choice to make. There are three large encampments in the game – the Monastery, the inquisition’s headquarters, the swamp, where the Don and his men reside and the Harbor town, neutral territory, where the normal people live. Of course, it’s crawling with people from both factions. Piranha Bytes(now known as Pluto 13), definitely deserve a pat on the back for telling us such a great story, filled with twists and turns. Now is the time to mention some of the people working behind it. For the story - Rhianna Pratchett(worked on Overlord, Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge), James Leech(worked on Fable), Andrew Walsh(worked on Prince Of Persia). For the voicing - John Rhys-Davies(played Gimli in The Lord Of The Rings), Andy Serkis(played the Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings). You can see how much work was put into the story and atmosphere of the game. The end result – you actually feel like you’re on the island, the voice acting is outstanding, the story will keep surprising you until the very end.
Gameplay wise, Risen won’t surprise you, if you’ve played Gothic. The battle system deserves special attention for taking the best sides from the old Gothic series, mixing them with tons of skills, some luck and viola – the best battle system in a Piranha Bytes game. Easy to learn, difficult to master. Everything is done with your mouse – left click for attack, right click for blocking attacks. But there are a few simple things to be considered – you can only block for a while, so when fighting you will have to evade, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you think you can just stand around and keep blocking – think again! This will result in a loading screen. And, overcoming some defenses is really hard if you’re fighting skilled opponents. In short – if you haven’t played Gothic, you’ll find Risen to be hell, even on the easiest difficulty. As you progress you will start getting the hang of things but, still, the game is a challenge. Piranha Bytes have decided to increase the puzzles, especially when in a temple. The spells now work differently – you can levitate, the transformations have a much higher affect on puzzles and it’s full of traps. Mixing this with the enemies in the temples and you’ve got yourself a not-so standard dungeon crawl. Things are a bit different when roaming the woods – you’ll encounter tons of enemies but nothing special. When in one of the encampments you’ll most likely be doing quests. Speaking of which, the quests in the game are very well done and interesting. For example, you’ll find yourself following people around the streets, reading books to learn magical ingredients, looking for hidden doors and such. They are very well done and you can always expect everything. There are also tons of quests when going through the main land. For example, a guy named Leon is suffering of nightmares and wants you to investigate the nearby ruins and kick the crap out of the undead, torturing his dreams. Again you are free to do whatever you want. You can attack whoever you want, and not kill him, just rob him. You can sneak into other people’s houses, stealing their treasures and such. But we’ve seen this from Gothic. Here, it’s just done better and more interesting.
The role playing system hasn’t changed one bit. Again, you will start out as a melee fighter, which will change once you find your first bow or a scroll. Then you have the choice of which way to go. The warrior, the archer or the mage. Once you decide that you’ll have to train. Every time you increase your level, you will be given some learning points. Find a trainer and pay him and you’re good to go. But don’t think it will be cheap. You can also find people to exchange your learning points for special skills such as lockpicking, sneaking, acrobatics and for increasing the level of your skill with a certain weapon or a certain type of magic. Magic is done through runes or scrolls. The easiest way to do it is through scrolls but each scroll is equivalent to one cast. Through runes you can do them several times, but will require you investing lots of points in magical attributes. Piranha Bytes have added special, auto quests. For example you enter a gnome camp and if you kill all the gnomes you get bonus exp. There are also the so-called achievements we see in most games today. Those are special titles you acquire once you do something special. For example, the Idiot achievement is acquired through falling on your ass and dying three times. The ladies-man achievement, on the other hand, is acquired through completing a quest that involves a prostitute, being beaten by a drunk. Yes, you sure are noble. Every time you win an achievement you get AP points.
Graphics wise, Risen does more than good. It has it’s own style of drawing things, but everything is just so detailed. You’ll need a really good system to run it, but it will pay off. Special attention is given to water, which is really well done. The sounds of Risen are perfect. They suit everything perfectly and are done in the typical, fantasy way.
So much for the good parts of the game. Time to turn the tide. Everything is perfect as much as you don’t notice the tons of bugs. From the AI being horrible, to the fact, that the friendly NPC’s don’t notice you being chased by a pack of wolves. They’re either too stupid or are complete assholes. You’ll also get stuck quite often. I haven’t noticed any bugged quests or critical bugs, but the ones present are enough to destroy the atmosphere. I sure hope they get fixed with an upcoming patch.
My final judgment on Risen is – a true masterpiece and one of the few games that deserve wasting your money on. Especially if you like action RPG’s and great stories. The game is just so good! There’s nothing you can say that will you excuse you for not playing it.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com