[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Wizarbox and Piranha Bytes” publishers=”Deep Silver” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”February 23, 2010″]
Risen, an RPG from Wizarbox and Piranha Bytes, is a prime example of how things get better with time. When you first look at the game, nothing stands out or seems special about it. In fact, it looks like the standard cookie cutter RPG. You wake up, shipwrecked on an island with no knowledge of how you got there or what is going on. You then acquire a weapon, collect some loot, and begin searching for the reason why you are on some random island in nothing but a shirt that looks like a burlap sack. We have seen it a thousand times before.
Listen to me when I say to stick things out with Risen though, because at the beginning you will want to turn away from the game. The graphics are sub-par at best, and the frame rate noticeably drops in some of the more complicated areas of the island. The real-time combat system can be incredibly wonky at times, and the sensitivity of the controls will infuriate non-experienced gamers. The difficulty is also a tad bit askew when you start, and you will spend a lot of time running away from boars that are way too strong for their own good, wondering how your sword did so little damage. Not only that, but there isn’t the usual hand holding that you get from most modern day games. The type that makes you view a thousand tutorials before embarking on the first mission, and when finished gives you the exact directions on how and where to go to accomplish your task.
Nope, this game thrusts you straight into the thick of things and screams, “SWIM OR DROWN!” at the top of its lungs. This may seem very disheartening and frustrating to inexperienced players, but it really is a lost art in this age of video games. Like I said though, give this game a chance. If you stick through the first couple of hours and deal with these issues, you will see just how awesome of an experience this game offers. Like a fine cheese (preferably Havarti) this games increases with value as the hours go by.
For example, Risen offers one of the most believable and cohesive game worlds I have ever seen. Sure, the graphics are not the best at all, as I said above, but it doesn’t matter. The different environments of the island all blend together perfectly, and it makes a huge difference. I didn’t experience a single loading screen the entire time I played this game, and it made the world seem even more convincing. Traipsing through the jungle has never felt so real! Apart from, you know, walking through an actual jungle…
Character development was clearly of a very high importance to the developers as well. When you first start out you’re lowly and have a hard time killing anything save giant chicken things. Yet as time goes by, and you level up and invest time and effort into perks, your character becomes a serious force to reckoned with. You can craft a beefy brawler with enough muscles to cleave a rock in two with an axe, or you can craft a mage packing enough firepower to make Gandalf blush. What I found particularly cool is that Risen offered up skills and perks that aren’t really standard fare in RPG’s, such as animal skinning, scroll writing, and prospecting. It kept things fresh without coming too far away from the formula.
The quests get incredibly better as the story progresses as well. At first, be prepared to become the island’s messenger boy, as fetch quests are going to be pretty much all you do. Some of the more mundane tasks include: obtaining meat for a lazy bandit, talking to a bad guy for a guard, and going to check a shipment of crates. Like I said above though, just trudge through these quests as quick as possible knowing that in a few hours, you’re going to have some mighty fine quests to embark upon. The quests that are available after the first few hours of the story have a profound affect on your character. One of the main contributing factors to the story of the game involves siding with a faction of your choice. What side you choose shows in the way people react to you after making your decision, and affects the way your adventure plays out. This kind of decision-making is prevalent among games today, but it’s not often that a game gets it as well as Risen does.
It’s not often that a game has as awesome of a story as Risen does, which is unfortunate. In a time where all too often game developers put way too much of a focus on graphics and gameplay than they do story (see: Mindjack), Risen stands out, even if it is a few years old. The game is a classic mystery story through and through, and it pulls it off very well. When combined with the excellent quests, the completely believable environments, and the surprisingly awesome voice acting, you get a solid RPG that should not be missed.