Risen

Risen might just be one of the last advocates of more classic role playing games amongst current titles. In almost all regards. And this is a good thing (no DLC bullshit etc./complete game on disk right away). The game wasn’t dumbed down to accommodate casual players that usually don’t touch such games anyway. Publishers often seem to believe, that if a game is simple enough, new/more players will magically find out about it and come in droves. Which might happen, but usually will only antagonize “core” gamers for sure.
Risen is the story of an unnamed, shipwrecked man who, in the beginning, literally gets washed ashore. The island itself, of course, is the game world, that can be explored in its entirety. In the best tradition of the classic RPG bombshells Gothic 1+2, that developer Piranha Bytes did in the past. The beautiful thing about it is, that the whole game world is not just accessible, it’s also free of any loading screens – this is just intense. Although the game does most things quite similar to Gothic (or even identical), this is fantastic. The sole group not happy with that, would be people disliking Gothic, everyone else must feel right at home. One of the first steps into the game (tutorial) is to cook meet over a flame. That alone can take players right back (it triggered flashbacks for me and I hadn’t played 1+2 in years – 3 I didn’t like and “4” I don’t even want to touch).
With that in mind, many other aspects won’t be much of a surprise. 3 factions live on the island, joining one of them is a necessity to properly progress in the game and certain types of equipment (armor) and skills are only sold/taught to respective members. Risen being more of a classical RPG, joining such a faction is basically the sole choice that will alter the gameplay experience (there aren’t several endings and the like). There’s also not much in terms of extensive character design, which isn’t always a letdown, because sometimes this is just an excuse for saving content concerning quests/story/whatever. I would count both as features in more “modern” RPGs (the time spent in Dragon Age talking with characters/party members is pure quest-action in Risen). The game is not completely void of such elements though, it has achievements (I gained 33/50). With that established, the rest is simply pleasing.

In too deep!

Huge world/environment for seemingly limitless exploration, countless items, many weapons, high quantity of often entertaining, distinct quests (they aren’t the best ever, but definitely in the higher spectrum), hand-built, rather unique locations (even a quest line demanding to fetch 5 items is still a descent into 5 individual places)…

Shoot the winch, lower the drawbridge…

There are also no obstacles in the way of pure joy in terms of quest markers in an omnipresent HUD display, so that the player only has to walk straight at the blinking dot or massive quest log entries, that spoil everything – so the player is allowed to think a little every now and then. Same goes for checking out dungeons, not every corner has a huge marker that says trap on it, it’s up to the player, to recognize the (existing) signs. Fun! The spells don’t disappoint in the same fashion: They are actually necessary to best the game world. Several traps and small riddles can only be beaten by using levitation, telekineses or morphing into a smaller creature that will fit into tunnels a human won’t. At the same time it’s never unfair, the necessary scrolls can be bought everywhere or even produced by the player character, if he’s learned the according talent.
What else is worth mentioning? At some points the PC is joined by other characters that can help him out or must be protected, some special weapons are broken into pieces and hidden somewhere on the island and can be reforged, once all parts are found. This is not necessary though, because there are many useful/powerful weapons, it’s just incentive to look everywhere and a cool reward.
Risen is totally about the adventure “on the road” and not an unspecified payoff at the end (unlike Mass Effect 2, which builds up to the suicide mission). Though they came up with a real boss fight in the end, the actual ending is rather abrupt. At least it strongly hints at a sequel, that was already announced, as far as I know. The game-ending boss-fight also doesn’t come as a surprise, so it’s no problem to make one final sweep over the island, to finish any quests that might still be open or undiscovered. Risen really was one of these games, that I could finish without ever being bored or not motivated enough to continue. Oh, one last point – I believe I didn’t encounter one single bug (1.10) and it didn’t crash once. :)

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  1. 1 The Witcher 2 « adrift

    […] through one world and not just loading from one level to the next or between different maps. Risen was the last game I played, that could do something like […]

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