Risen Goes Down

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So sad, he must have played a Piranha Bytes game.

When I first played Risen it was a demo right after the game launched. I hadn’t played any of the Gothic games at the time, and had just finished my second playthrough of Oblivion. initially I thought it was just far too frustrating, letting a couple lowbie mobs like moths kill me over and over while I tried to complete a simple quest was so angering that I ended up rage quitting the demo and deciding not to buy it.

I decided recently to give the full game a shot, mostly because of Zeitgeist Game Review and his love of the game. One thing you might not know about me is that I LOVE video reviews. I’ve watched video reviews for thousands of games, from dozens of reviewers and I can’t get enough, even of video reviews for games I already own. So after watching  the Zeitgeist guy rave about Risen I figured I might as well give it another go. I’m glad I did.

At first the game felt completely fresh, as I made my way in from the beach where I was shipwrecked and met a woman in need of an escort I had an Age of Conan flashback, but it was still feeling like a new game to me. That feeling didn’t last long. By the time I made it to my first quest hub, a bandit camp in the swamp, I had a funny feeling that things weren’t exactly new. By the time I left the bandit camp I was sure of one thing: Someone, somewhere, actually sat the guys at Piranha Bytes down and forced them to play Gothic 3 themselves. After they stopped vomiting uncontrollably from the horror of that game, this person then told them they couldn’t possibly make Gothic 3 a playable game. Well thankfully they’ve proven that person wrong, as Risen IS Gothic 3 with most of the terrible parts removed.

You might feel that I’m being too hard on them, but let’s take a look at some of the similarities:

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the graphics. Sure you could say that it’s the same company so it’s most likely going to be the same graphic style, but I don’t buy it. Other companies, good companies, can and do change up the graphic style of their games to suit the new project. Now Risen takes place on an island, so if it’s supposed to be in the same world as the Gothic series, then I can accept that the games look a lot alike. I just wish it didn’t look like everything, including the clothing, was made out of really thick stone.

I soon discovered, after arriving at the Don’s camp, that I had to do quests for his henchmen in order to gain the trust of the group so that I would be allowed into the inner sanctum where the Don was. Anyone who’s played Gothic 3 knows what I’m talking about here. In Gothic 3 you had to do this dozens of times. Thankfull in Gothic 3.5 Risen you only have to do this three times.

You also have an indigenous population (the Don’s men/humans) hiding in swamps because 0f the invading, occupying force (the Inquisition/Orcs) who are exploring ancient ruins (both games) to find relics (both games). You start out as a melee/bow fighter, and you raise your wisdom (the thing that lets you learn/cast spells) by reading from stone tablets you find, or books on bookstands (both games). If you decide to become a mage you will learn that the mages revere the Sacred Flame (both games).

It may actually be easier to figure out the ways in which Risen is different from Gothic 3. For starters the overall story in Risen is much better than in Gothic 3. The voice acting is also infinitely better in Risen. In Gothic 3 I wanted to punch myself in the face whenever anyone spoke, mostly due to the game not being English in origin. In Risen you get a nicely accented main character whose voice actor is pretty good, and most of the voice acting in the game is very enjoyable, if sometimes monotone when you consider what’s going on at that moment in the world.

One of the things I hated about Risen was that you don’t get much in the way of armor. You have two armor slots, helmet and armor. You won’t be finding armor on mobs or in chests either, instead you’ll get a new armor once every chapter or so, and there being only 4 chapters in the game it’s lacking on armor types. One of the best parts of playing RPGs for me is usually finding new and unique armor that makes my character look amazing, and in Risen you’ll look like a boat crash survivor for about five hours, then like a pauper for another five. Finally you might get a robe or some leather armor for the third act, and you’ll be shoehorned into the default “end game” armor for the last chapter no matter what kind of character you build.

The next paragraph will contain final boss spoilers, so just FYI. The final boss was an exciting battle for me, but it felt more like a Mario boss battle than anything I had experienced in Risen up to that point. My character was a mage, but the only way to beat the final boss is to wear plate armor and carry a massive mace and shield that are specially made to defeat the final boss. You then fight him, not like you’ve been fighting humanoids this entire time, but by jumping around a platform that pieces keep falling out of, using your shield to reflect the things he shoots at you, which will stun him, then running up and hitting him with the hammer. You’ll do that seven or eight times, and several reloads due to falling deaths, and you’ll have beaten the game. It was a fun and epic boss battle, and I wish they would have included more fights like that in the game. Sadly though it did feel out of place, and took everything I had worked so hard to do for my character and made it useless.

It may sound, from what you’ve read so far, like I don’t like Risen and didn’t have any fun with it. That’s simply not true. After I played Gothic 3 I promised myself that I would never play another Piranha Bytes game again. Thankfully I didn’t know that PB had developed this game because it turned out to be very fun. It was everything Gothic 3 should have been, and felt more like an apology to the fans than a truly original IP.

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Final verdict? If you enjoyed Gothic 3 then you will definitely want to play this game. If you thought Gothic 3 had potential but had too many problems, you want to get this game. If you never played the Gothic games, or played Gothic 4 only, then check out the demo because Risen can be brutally hard. If you like open world RPG’s in the style of Oblivion, but with less to do outside of the main story and a smaller world, then give Risen a go. If you can find it for under $10 I would pick it up if you like these kind of games. Any more and I’m not sure I could recommend it unless you liked Gothic 3 a lot.

Risen gave me 30 hours for the first playthrough, as opposed to Gothic 3’s 50 hours, but I enjoyed the hours I put into Risen so much more I would recommend it over Gothic 3 even if Risen was only a five hour game.

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