Risen Review

Releasing a title during the Fall quarter can be a daunting task, especially when your game is an RPG that will be competing with BioWare’s latest epic, Dragon Age: Origins. But developer Piranha Bytes and publisher Deep Silver gave it a go with their third-person action RPG Risen. While the game has places where it shines and can feature a worthwhile RPG experience, several glitches and shortcomings seem to keep the game from ever reaching the level of enjoyment that has come with other games in the genre like Fallout 3 and Oblivion.

The game’s story is a tad basic and underwhelming. It starts off telling you how after years of inferiority, humanity has finally cast the gods out of the world. But there was unfortunately a side effect that came with the banishment of the gods, as temples, monsters, and titans have risen to the surface to threaten humanity. Your character is a stowaway on a mage’s ship, which is wrecked after the mage fights and runs away from a water titan. You and one other survivor, a female name Sarah, are washed up on an island and it is up to you to find out where you are and just what is going on.

Good intentions are spoiled by glitches and shortcomings.

While it does start off with some intrigue, it is quickly lost as no real explanation is given as to what has just happened to you until a good hour or so into the game. Then your character is left to do menial tasks for either bandit freedom fighters or the Inquisition that rules over the island’s only city. The game’s story won’t pick up, depending on how many quests you take, until about 10-15 hours after you have started.

The rest of the story is interesting, as you are forced to choose an allegiance, fight off ancient foes, and eventually save the island from destruction. It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be too much emotional attachment to any of the other characters in the game. Everyone in the game just seems to be there and the only characters you may start to care about are thrown by the wayside as soon as you get attached. The game also ends on a bit of an anti-climactic note.

One of the best examples of this is Sarah. What was potential for a love story or companion to add weight to decisions made in the game is thrown completely away when she has you leave her in an abandoned house not 10-15 minutes after the game’s beginning. The character is only ever seen again if you choose to tell someone she is there and needs to be brought to a safe location. If so, all that happens is a tiny bit of unimportant dialogue where Sarah thanks you for saving her. It all feels like a massive letdown for where the story could have gone.

The graphics are pretty and will keep you pleased. Environments are detailed and there are a few nice effects, like swords sparking when they clang and steam rising from a hot blade as it is cooled by a smith. But the game is lacking when it comes to characters. There are no facial animations in conversations at all; most emphasis in dialogue is used by body language. Also, practically every single female in the game is modeled with the same curvy body figure. A little diversity would have been nice.

The gameplay is the best part of Risen. The crafting system, which allows you to make weapons, jewelry, food, and potions, is the standout factor. It’s nice to be able to craft your own weapons, rings, and amulets for character bonuses. Another nice addition is fireplaces found throughout the island that allow characters to cook meat for healing. Though it does become mostly pointless toward the end of the game, it is almost essential for survival at the start. Players who smith are able to mine iron ore, gold, and obsidian to craft their items so long as they learn the prospecting craft. The system is strangely addicting and a major positive feature.

The water barrels strewn throughout the island are another tiny but nice addition. Finding a water barrel and drinking from it will recover your health at no charge, allowing for a nice free heal. Like the fireplaces though, they become essentially meaningless as your health becomes too great for the tiny amount that each drink heals you.


Combat in Risen can vary from fun and simple to tedious and frustrating. After getting the hang of the block, attack, and parry system, it isn’t hard to beat up enemies one-on-one, so long as a player is careful and isn’t in an area where the enemies are much stronger than the main character. However, there are times where players can be facing mobs of up to four or five enemies at a time that can all kill you in three blows. If flanked for just a second, you are eliminated quickly and forced to load from the latest save point. It can get frustrating very quick, as a single encounter can take up to a half hour to get through.

There is also a glitch that will occur from time to time where the player will somehow, after an attack or being cornered, take up the same space as an enemy. This glitch leads to the enemy attacking relentlessly without the player being able to block. If the player reacts quickly enough then he or she has a chance at backing up out of the glitch, but more times than not it will kill you.

Exploration is another hit-or-miss category for Risen. While the island is beautiful and exploring it is fun, it turns tedious after having to trek back and forth from one area to another, sometimes on opposite sides of the island, and not being able to fast travel. Fast travel is in the game, but not until about halfway through the game and a player has to kill an enemy carrying a fast-travel stone in that area. It adds another level of tediousness to the game that could have been eliminated if handled a better way.

There is also a glitch regarding exploration, as the game will often warp a character either up a floor or to the roof of a building while the character attempts to enter or leave said building. It’s a glaring problem that should have been fixed before the game’s release and can aggravate players who have to attempt to enter three or four times before actually getting inside a building.

Voice acting in the game is solid. The actors and actresses deliver their dialogue well and it is one of the more impressive parts of the game. The only quirk is that all the actors and actresses use English accents while around half of the characters have Spanish or Latin American names. The rest of the sound is also very impressive. Sound effects are top notch and definitely help immerse players in the game. The soundtrack does the same. While it may not blow you away, it will definitely get your attention and appreciation.

When all is said and done, Risen is a game that had the potential to be a surprisingly great and standout game. However, the game’s glitches and little irritations can add up to some un-enjoyable play sessions. The sound and crafting system are great, but the lackluster story and sometimes aggravating combat seem to cancel them out. It’s still worth a try for anyone who enjoys action RPGs, though. Anyone else who is strapped for cash or looking for the best of the holiday season, Risen may not be the game for you.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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