'Piranha Bytes' the role-playing wizards behind 'Gothic' introduce a new role-playing world to the Xbox 360 audience in 'Risen'. This 60+ Hour RPG sets out to the console world with the high ambition to steal our precious time away from the big AAA releases in this busy first quarter. Does 'Risen' have enough mojo to keep us rising? Or is this PC port just another release waiting for its turn in the bargain bin?
Shifting over to capitalize on the "console" market, 'Piranha Bytes' have decided to port their 2009 PC release of Risen to the Xbox 360. Luckily, for Piranha, the Xbox platform has a history of welcoming to role-playing ports, and even though 'Risen' will likely be unfamiliar to most console gamers, it can still has a shot at a solid life span.
3 Hour Tour?
'Risen' starts off like 'Gilligan’s Island' with your character being a stowaway survivor on a shipwreck vessel. Waking up, shipwrecked, in unfamiliar land you will make friends with locals and pledge your allegiance to help their cause. Interesting enough 'Risen' doesn’t try to hold your hand, or push you towards a certain alignment. It is perfectly fine to stray among all the lines, good, bad, or neutral. Opportunity is present for all three alignments, so you can be the undercutting thief, or the hulking hero, the choice is yours, although 'Risen' and its seedy subtleties made me uncharistically lurk in the shadows.
I'm Going to Get the Soap!
'Risen' is a dark land filled with hardheaded people who don't abstain from using vulgar language, or illegal substances. I was actually surprised by the amount of swearing in the game, and I felt it was unnecessary. Piranha could have easily substituted some words to make 'Risen' hit a teen rating. The violence is low key compared to the language warring on the back of the box.
Accepting the mature tone of 'Risen' is a must because the general attitude of the population is cranky, sarcastic, and shallow. I found few characters that actually stood out, and it's not that the character development is bad, it is the clone feeling you get after talking to ten grumbling people in a row. It is understandable that 'Risen' is not on the same level as the production behind something like 'Oblivion', but when you have just come off ‘Heavy Rain’, anything else feels a little weak. I doesn't help that the lead character as just as cocky and ill-bred as the rest of the lot. It doesn't help the situation, but it does make for an interesting twist on the normal "goodie-two-shoes" lead.
Not a Looker
I really want to skip over the graphics aspect of 'Risen', but it is impossible to overlook. The graphics are not too hot, and without griping about their poor quality-- too much; graphic-freaks will not be able to play this game for too long. If you are totally into big flashy graphics, you will have to go back to 'Mass Effect', or some other "flashy" game. To compare, 'Risen' graphics are commensurable to 'Dragon Age'. However, as we have learned with 'Dragon Age', graphics don't make the game. For 'Risen', better graphics would have helped because you have to struggle with the content. After a good three, or four hours, you will start to get used to the world, and the graphics will start to matter less and less. I wish 'Risen' had a more powerful engine running behind it, but what can you do? If you want improved quality, you might have to turn towards the PC option.
What is good about 'Risen' graphics is the atmosphere it builds on this tropical styled island. The night and day cycle seems realistic, and the game has a pretty good lighting engine. However, this is all on a “B” graded level. Funny enough, the opening level when you are on the stormy beach is one of the best moments in the game. In the very beginning I really thought 'Risen' was going to be a sleeper hit, unfortunately, the game looses a lot of steam as it progresses. To get a little deeper on the negative side, the character models, texture work, and animations are all a little dated, really, 'Risen' seems more like belongs on the original Xbox. Let’s not even get into that nice little leaping jump the lead character has-- woo-wee, that is something.
Picking Up the Slack
Picking up the graphical slack is the audio production. The soundtrack, voice-over talent, and sound effects are decent and will help pull you into the experience when the graphics fail. A lot of little detail has been added in the sound effect department that makes the world seem more realistic with some nice environmental effects as well. Accenting the effects is an adequate soundtrack that does exactly what you would expect. It is nothing extra spectacular, but it works.
Rounding up the audio is the voice-over work, which ranges from solid work to some questionable one-liners. However, like the rest of the audio its leaps a little over the average curves to make due. This is another British toned games, so expect some heavy accents—and some strong language (which I touched on earlier). 'Risen' really has a sarcastic hue to its humour which could go both ways with different audiences. Overall, I am glad the audio was given some extra love because it makes a huge difference and helps to carry the game.
Into Battle, Do I Have To?
'Risen' plays out like a third-person action game. The action is in real-time with most of the combat coming down to a block and attack formula. Sadly this means the action isn't too sophisticated as each enemy can be approached the same tactic-- no matter their type. Although, just because you can use the same formula does not mean you can always win a fight. 'Risen' can be challenging because of how unrestricted the gamespace is. From the get-go, you are free to explore the whole world, which can get you into trouble if you haven’t taken the time to level up. Stumbling into a pit of grave-creeping Skelton Zombies is not the best thing to do if you are young character, trust me on that one.
The combat as a whole isn’t smooth, and the enemy A.I. is down right dopy. All enemies have the same principles installed in their combat techniques. Attack, step backwards, block, then attack. This can be rather annoying because it becomes quickly repetitive and boring. After the first few hours, I could almost close my eyes and have a battle, it is that weak, and the back-step maneuver doesn't help. Another pet peeve will likely be the lack of a lock-on feature. When fighting multiple adversaries you will have to use your own judgment and guess who you are attacking, and even worse, whom you are defending from. This makes battling groups of attackers a flawed choice and one you will probably try to elude-- can you say "frustrating?".
To reedem itself, 'Risen' starts to improve as you progresses through the story. When your gear, and skills start too full out, the fighting becomes more tolerable. You will learn new moves and have better equipment that helps you feel the part of the “big adventurer”. Keep in mind, 'Risen' makes you purchase new skills, so don’t expect to level up exactly like other role-playing games. Buying skills, or power, isn’t a bad idea, actually it seems to work better within their guidelines. The townsfolk are always willing to give, if the price is right, and with the right skills, a little bit of magic mixed in with the hand-to-hand battle-axe slashing, you might just accept the ridiculous defensive prime, the "back step".
Hey, This is starting to Feel like a Real World
'Risen' has a few favorable extras that have been added into the gameplay such as collecting herbs to make magical elixirs, cooking food, constructing weapons, and more. At times, the world really feels alive, and more importantly like you fit into the world and can make a difference. The NPCs react differently depending on your actions, including if you weapon is drawn. They also go about their duties in this world naturally; this includes sleeping a night, cooking meals, and doing their normal chores. The NPC A.I. in non-combat situations seems like a completely new beast, and that is a good beast.
'Risen' has an appetizing sarcastic sense of humour that attacks some of the clichés in role-playing games, and then oddly endorses them. This turns the stranded tale of another nameless-hero into one that isn’t exactly cut-and-paste. However, 'Risen' has its share of probelms. More than its dated graphics, 'Risen' and its other problems, that aren’t worth rehashing, might cause most gamers to look somewhere else. You really have to be ready to put in the time if you truly want to get the most out of this title. Unless you fit into the hardcore RPG demographic, I would sit this one out. However, If you are part of the demographic, then 'Risen' is a niche game that will entice your adventurers sensibilities-- that is, if you don't mind sitting through a few glitchy spots for the thrill of the hunt.
Gameplay:6.5, Graphics:4.5, Sound:7.0, Innovation:6.0, Mojo:6.0 Final: 6.0 / 10
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 03.05.10
- There is a lot of game here, over 60 hours
- Lots of quests and non-restricted exploration
- Different story arcs make for possible replays
- Risen has a nice bite-- a little nasty attitude
- Good effort put in by the voice acting cast
- NPCs behave realistically outside of combat situations
- A solid RPG for the Hardcore RPG/Adventure crowd
- Very minimal loading
- Combat is weak
- No lock-on feature!
- Graphics are dated with some framerate/draw distance issues
- PC Port Blues-- game mechanics are a muddled
- Enemy A.I. feels almost non-existent
- Some bizarre glitches
- Even with a good story, Risen feels generic
Similar Games: Two Worlds (6.0) | Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (6.7) | Dragon Age (9.5)