The Risen Report #1: Tourist

By Alec Meer on October 7th, 2009 at 11:56 pm.

Reviewing Risen here wouldn’t be right. For one thing, it’s too big and time right now is too short to mainline it in such a way. For a second thing, to mainline it in such a way would probably be the wrong move. This vast German RPG is really not a game designed to be rushed through. For a third thing, it’s the successor to the Gothic games – a series which, in the US and UK at least, hasn’t reviewed anywhere near as rapturously as the reception they’ve won from their fans (with the exception of the much-maligned third). To a fair few people, Risen is the most important game of the year. What’s the reason for this disparity of opinion and enthusiasm? Well, that’s probably another post.

For this post, the first of several, I want to do something else – I simply want to play the game at a leisurely/sporadic pace. As I do so, I’m going to document my experiences, as a mix of narrative and opinion. Narrapinion I’d call it, if I was a massive arsehole.

What I’m hoping to see during this is what Gothic/Risen’s fans see, rather than solely what a critic with a deadline and at least a veneer of mainstream-focused objectivity would see. Take Eurogamer’s controversial review, for instance – many of its complaints concern the game’s failings on a technical level. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that (though I’ll admit I had a bit of an eye-roll moment when he went off on one about file sizes), as the aim is to be a buyer’s guide for folk who aren’t hardcore RPG players. But it’s not what I want to do in these posts. I want to experience and understand the factors that make people adore these games, and passing critical judgement upon Risen is very much a secondary concern. Whether or not I end up loving the experience myself shouldn’t matter. Though I’m pretty sure it’ll be obvious if I’m not, as I’m an inveterate moaner.

(On which note, it’s worth pointing out that I’m going to go into much more fine detail than I would were this a review, both good and bad. So if I whine at length about something minor, don’t take it as me giving the boot to the game and get all cross. I’m just saying what I see, and writing these fairly stream-of-consciousness. I daresay at the end of all this I’ll offer a broader judgement of the game, but not yet. I’m a long, long way off having a definite opinion about it.)

Either usefully, annoyingly or both, I haven’t played any of the Gothics previously – outside of their essential structure, all I really know about them is that any mention of them tends to result in a odd cocktail of enthusiasm and bitterness from their fans. Arguments in support of them often tend to be less about why they’re great, and more about chastising people who don’t play them or jealously accusing Oblivion of being the end times for roleplaying. Man, screw all that. Let’s just talk about Risen.

So, Night One. I awake washed up on a tropical yet gloomy beach, surrounded by fragments of the Inquisition ship I’d stowed away on and the bodies of my nautical companions. The first instinct I follow in this unfamiliar place is, perhaps understandably, a familiar one – I play the packrat. If it’s not nailed down, I pick it up. This immediately reveals an interesting aspect of Risen – it’s happy to fill its world with minor clutter. A shipwreck leaves a lot of detritus, and when you’re penniless and lost, a great deal of that would be useful. In a lot of other RPGs, I’d expect to find a sword conveniently lying in front of me, then I’d head off on my merry way. Here, I lose a good five minutes to combing the shore for gold, jewellery, food, booze and bits of stick I can use to hit giant vultures with.

Perhaps I’m wasting my time – I don’t have any sense of how useful all this junk I’ve collected is in the long (or even short) term. But I like that I can do it – it makes both the world and the shipwreck seem that much more believable. My interfacing with it isn’t limited to one magic crate or something.

Still, the object collection interface is finickity and rudimentary, popping up an item’s name in a really lousy font only when I’m stood right on top of it, and refusing to do even this if I have the temerity to have a weapon equipped. I can imagine someone defending this latter, Darkfall-style, saying it’s only right that you can’t pick something up when you’ve got something in your hand – and they’re not wrong. But I’m not even able to see the name of something if I have my weapon out. How does holding something make me blind to things on the floor? That’s not a design decision I understand. The unfortunate effect of it is I’m constantly having to remember to put my weapon away at the end of a fight, or I’ll miss a load of pick-uppables.

Once my scavenging comes to an end, I finally turn my attention to the most noticeable body on the beach. Who isn’t a body at all – she’s merely unconcious, and was a fellow – and thus friendly -stowaway. I’d been avoiding her until now – and, to be honest, that’s because I’ve been nervous about the quality of the voice-acting. I’m horribly susceptible to lousy voice-acting and/or translation to English making it near-impossible for me to lose myself in a game. I don’t want to start feeling sour towards Risen so quickly.

But I click on her now. She starts talking – and she’s pretty good. She’s voiced confidently by a posh-ish English lady who seems to get her emphasises right and puts plenty of verve into it. A shame about her character model, which I can’t help but perceive a peurile intent behind. She’s all washboard-stomach and physically improbable bosom, wearing an outfit that’s somewhere between noblewoman and stripper. At this earliest of stages, I don’t have the foggiest what the game’s general attitude to women is – but the first example Risen gives of it is not a positive one.

I’m not singling Risen out as having uncommonly unhealthy sexual politics here – grud only knows it’s one of videogaming’s most habitual sins. It’s more that, as well as being disappointingly teenage, her (not terribly well-rendered, for that matter) porn-fantasy appearance doesn’t mesh with the air of ruin, strife and grime the game otherwise tries to convey. Still – the voice actor’s sterling work genuinely helps keep some of the tawdriness in check.

Then my character opens his mouth, and my great fear returns. Flat, poorly-timed, sounds exactly like he’s reading the script for the first time… Bugger – and this is a voice I’m going to be stuck with for the game’s duration. Dammit, Pirhana Bytes – how could you get such an important aspect of your game so horribly wrong? No doubt the German (the developers’ native language) guy’s a lot better, but this chap’s bad news. At least the translation seems pretty solid.

Onwards, and bird-thumping. Combat’s pretty straightforward at this early stage at least, a simple matter of real-time clicking for real-time thumping – if there are dice-rolls going on in the background, they’re not at all evident. My only gripe is that giant vultures seem to understand how swords work a bit too well, able to expertly and precisely jump backwards at the split-second I lunge. I’d expect that of a human, but I’m pretty sure seabirds aren’t trained in fencing. It stops me from simply steam-rollering through them, at least.

Another thing I enjoy is that the sea vultures are genuinely rather intimidating. It’s often the case that the early stages of RPGs pitch up you against something incredibly and obviously puny, which hardly makes you feel like Captain Hero. I’ll never forget how hard I laughed at the start of Star Wars Galaxies, when epic, John Williamsesque music soundtracked my thumping a mound of mud and a butterfly with a stick. Here, however, the first thing I fight is big, ugly and makes frightening sounds. It makes me feel like my life is in danger, and it makes me feel a certain survivalist satisfaction when I take the thing down. The game doesn’t explain much about its combat system, but I don’t think it needs to – it seems agreeably organic, a mix of frantic clicking and observing your enemies’ attack patterns.

It’s not a one off, either – a little way up the road, I’m fighting porcupine-rats and giant moths. The first is openly silly, but the second are horrible – palpably vicious and sinister. A lot of it’s in the sounds, all malevolent hissing and creepily protracted death rattles. Risen certainly seems a dab hand at creating an atmosphere of wildness and hostility, even if its people seem distractingly stilted and doll-like. Risen’s saddled, it seems, with more rough edges than the pyramid of Giza, yet at the same time it creates an impressively believable place. I’m looking forward to getting lost in it, even if I only have the vaguest sense of what’s going on so far.

Hmm. There was quite a lot more I’d planned to say in this first post, but I want to keep these reasonably short. More tomorrow – including gnome-bashing, meat-frying, drinking like an animal and more worrying about women.

, , .

148 Comments »

  1. Railick says:

    That woman’s body seems anatomically incorrect in chest area (not just because of her large you know whats) The model just seems inhuman for some reason, I could be wrong it is hard to tell from just a couple of screen shots.
    I really need to find time to play the demo of this game, seems the best thing to come along in a long while RPG wise for me.

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

    • lumpi says:

      Little (but hugely important) detail: Eurogamer shared one review for both the 360 and PC version?!? I have no idea what Risen is (sorry, not an RPG person), but just from what I see here (didn’t read the full thing, deeply sorry again), that score-sharing seems to be the most controversial part about it.

      I mean, 360 and PC versions are often night and day, and I’m really not talking about texture resolutions and framerates… I’m talking about controls, pacing, tastes… all very different on the PC. That’s why I hate the word “cross-platform”. There is no such thing. You have to start somewhere.

    • lumpi says:

      Oh snap! I originally wanted to make a humorous reply about Ralph Lauren ( http://www.boingboing.net/2009/10/06/the-criticism-that-r.html ), but found it too off-topic, so I wrote about the Eurogamer review.

    • Aisi says:

      Much thanks, lumpi. I went on a law blog rampage after your awesome link.

  2. Lewis says:

    These will be interesting. As people are probably aware by now, I’m a “console tard” who didn’t “get” Risen at all, while still finding it absolutely fascinating for a lot of wrong reasons.

  3. gulag says:

    Apart from the Lady Lulu, you just descibed the first 10 minutes of Gothic 3. Incredible enviroment, a combat system with pros & cons, some deeply weird designe choices, and nasty doll people. Hopefully the faction system will be a fun and liberating as always.

    It would be a great shame if Phirana Bytes have learned nothing since G3. Best of luck.

    • bhlaab says:

      Though I’ve only played it briefly, the reviewers have been quite unfair with this game. but ah, that’s to be expected.

      A game like Risen starts at a 0 and works its way up towards 10
      A game like Modern Warfare 2 starts at 10 and works its way down towards 7

      The Eurogamer reviews in particular seems unfair because he’s clearly playing the Xbox 360 version and yet lumping it in with the PC version which is by all accounts much better.

  4. Railick says:

    the character models in Gothic 3 were freaking strange and the way their clothes hung on their body was weird too, however I REALLY liked the way the Orcs looked , the bulkiness of everything really worked for them well.

  5. BobB says:

    I tried the demo and quite enjoyed it, but either the difficulty curve is screwed up or I’m a terrible sword fighter. The first major quest I got was to clear our some wolves, problem was they could kill me in a couple of hits but my puny sword took ten or so hits to kill them and they attacked me in pairs. I found it totally impossible to complete even after multiple attempts, perhaps I was missing some vital combat technique but it would have been nice if the game had told me what it was.

    • AndrewC says:

      Blocking!

    • Aisi says:

      Some enemies’ attacks can’t be blocked early on, which is where the other important fighting tactic comes in: double tap a direction to dodge.

    • sfury says:

      Weird, I played the demo too but the combat techniques were explained just in the beginning, I found them intuitive enough. Also I quickly equipped a shield I found and that made things much easier (though some of the critters you just cannot block all the time, damn you warthogs!!!)

      And I took up the quest you mentioned during the night so I managed to single out most of the wolves while they were sleeping.

      Overall the demo was a bit shortish but I mostly liked what I saw.

  6. motherpuncher says:

    I am a gothic fac (1 & 2) and so far have been enjoying risen. These guys really know how to make a world feel real and NPC’s that have a life. I would say either gothic 1 or 2 was their masterpiece (in the since of their games alone) but the AI when it comes to social matters has never changed since gothic 1 and I wish they would improve the game in that area.

  7. grey_painter says:

    Taking the names away from dropped items while you are waving a sword around never bothered me greatly in the Gothic games. It was frustrating occasionally when I was trying to both cautiously make my way through caves while picking up every mushroom I saw, but made sense to me. It encourages you to spend most of your time wandering around the world with the big sharp thing sheathed, you shouldn’t be running with scissors so why would you really run around everywhere with a sword out. That, and in Gothic at least, the buttons for “pick up” were the exact same as “hit the molerat” and having my avatar trying to pick up a flower while under attack would really annoy me.

    That probably came off more ranty than I intended. I understand not liking the mechanic, and in some ways it doesn’t make sense, but it always gelled well with how the world felt to me is my basic non-ranty point.

    I definitely look forward to more posts, I only hope the game doesn’t end up frustrating into quiting it you before we get more interesting posts out.

    • Premium User Badge Fede says:

      Yes, the system encourages to go around with the weapons sheathed, and I like that. But interacting with objects have always been a little annoying. In both Gothic 1 and 2 it wasn’t easy to get the focus on some small objects, and it seems this is just more of the same.

    • Ozzie says:

      It encourages you to spend most of your time wandering around the world with the big sharp thing sheathed, you shouldn’t be running with scissors so why would you really run around everywhere with a sword out.

      And I thought Risen and Gothic were RPGs…

  8. Megazver says:

    Are you at least playing on PC?

  9. solipsistnation says:

    I can see why the Eurogamer review was controversial– he referred to the voice acting as “decent,” when in reality it’s community-theatre-level awful/funny.

    From the first hour or so of the demo, I found it to be a pretty decent if generic RPG. There are hints of a big and interesting world there, but it’s a pretty clunky experience.

    I do like how torches shed dim flickering light rather than just acting like you turned the lights on in the dungeon. I’m planning to play through the demo and see how far it goes. It’ll probably be a decision between buying it full price soonish or waiting for a weekend deal or something…

    • Spoon says:

      I’m thinking it is controversial for more than that. The guy obviously didn’t play much of the game, he complains about no fast travel when you get your first teleport stone in the second chapter. That, and they did a blanket cross-platform review full of the reviewer complaining about mostly xbox only problems.

    • solipsistnation says:

      Sarcasm!

  10. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I played the demo, and while it was definitely rough around the edges, what little there was there did give me a believable impressions of a world that didn’t solely exist for my (the player’s) benefit. The hints at story were intriguing, but there wasn’t anything more than hints in the demo, so I have no idea how that will play out in the full game.

    Combat with the wolves was the toughest. After a couple of fails, I got into the swing of blocking, attacking, retreating, and flanking enough to take them down, though I wouldn’t have liked to take on three wolves at once.

    Anyway, the demo has left me wanting a little more; though not quite enough for an impulse buy.

  11. lefishy says:

    It is definitely filling the big empty open world RPG shaped hole in my heart so for that I am enjoying it. I love the island and its inhabitants but do kinda wish I hadn’t gotten myself imprisoned. Also making it possible to kill a wolf would be nice but I guess irl going into hand to hand combat with a wolf would be a pretty bad idea.

    Also any game that includes demon hobbits and giant demon chickens is good in my books.

  12. Maykael says:

    There’s a mouse pointer in a screenshot, so, assuming Alec made the screenshot and the fact that this is a PC-only site, yeah he’s playing the PC version.

    I hated Gothic 1 and 2, never really got them. Strangely enough, I’ve grown very fond of this one. It’s the first game where some thing I would normally consider a dick move hasn’t bothered me (for example, not highlighting “hidden” switches, because it really heightened the sense of discovery, of me somehow coping in this strange world).

    Be ready to think outside the box and know that everyone of the skills you will acquire has a variety of uses. Most quests can be resolved in different ways (for example, you need an item from a character, you may pay her/help her/pickpocket her/beat her/etc). Sometimes quest objectives might not be very clear, but you somehow manage and that is really quite a nice feeling it conveys.

    Also the island, being smaller than Oblivion & co. open world games, has a nice HoMM map feel about it. You can find something interesting to do or to see at every corner.

    Best of luck in this journey, Alec. I’m looking forward to your opinion on this game.

  13. Po0py says:

    Can I just ask, concerning the Eurogamer review: What the hell does Dan Whitehead do with his life besides reviewing every other game for Eurogamer?

  14. Soobe says:

    The difficulty curve of these games (Gothic etc) has always been a bit awkward. You start off the same way, getting your ass handed to you again and again, only to over-dominate later in the game.

    No matter, this one does seem a little more balanced, at level 14 I’m still encountering plenty of challenge.

    On the voice acting–as an American I have the advantage of not recognizing bland British accents, so it all sounds good to me : )

    Actually, your characters voice reminds me of that Jedi guy from the new Star Wars movies…anyone else get that?

    More than anything though I too am looking forward to more of your thoughts. I’m personally loving this game and I want such thoughts validated….validate me!!!.

  15. Clovis says:

    Dammit, Pirhana Bytes – how could you get such an important aspect of your game so horribly wrong? No doubt the German (the developers’ native language) guy’s a lot better, but this chap’s bad news. At least the translation seems pretty solid.

    So can you play in German but with English subtitles? I’m guessing not.

    Why isn’t this a more common option in video games? Most film fans wouldn’t even touch a foreign language movie that didn’t play this was by default. Hey, everybody, let’s go watch Persona, but with Keanu Reeves and Kate Hudson doing all the voices. Whee!

    I tend to read ahead and cut off spoken dialogue in games anyway.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      First thing I did with the Witcher before CDProjekt made it an actual option was to replace the English VO with the native Polish, whilst keeping the English subs. Only way to play that game IMO.

      For the most part Risen’s VO is pretty good. Okay the lead is about as bland and monotone as they come, but everyone else is pretty good (John Rhys Davies standing out from the crowd).

    • jalf says:

      The difference might be that most films have decent voice acting in the original language. For one thing, they’re voiced by the people actually playing the roles.

      Whereas with games, it is often equally lousy in any language. It doesn’t matter if it’s the English, Polish or Spanish version of the game. In every case, they just pulled people off the street, gave them a copy of the script, and recorded whatever they said. More or less…

      (And yeah, to be fair, I know there are plenty of skilled voice actors, and some of them even work with games. But they’re often not given a chance to actually do decent work. it doesn’t matter how good a voice actor you are if you’re just asked to read from a script)

  16. Schadenfreude says:

    I’ve been pouring hour upon hour into this and I’m only up to Chapter 3 (Though I’ve polished all the apparent available side quests so unless more open up I’m on the main story thread henceforth). Anyhoo, I’m loving this to bits. It’s very Gothic in that pretty much everyone you meet is some kind of bastard and a scary amount of quests can be solved by beating people up. It’s also very Gothic in that the world itself is very interesting to explore, moreso than Oblivion’s procedurally generated saminess. I find it an absolute joy to roam about exploring forests, swamps and skeleton infested grottos.

    It didn’t actually bother me and it never really occured to me, but I agree with Alec regarding the item name pop-ups. I don’t expect you to be able to pick things up in combat mode (Seeing as that’s the same button as ‘attack’), but it would be nice if they still showed.

  17. dancingcrab says:

    I think I screwed up on the demo; I scoured the beach, searched the cave, explored the two cottages and ruin between them, then opted to go to the swamp with Jacob/Jared/whatshisface. The demo ended at the top of the path. I didn’t do any darn wolf quest. Should I have gone to town instead? Wish I hadn't uninstalled it and deleted the installer.

    I really need to get on and play G2 + NotR. G1 was fantastic.

    The Dude abides.

  18. Jack says:

    I’m enjoying this game very, very much. It sucks me in like no RPG has done in recent years, and gives me a great warm, fuzzy nostalgic feel, like I’m playing a game from my childhood.

    Do wish I could turn on the German voice actors and have english subtitles like in The Witcher, though.

    Otherwise, YAY!

  19. Cvnk says:

    I’ve gotten quite a few hours into this game and I’m loving the hell out of it. I’m a huge Gothic fan though so this game was made for me.

    I have to say I’m amazed at how Gothic-like the game is. Even though it was made by the same guys I would have thought they’d try to separate themselves from that as much as possible. Not that I’m complaining but this game is such a Gothic clone that I have to wonder if JoWood is talking to their lawyers right now. I suppose they’d have no case since none of the assets are used but just about every single element found in the Gothic games can be found here. With slight modifications.

    Also, I disagree with the article about the voice acting. I like the main character’s voice (reminds me of Ewan McGregor) and it’s a huge improvement over the dullard from the Gothic games. Also, Lena Headey and John Rhys-Davies have parts in this game which surprised me. In fact according to IMDB most of the cast only voiced a single character which I think is unusual for most games that aren’t Grand Theft Auto.

  20. Alistair says:

    Er… all women seem to have the same voice, which makes sense given they all have the same body. Or mis-shapen body-like thing.

  21. Vinraith says:

    Thanks for this Alec, I’ve been curious about Risen (and curious about the Gothics, which I’ve never played) for awhile.

    You don’t mention character creation, is there none?

    • Spoon says:

      Nope, no character creator. You start out as the same blank slate with a buzzcut every time.

    • Vinraith says:

      Bummer. That’s one more for the “wait for the bargain bin” side. It’s exacerbated by a third person view, of course.

    • malkav11 says:

      If you’re curious about the Gothic games, why not head over to gog.com and snag one or both? They’re not going to look as good as Risen and the UI has some…quirks that I suspect Risen will have reduced, but you’ll certainly get the idea and they’ll only run you $10 apiece.

    • Vinraith says:

      Based on what I’ve heard I’m sincerely not sure they’re worth $10 to me.

    • AndrewC says:

      But you’d be happy to pour 50 hours into them if they cost $5?

    • Vinraith says:

      If I was confident I was going to play them for 50 hours, I’d cheerfully pay a lot more than $10. The open world aspect is deeply encouraging, but the interface issues and lack of character creation are concerning. My reluctance to pay $10 is caused by the fact that I’m not sure I’m going to get 50 minutes out of these games, let alone 50 hours.

    • malkav11 says:

      The way I would look at it is this: if you can get past those two things (and they weren’t hard to get past, for me), you’ve just come across not one but -four- giant RPGs full of goodness to sink your teeth into. And if not, you’re only out $10, which is surely a lot better than being out $50 on Risen.

      (You may be able to find them cheaper than $10 elsewhere, also. I just figure GoG’s easy and reliable.)

    • Vinraith says:

      Four? I thought even Gothic loyalists thought 3 was crap?

      Still, your point is well taken. I can’t even justify a $10 purchase with the unholy backlog of PC games I have at the moment (damned weekend sales) but I’ll make a point of picking up Gothic 2 the next time I need a game in the genre.

  22. Urthman says:

    To me, the thing Piranha Bytes does better than anyone else is create interesting, realistic terrain. And then as Maykael said, they reward you for exploring. If there’s a ledge that seems like you maybe could get to it, you probably can, and there’s probably a dropped magic scroll or a healing plant around the corner (or even an entire path leading somewhere new).

    Just that little area between the beach and the first house feels so much more tangible and particular and real than anything in Oblivion (and it’s not just a more advanced engine, even Gothic 2 feels that way). Am I the only one who feels this way? Are there other games I’m missing that do this as well as Piranha Bytes?

    (I love how understated that giant stone thing on the beach is. Gives you a nice “waitaminute…that’s no moon!” moment. Most games would take the camera away from you and swoop around it three times with a pretentious music swell.)

    On the other hand WTF is their problem making conversation animations? Risen is a little better (you’re gonna see a whole lot of arm sweeps before the game is over) but the other Gothics make me feel like I’m watching some fan-made machinima where they had to re-use the “take item” and “reload weapon” animations to create conversation gestures.

    • Subject 706 says:

      I totally agree. I’ve played maybe 6 hours of Risen so far, and it has been a great time, very much reminding me of Gothic 2, minus some of its annoying bits. Piranha Bytes real strength, lies in the world building. Honestly no other game I’ve played in recent years provides the same feeling of fearful exploration. It was true for Gothic 1 and 2, and continues to be true for Risen. PB really has returned to form from the awful Gothic 3. So far my only real gripe with Risen lies with the crap female models.

      And the Eurogamer review is both lazy and shameful in that it does not differentiate between the PC and 360 versions. Overall, pc reviews have been pretty positive, while the xbox ones have been so-so. Some of the lower scoring xbox reviews are actually quite hilarious to read, in that the reviewers seem to try and conform to every negative ‘consoletard’ stereotype there is.

    • toro says:

      I’m a huge Gothic fan, but there is one game that is better that Gothic at his own game. It’s Arx Fatalis. But better is a harsh word, most likely equal.

  23. Urthman says:

    I one more vote here for liking the fact that you have to choose between combat mode or exploring / searching mode.

    But then I also liked the way, in earlier Gothics, there were NPCs would react like you’d attacked them if you just drew your weapon in their presence.

  24. Mort says:

    Rather poor state of affairs over at EG, they did the same with the Op Flashoint 2 review (cross platform review), but irrespective of that, the general quality of the reviews are really terrible.

    I didnt much enjoy the Risen demo, but I’ll follow this with interest.

  25. Setheran says:

    I’ve been hooked on this game too. I could write a long, long list of complaints about it, but it does enough things right that I’m happy to overlook most of them and enjoy myself.

    One of the big draws for me so far is that almost every time I’ve strayed off the path or taken a risk, I’ve been rewarded for it one way or another. I couldn’t help grinning when I found a way onto the monastery rooftops and, after hopping from building to building a bit, actually found some secret loot stashed up there. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single invisible wall on any of the detours I’ve taken so far.

    • Cvnk says:

      Hah! I got a good chuckle when I found that too. It’s like a nod from the developers to all the people that like to really explore every inch of their map.

  26. Shield737 says:

    First post! W00t, love this site, had to bite the bullet and finally register.

    Just finished Risen last night, freakin’ loved it. Best RPG on the PC I’ve played in a long time…

    Not without its flaws (including a fairly weak story) but an amazing and rewarding game, lots of fun. And it felt like the perfect length as well.

  27. invisiblejesus says:

    Not sure about this one, highly doubt I’ll buy it at full price, but the comments about the terrain are interesting enough to get me to try the demo. Maybe it’ll win me over enough to snag it when it goes on a weekend deal.

  28. j says:

    I’ve never really understood the english voice actor hate for the Witcher (talking about enhanced edition). I didn’t find it at all horrible, except for maybe a few voices here and there. Maybe hearing something in another language you don’t know well makes you think its great, when a native speaker of that language may think its shit – its more of an atmosphere thing, maybe.

    Also, wouldn’t saying that the only way to play game ‘X’ is to use ‘Y’ language implying you’ve played through using both languages? Or does that rely on seeing the most offensive bits in 2 minute clips on youtube?

    • Subject 706 says:

      Neither did I, and I like to think that my understanding of english is on par with a native speaker. What I did notice was that the script pre-enhanced edition, was a bit strange.

  29. AndrewC says:

    I had some right good laughs at the lady-folk of the town – nuanced and purile at the same time, like a fourteen year old’s first attempt to write a ‘serious’ fantasy novel.

  30. Lobotomist says:

    Risen is very old-school RPG. With all the good and the bad that represents.

    It may not be for people that want everything handed to them on streamlined silver plate. But if you want to try hard and improvise (even against game bugs…well, like in old days) than the results are so much more rewarding

  31. Paul says:

    You know what’s really great about Risen? That apart from being an awesome complex open RPG, it is also super stable, with good performance and very few (insignificant) bugs. It is just a great acomplishment.I loved all three Gothic games (third one the least, but it is still great with all patches) and this is no doubt the best RPG of the year.

  32. Harlander says:

    One thing really dissapointed me when I played the Risen demo: the rain. Gothic 1 and 2 had gorgeous particle rain systems that swirled atmospherically as you moved, and you’d get neat effects like rain blowing into the mouth of a cave, and such. They were among the few games that really got rain right. (I can’t remember what weather effects in G3 were like – all I can remember is the two-second-long freezes for every three seconds of motion.)

    Risen seems to have some kind of crappy “rain effect on a transparent screen glued to your face” thing going on.

  33. uberman says:

    I’m playing it too. I agree with the sword out thing. This game wants you to walk around with your weapon sheathed and only bring it out when you’re in aggro mode. Townspeople do get nervous if you walk around with your weapon out. (oo-er)

    I think it’s a testament to the positives in this game that I still want to play it despite the many glaring negatives. Some aspects are downright frustrating, and yet I slog on because there are some great moments. In fact, the simple exploration of the island itself is entertaining enough to justify the price of admission.

  34. weegosan says:

    I bought this game and hate it with a passion. The whole opening bit is a complete clone of AoC though that did it better (though I grant you that Conan isn’t exactly the originator of the desert island scenario) and everything else about it feels horribly clunky. The voice acting is so bad I find myself almost laughing at times, and the branching/reveal talking engine allows follow-ons for questions I’ve not even asked yet to appear randomly from other questions (I know that is a feature of the oldschool rpgs but it annoyed me then and annoys me now – it’s an immersion killer).

    I knew the form as I’d seen tell of it being a bit of a throwback to older style games, but some things were fixed for a reason and for £19.99 I’d probably play it some more but at £34.99 I feel slighted.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Yea, hehe

      It was almost like AOC opening 1:1

      Which is not necessarily bad thing

  35. The Dark One says:

    Thanks, Meer, now I want to set all the mundane bits of my daily routine to a Williams-esque score.

  36. Damien Neil says:

    I definitely agree that Piranha Bytes does a great job on terrain. I don’t know that it’s “realistic”, but it IS interesting. They make great use of vertical space–cliffs get in your way, and the route up and down is rarely obvious. Locations fold back in on themselves, so exploring in one direction will often lead you back to where you started, only at a different elevation. The shortest distance between two points is never a straight line.

    Wandering around a Piranha Bytes game makes me feel like I’m exploring. I don’t get that from most RPGs.

  37. richmcc says:

    The attitude to women is something I picked up on – it’s geniunely dreadful. Bikinis and innuendo is the norm – those who aren’t prostitutes are sweeping their porches 23 hours of the game-day. It’s something that sticks out and feels very uncomfortable. Particularly when they’re peppering their chat-up lines with arm-wavery of the hammiest flavour.

    • Tei says:

      So you have not meet, Patty the pirate. Also, do you know that the rights of womens are a recent thing, and nowhere to be seen in the medieval world?
      Even today, something could be said about the status of women on islamic countrys, hell… even in the persian Iran it suck to be a women. Today, not eons ago, and in a far, far, lalalala, land.

    • richmcc says:

      Absolutely zero excuse, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not a historical document or factual record, so the point is invalid. I certainly wouldn’t choose to spend time in a world populated by racist NPCs in black-face, and have no desire to play away my hours surrounded by stereotypes of the crudest construction.

    • Pemptus says:

      There are, like, fourteen or so women in the whole game, so no big deal, I suppose. Plus, there are MEN in this game who do nothing but sweep the floor 24/7, so here’s your equal rights :)

    • AndrewC says:

      Well Tei’s approach is the most probably the well intentioned reason behind it – the faux-medievelism. But it’s rendered embarrassing, and sometimes very funny, by the ham-handedness and juvenilia.

      And I would love a game full of racism. Much better to have some real world troubles than seperating factions out by the colour of their hats. It’s a question of whether the game has racism and sexism in it, or whether the game *is* racist and sexist. The Witcher falls on the wrong side of that with the lady playing cards. Risen sort of stumbles accidentally on to the right side, like a cuddly alcoholic.. I reckon.

    • solipsistnation says:

      Right, but in the medieval world (and Islam today) women are required to cover their bodies– no wearing just strips of cloth strapped around their chests and showing off shoulders and bellies and stuff like that.

  38. Ben says:

    Enjoy the combat. :(

  39. Mitza says:

    It’s amazing how close of an experience this is to Gothic. I mean, I started by hating the first Gothic (the clunky controls, the difficult learning curve) and the same happened with Risen (for different reasons, though, the main one being the avalanche of clichés this game throws at you). But just like what happened when I first played Gothic, after a little bit of time spent in the game (cursing, laughing and pointing fingers), I started to enjoy it immensely.
    Now I’m at a point where I go to sleep at 3 in the morning, just because I cannot help but try and solve the next quest, and the next one, and then the next one… The fact that even such a extremely generic RPG (you are washed ashore! wooo! there is an island that you cannot get escape from! wooo! here, you have 2 factions that you can join! wooo! yes, the quests rely on you killing innocent animals and skinning them! wooo!), yet you cannot feel but pushing forward (and enjoying it) is a testament to Piranha’s talent in creating RPGs.

    Also, I’m talking with my friends remembering what we played last night: what characters we’ve spoken to, what quests we’ve finished, what new areas we’ve discovered. The game is full of memorable moments, even if they look fairly ordinary on the outside. Piranha really knows how to create a living, breathing world, with real characters and relationships. I wish I could say the same about Bethesda, they could learn something from these german chaps.

    P.S. I find it funny that Harbour City is a melange of the port cities that you were in Gothic 1&2. The layout is basically the same :)

  40. Pemptus says:

    I’m about 25 hours or so into the game and loving it. Like the Gothic games it starts kinda slow and takes awhile before you’ll be able to hack your way through things without dying a bazillion times, but the plethora of quests it pours on you later on is pleasing. The combat system evolves with the character’s (and player’s) skill, from simplistic to actually pretty deep and very satisfying. Exploring’s pretty damn fun as well, although the locales seem a bit more cookie-cutter copy-paste oblivionish this time around. Or maybe it’s just my impression because of the oblivionesque trees, grass and bloom everywhere.

    It’s not the perfect game, but if one is ready to overlook an iffy animation or two, blocky models and a dodgy piece of dialogue from time to time, one’s in for a rewarding, challenging experience. Plus it’s awesome for OCD types like me, who just have to collect every item in the game – unlimited storage space, hell yes. :)

  41. BobB says:

    Maybe I should try again, but I didn’t have much luck with blocking since they kept outflanking me.

    • Pemptus says:

      They keep flanking you – you keep back+spacing until you have more control over the situation.

    • BobB says:

      Don’t know why my replies aren’t going to the right place.

      @Pemptus

      Yeah I was trying that, I actually managed to take out the first pair of wolves by getting them onto the ramp so they couldn’t outflank me, but the second pair kept killing me before I got that far.

      At the end of the day I guess I’m just not interested in that level of challenge, I don’t mind a game that starts easy and gets harder but I’m not a fan of “starts very hard and gets harder”. If I can’t even beat the very first real fight without multiple reloads then there’s not a lot of point me playing the rest of the game. On the other hand I completed Gothic 2 so maybe I’m just getting old. :)

    • Pemptus says:

      It’s more of a “starts pretty hard, gets much, much easier relatively soon” game. I recommend you bear with it – once you find a shield, raise your weapon skill a bit and get your hp up by gaining a few levels it gets really enjoyable, as you realize that with the right tactics you can kill almost anything.

  42. dingo says:

    I’m in a similar position like the reviewer (never played a Gothic game but picked up Risen) so that will be interesting to “compare” notes.
    I was irked by the same issue of non-marked items on the ground.
    I, too have no opinion on whether I like the game or not. So far it’s good but I haven’t seen much yet (I’m in the bandit camp having collected the first quests there right now).

    3 things that might help understand some aspects of the game:

    1. The developers had no women in Gothic 3 (not sure about 1 and 2) so it’s their first take concering this in-game. Might help understand why their female character model is unrealistic.
    I barely noticed those problems before reading reviews / opinions pointing this out.

    2. They hired someone especially to overlook the German humor in the original version and adapt it to English taste. So at least in theory (haven’t looked into the English version yet) some dialogues might be quite different. I think that’s why offering German audio with English subtitles is impossible unless they would have produced different subtitles for that option (since some jokes will be different).
    I think it’s a very good idea to try to adapt humor for different countries / cultures.

    3. The developer consists of only 20 people. Compare that with 400+ for Assassin’s Creed 2.
    For that size their games have been impressive so far.

    Looking forward to see more of this writing soon. :)

  43. plugmonkey says:

    Now, you say that, but I only made it as far as the first porcupine rat, who seemed to be able to hit me even when I was blocking – leading to an unpleasant and untimely death.

    • Pemptus says:

      Shield. Get it asap. Or just sidestep when the enemy’s starting to attack, but that doesn’t always work and is tiring to do consistently.

      I can’t really understand how staff fighting works, with the lack of shield and all.

    • neems says:

      Some enemies can’t be blocked if you don’t have a shield (mostly the short ones I think). There are actually a couple of shileds lying around fairly close to where you start the game.

  44. richmcc says:

    Completely agree that’s the approach the developers have attempted to take, but I think they’ve slipped off the kerb on the metaphoric drunken stumble and hit their chin on a disturbing, suspension of disbelief-killing rock on the way down.

    Rachel, for example, is the sole woman in the bandit camp. Surprise surprise, she’s relegated to the role of cook. I’m willing to accept this was a conscious decision by the developers, something to tie it to the cod-medieval air, but it lacks any kind of verve or subtlety, and comes off looking like a meat-head decision, and a corroboration of a shameful attitude. It dragged me out of the story, and made me question the world I was playing in.

    Gaming still needs an Almodovar or Mikio Naruse, someone who can set up and craft a believable female character. Good examples are few and far between (hi, KOTOR).

  45. neems says:

    I think The Castaway sounds more like Jason Statham than anyone else.

    Great game, spent a huge amount of time depopulating the west coast by abusing a wonderful little bug involving Fred, my pet skeleton (and that is his actual name).

    • Pemptus says:

      Bug? Do share.

    • neems says:

      I was exploring ‘The West Coast’ (that’s how it’s sign posted), and I had a lengthy battle involving various undead. I had to draw one or two skeletons at a time, lots of blocking, and some very cagey fights. Eventually I killed em all, and was exploring the ruins, and found a scroll that allows you to summon a skeleton warrior to fight at your side.

      The skeleton warrior is called Fred, and he is awesome because –

      a) He is a skeleton warrior
      b) He is called Fred
      c) There is no time limit to his presence
      d) Every time I quick load, his health resets to 100%
      e) He is called Fred

      We are still having some trouble with a gang of ghouls though. Nasty buggers.

    • toro says:

      @neems: First time I saw Fred, I was laughed like a insane rabbit. This is the best sidekick that I had from the times were Morte was roaming the land. :D

  46. AndrewC says:

    Put strong women in their place!

  47. Simon Jones says:

    I’ve never had a demo put me off a game so rapidly as with Risen, which was rather disappointing. Other than the clunky interface, embarassing female character and woeful voice acting that Alec mentions, I was also unceremoniously killed by the giant hedgehog creature.

    Now, I’m sure I didn’t understand the combat system and did something silly to get killed, and a large part of the blame is my own, but……surely it’s just plain ropey game design to be killed 5 minutes into the demo, by only the 2nd creature? Until the game has successfully taught me how the combat works, I don’t expect to be in entirely deadly situations.

    Irritating. I’d have given it another go, but the crappy dialogue and acting didn’t really entice me back.

    • Premium User Badge Okami says:

      Actually this is a huge leap forward from Gothic 1, where I was killed by the first enemy in the game.

  48. richmcc says:

    I’ll drop this shortly because there’s little as dull as loudly politicising an apolitical product. But I’m going to have to disagree with this again.

    I’d argue there’s a difference between ‘strong’ and ‘believable’, but assuming we mean women who resemble women who actually exist in the real world, why should they only exist as special treats in the very best games? This is half the population we’re talking about – take it out of context and it’s fairly shocking that an entire gender is misrepresented so effectively in such a massive medium.

    Granted, male characterisation is hardly a shining beacon atop a mountain titled “best bits o’gaming!”, but there shouldn’t need to be a ‘context’ to allow women to be shown as women, rather than the standard Madonna/whore dichotomy. Or in Risen’s case, whore/porch-sweeper.

  49. richmcc says:

    I’ll drop this shortly because there’s little as dull as loudly politicising an apolitical product. But I’m going to have to disagree with this again.

    I’d argue there’s a difference between ‘strong’ and ‘believable’, but assuming we mean women who resemble women who actually exist in the real world, why should they only exist as special treats in the very best games? This is half the population we’re talking about – take it out of context and it’s fairly shocking that an entire gender is misrepresented so effectively in such a massive medium.

    Granted, male characterisation is hardly a shining beacon atop a mountain titled “best bits o’gaming!”, but there shouldn’t need to be a ‘context’ to allow women to be shown as women, rather than the standard Madonna/whore dichotomy. Or in Risen’s case, whore/porch-sweeper.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  50. Wibbs says:

    How much of a part does magic play in this? Is it a viable alternative to hitting things with a sword, or is the melee combat unavoidable?

    • AndrewC says:

      You’ll spend the best part of the first dozen hours having to hit things.