The Risen Report #3: Native

By Alec Meer on October 12th, 2009 at 10:53 pm.

Colonel Kurtz allegory ahoy

Everything changed when I made it to the first city.

Cities are the lifeblood of roleplaying games. It’s here that the designers really get to show what kind of world they’ve dreamed up, both in terms of architecture and atmosphere. It’s all very well to hit a few wolves with a stick in the wilderness or go fight some gnomes in a cave, but it says absolutely nothing about who you are and why you are in this game.

Risen’s initial couple of hours showed its cracks too openly. When your entire picture of the game and its character hinges on some short, please-go-here-next conversations with just a couple of thinly-sketched, clumsily-animated NPCs, you fixate on them a little too much. Is this the best this game can do? But when you’re – oh, let’s drop this second-person pretence – when I’m in a town, there’s a sort of gentle sensory overload. Purely by dint of sheer volume of people, the place seems that much more real. The animation’s patchy and a few of the voices misfire, but suddenly the game’s full of movement and noise and faces and objectives and incidental scenery and chickens I can kill without the guards arresting me. The place visibily breathes.

I have no idea how Harbour Town rates amongst Risen’s cities. There may well be a bigger one later for all I know, but right now it’s big enough. It makes a point of introducing tiny human drama from the off – a local farmer begging me to buy something, anything from him, because a mercenary trader has bought everything of value from him and his peers for mere pennies. Please, he asks, don’t buy anything from the trader – don’t help him earn yet more money to fleece us with. So I look at the farmer’s stuff. It’s all junk. I look at said trader’s stuff – he has armour and weapons. Hmm. I would very much like some armour and weapons. The silk-clad trader continues to show his half-smile, half-grimace, while across the road, the rag-clad farmer saws feverishly at a log. Hmm.

“It’s for the greater good”, I reason, as I stride towards the sunset-lit harbour in my posh new cloth armour. The more powerful I am, the more use I can be once the time comes to help throw off the yoke of this town’s oppression, right? Right? I try not to think about how useful those 200 coins would have been to the poor farmer.

This isn’t the last time that Risen holds up a mirror to my own morality, and the reflection I see shows altruism and selfishness running into each other, inseperable. I take a quest from a local docker, who wants me to retrieve some artifacts from his fellows. I don’t get a lot of background information as to who’s really screwing over who – the first guy claims the others are withholding stuff they owe him, and they claim he’d promised them money for them. I don’t know who’s right, but I know I managed to talk the first guy into giving me 500 gold if I manage to get everything back. I have a nasty feeling I’m helping the middle class exploit the working class. But… 500 gold. That buys me a big whack of combat training from the friendly ogre-thing just around the corner. For the greater good, right?

Achieving the greater good involves, it seems, fighting three hitherto helpful guys then taking everything that’s in their pockets. I get my first taste of combat against a human, and it’s fascinatingly different to fighting beasts in the jungle. There’s blocking and parrying to contend with, and far less predictability. Broadly speaking, it’s a fun and tense sword fight, but I’m not keen on their ability to side or backstep like they’re rollerskating across of a puddle of oil. Seems like cheating. Mind you, I have quickload on my side, so I can’t talk.

The last guy doesn’t have his artifact on him, saying it’s hidden and I’ll never find it. Moreover, if I duff him up the aforementioned ogre-thing, who owes him a favour, will come box my ears. So I go talk to the aforementioned ogre-thing. He’s hungry, which seems to dominate his every thought. I give him some fried rat I made earlier. Grateful, all other loyalties are dispensed, and he cheerfully tells me that problem-guy’s got a locked chest hidden in nearby attic.

I’m enjoying the constant moral-greyness of Risen – no-one’s an out-and-out good guy, and bribery, corruption and self-interest inform and, most interestingly, can subvert everything. There’s also scope of organic problem solving – for instance, waiting for the ogre-protected guy to wander into a warehouse, then knocking seven shades of pixel-shader out of him. By the time his ogrish mate arrives on the scene, it’s all over, and I’m wandering over to the chest, key-in-hand.

It’s worth noting I haven’t killed anyone yet. This is something I really appreciate about Risen – I can be a grim, rule-breaking adventurer with my own interests at heart, but that doesn’t necessitate me becoming a murderer. These guys, and everyone else I fight inside the town, don’t expire once their health bar’s depleted. They just fall over for a bit, then their health bar slowly returns and they get up again. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m pretty sure that I could finish them off if I wanted. I don’t want to, and I like that I don’t have to.

So, the coffers are increasing and I’ve picked up a ton of quests. Within a few hours, I’ve helped someone sell his failing fishmongers to an idiot, I’ve been a double-agent pretending to help the local authority investigate a spate of thefts but in fact using it to find out what dirt they have on a chummy local petty crook, and, to the great joy of my conscience, I’ve beaten the snot out of that exploitative trader from a few paragraphs back. Though sadly this was to convince him to repay a debt to a guard, not to the farmer. But I like to think the farmer was pretty chuffed about it anyway.

I’ve also gathered enough compromising information on a couple of a local shopkeepers that I’m now in a position to blackmail them into paying me protection money. I can’t quite bring myself to complete those quests. Dirty odd-jobs for dirty men is one thing, but becoming one of those dirty men myself is a step I’m not prepared to take. I just need some cash for weapons and training – I don’t need to run a protection racket.

I have also: temporarily transformed into a giant snail, distracted a guard with a conjured image of a dancing girl and used telekensis to drag a valuable artifact to me from the top of a lighthouse. Risen’s magic (achieved so far only by one-shot spells) is strange, rustic and pleasing. It gives me extra options for stealth, deception and puzzle-solving, rather than purely for combat and recovery.

Oh, and at one point I took a bath whilst still fully-clothed, watched solmenly by two frowning bearded men all the while. Risen’s women might all look like strippers, but it’s hilariously afraid of nudity:

Most importantly, I’ve worked out and employed the game’s levelling/skill system. It didn’t explain it to me at all, which is one reason why some reviews have slammed it, but I’ve had enough RPG experience to puzzle it out for myself. Essentially, every time you level you earn 10 Learning Points. You can then spend these Learning Points on skills or skill upgrades from specific trainers (who also demand gold for the privelege).

That’s all there is to it, but the lack of in-game explanation (presumably it’s documented in the manual, but this is a digitally distributed version – manual-help can’t be taken for granted in this new age) did briefly trip me up in terms of the learning points, which I initially burned my way through willy-nilly because I thought I earned rather than spent them whenever I bought a skill. No harm done really, though.

Figuring this out means I’m now what I always end up becoming in RPGs, whether I mean to or not. I’m a thief. A dirty little thief.

A really rather rich dirty little thief.

And to think that the last time I wrote one of these, I had high-faluting dreams of becoming a mage. Sigh. A combination of self-interest and being convinced by the other side of the argument has seen me become, essentially, a Rogue. I’m handy with a sword and shield, I can break into anywhere, pick most locks and pockets, and I’m now more or less in the employ of the local Don. I hadn’t intended to do this latter – it’s simply that he seemed the best of a bad bunch, so ended up taking on the quests that earned me favour with him. He’s mercenary and his men are thuggish without a doubt, but the opposing Inquisition faction seem determined to drive all local trade and pride out of this place. I hear they’re doing it for the greater good. Rings a bell… Enough of a bell that I doubt the sincerity of their ultimate intentions. I’ve just reached the point where the Don’s men have achieved dominance in the town, and I’m a little afraid this will mean bloodshed. We shall see. At least I’m no longer as weak as an athsmatic kitten – I’m looking forward to hitting the wilderness again and giving some wolves what-for.

And I can mine and I can skin animals and I can brew potions and I can make a delicious stew. An adventurer is me. I can also saw logs, though this doesn’t seem to achieve anything. I might just sell my saw.

So I’ve gone native. Risen’s gotten a hold of a me, with its surfeit of things to do, surfeit of ways to do them and constant, beguiling ambiguity. I’m still bristling at how most of the women appear to have two beachballs strapped to their chest, the majority of them aren’t given names and only two of the seven I’ve been able to have a conversation with weren’t prostitutes (though I took great pleasure in the quest that involved me brutalising a bloke who’d been beating one of the prostitutes), I’m still annoyed by the stupid length of the crate-opening animation, and I could really do without the lockpicking minigame, but amidst all the noise and bustle of this small city, these don’t seem like big things. Risen has its stumbles, but there’s a dense and subtle RPG underneath the sometimes unsure surface.

I’m also becoming steadily more distressed about the disinterest and, in some cases, baffling negativity Risen has received in much of the gaming press. In either marketing or criticism or both, something went badly wrong. What and why? Again, that’s probably another post, though I will observe that, for instance, RPS didn’t really hear anything of the game from either its developer or publisher until a couple of weeks before release. With a game this big and complicated, that’s not ideal in terms of getting the word out. Whatever the reason though, I’m increasingly convinced Risen should have loomed much larger on all our horizons than it did.

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134 Comments »

  1. surprise says:

    About the last paragraph:
    I believe its the same thing with the Gothic 1-2. They are remarkable RPGs, but get far less credit then they deserve.
    If even you guys who I highly respect have not played them, something is wrong (no offense meant)

    Maybe it is because they are from Germany, maybe because they are made for a niche audience (which I don’t believe), for some reason they don’t make it big.

    Piranha Bytes curse, maybe? Well, I will probably buy the game with the first available special offer on steam

  2. Vinraith says:

    Dammit, I’m going to end up buying this AND Gothic 2, aren’t I?

    Quick, someone come in and insult TES while praising Gothic, that always riles up some hostility towards the Gothic games. Hell, I think it’s a large part of the reason I haven’t bought one already.

    • Post Maker says:

      Gothic is too complicated and the plot is dumb.
      Oblivion is a miracle of streamlining and features fantastic writing.

      Even as a lie that left me ashamed of myself.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Oblivion’s momma’s a ho and I’s shagged her.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Post Maker

      Now see, that’s the kind of thing that worried me. I couldn’t give less of a damn about plot or writing in an open world RPG, my concerns are choice, interesting character development (in the statistical sense), and a lot of world to explore with proper rewards for doing so. If you’re playing a TES game for the plot, you’re doing it wrong. Heck, after I’ve played through it once, I usually use a mod to remove the silly thing entirely.

    • bildo says:

      @ Vinraith
      “If you’re playing a TES game for the plot, you’re doing it wrong”

      Isn’t the point of an sandbox game to play it the way you want to play it? Whether or not you want to do the main quest or any of the quests is your problem. I thought the main quests in TES3 and 4 were pretty good and would play them again. I’ve probably sunk 100+ hours into both games too. I had a good time doing nothing but wandering, finding caves, fighting enemies too alongside that main quest.

      Maybe you should stop smelling your own farts and advise people to play the way they would like to play instead of preaching your own gameplay style.

    • Vinraith says:

      @bildo

      Your hostility is misplaced. Most folks think that the main plots in TES games are pretty weak, and some of them claim that the games themselves are crap as a result. My point was simply that the strongest elements of TES games aren’t the main plot, they’re the scope of the world, the freedom of choice, the atmosphere etc. My post was intended to suggest that rather than focusing on an element of the game they didn’t enjoy, TES critics would be well served to enjoy the strengths of the titles. I think that IS advising people to play the way they want to play, as I’m not addressing people that enjoy the main plot. If you enjoy the main plot, good for you. I don’t see why you need to go around crudely insulting people, especially considering that as best I can tell we aren’t even in disagreement about anything substantial.

    • Voice of the Majority says:

      I hear Night of the Raven is the _really_ good Gothic. You do have to get Gothic II to play it, though.
      TES games are good. Gothic games are good. More good. The verdict is final.

    • AndrewC says:

      Night Of The Raven is a very excellent add-on and part of that is because, instead of just giving you an extra bit of land to run around in (though it does that too), it threads all its quests into the main body of the game (relatively) seamlessly, making the whole thing seem a whole bunch more rich and layered. Plus it has pirates.

      Some people say the expansion tweaks the balance to make the game too hard, but we all know that these people are giant pussies, right?

    • Subject 706 says:

      I’m going to meet you halfway, Vinraith. The main story arcs in the Gothic games and Risen are in no way better than in the TES games, but at least when it comes to Oblivion, the Gothic games have way better world building and mechanics.

      PB and Bethesda have both released good games. Both have also released one game each that was a real disappointment to me, namely Oblivion and Gothic 3. PB have redeemed themselves with Risen. Hopefully Bethesda will release something really good in the future.

    • Cooper says:

      As much as I agree with you about the premise of TES games (open world, massive scope for exploration, great character options, multiple routes to outcomes etc.) as the better part of them than a less-than-appealing story, this is one reason I didn’t like Oblivion. Exploration got boring too quickly as there actually wasn;t that much variation in the landscape or various dungeons/ruins/forts.

      As for the Gothic games, I got gothic3 recently (whih I know gets a bad press, even from Gothic fans) but was enjoying it. With the community patch, it seems to work fine. I like the moral ambiguity of the game. Moral greyness is something American developers seem generally unable or unwilling to toy with.

    • Nick says:

      “If you’re playing a TES game for the plot, you’re doing it wrong”

      All the TES games bar Oblivion had engaging and mostly well written main storylines.

    • Marcin says:

      Any insults are too late, I already bought my 2nd copy of Gothic II from GoG (the 4 disc version is … cumbersome). I’m back in Khorinis as well. :)

  3. Torgen says:

    once the time comes to help throw off the yolk of this town’s oppression.

    I welcome our avian overlords!

  4. invisiblejesus says:

    I dunno, but after playing the demo a little and reading this entry I’m sold. I can’t afford to grab it at full price (especially with L4D2 and Borderlands having their way with my wallet), but I’m keeping an eye out for a sale or price drop and then this puppy is mine.

  5. Lewis says:

    I think, notably, it went wrong at PR, Alec. Pretty much every multi-format publication got the 360 code by default, which is plagued by interface issues, bugs and hideous graphics, all of which the PC seems to rectify.

  6. Aisi says:

    Throw off the yolk of oppression, indeed!
    Nothing quite as oppressive as egg yolks.

  7. scwoptoy says:

    You’re coverage of this game helped me decide to pick it up. Now I’m hooked.

  8. MrTest says:

    All Pirhana Bytes games have been PR disasters. Their fuck ups are legendary. And they’ve been handled by companies who couldn’t market their way out of a paper bag. It’s no surprise they’ve been buried.

  9. richmcc says:

    Very glad to see you took exactly the same throne screenshot, and climbed in the same bath. Throne and bath-sitting appears to be Risen’s national sport.

  10. Klaus says:

    I could not even get the demo to work on my computer, so I will live vicariously through Alec.

    Oh, and at one point I took a bath whilst still fully-clothed, watched solmenly by two frowning bearded men all the while.
    An acquired taste, to be sure.

  11. JohnArr says:

    Has either Risen or any of the Gothic’s ever given a reason why there isn’t a character creator?

    • damien says:

      not needed? you play who you play, what he becomes is what you make him. the dialogue you choose, the skills you learn, that’s the scope of character development in the gothic / risen games.

      whether that’s “enough” is up to you.

      i will say that the character i’m playing in risen on my second go through has nothing in common with the first except his voice.

      compared to a fallout 3 / oblivion model, where my characters look different every time, but say and play the same things every time. personal choice as to which is more rewarding, i’d say.

    • Cvnk says:

      I don’t know if they’ve officially said anything but in my opinion character creators are just fluff in single player games. Sure they can be fun to play with but once you start playing the game do you really care what your character looks like? Especially since once they get dressed up in a nice suit of armor you barely can make out any of those features you agonized over at the beginning of the game. Also, seems like it’s effort and time on the part of the developers that could be better used elsewhere.

      I guess they probably could have added a female version of the lead character without much trouble.

    • Klaus says:

      They’d have to voice new lines and write alternate dialog. Unless it’s just aesthetic which is kinda ‘meh’ in my opinion. If you’re going add both genders, at least have the game world recognize it. A bit.

    • Vinraith says:

      The absence of character creation is the other reason I haven’t invested in these games yet. It sends a certain message to me when an RPG lacks character creation (and I don’t just mean customization of look, that’s among the least important elements of a real character creator), and that message is “our vision of who you’re playing is more important than yours.” I’ve no interest in playing someone else’s character and story, I want to create my own. RPG’s that don’t let me do that aren’t really worthy of the acronym, to my thinking. I suspect it’s a product of growing up on pen and paper RPG’s, I have no patience for developer imposed constraints of this sort.

    • Vinraith says:

      “compared to a fallout 3 / oblivion model, where my characters look different every time, but say and play the same things every time.”

      I’ll never really understand why proponents of Gothic/Risen feel compelled to lie about Elder Scrolls/Bethsoft RPG’s. Saying or playing the same things every time is virtually impossible, and certainly requires a concerted effort to make the same kind of character and play it the same way every time on your part. This is as opposed to a game like Risen, which lacks a character generator. The result is that for the first few hours your character will be identical on every play through, trudging through the same unskilled “slog” period to earn the right to be a little different. Worse yet, with no ability to customize voice or look (especially in a 3rd person game) the character will always feel the same no matter how they ultimately develop. Personal choice as to which is the better model, I suppose.

    • damien says:

      “I’ll never really understand why proponents of Gothic/Risen feel compelled to lie about Elder Scrolls/Bethsoft RPG’s.”

      i’ve no interest in discussing much of anything with someone who cant make a point without calling a stranger a liar. let alone calling the players of a particular game-series the same.

      i told you my experience as it was played during hundreds of hours playing oblivion and fallout 3, nothing more. i also told you about my two playthroughs (so far) of risen.

      if you choose to believe that i am lying to you, there’s absolutely nothing else i can say.

    • Spoon says:

      I like to think the reason this game has no character creator is because honestly, you start out with nothing. You get mediocre stats and one point into all the melee and projectile weapons (which lets you do little more than equip them and use them rather poorly). There is nothing to create, you do that in game.

    • Vinraith says:

      “i’ve no interest in discussing much of anything with someone who cant make a point without calling a stranger a liar. let alone calling the players of a particular game-series the same.”

      You’re right, I apologize for the over-generalization. Your statement regarding every play through of a Bethesda RPG being the same is overtly factually incorrect, but the error may not be deliberate on your part. I suppose it’s even possible that you’ve managed to make every play through identical, through some peculiar (and conceivably subconscious) act of will. I can’t imagine why you’d want to do that, nor how you’d go about it, but whatever.

      Your comment (and others sharing its tone) is also frequently echoed by Gothic/Risen players, but it’s silly to suggest that it’s an error that is made by all players of Piranha Bytes games. I would, however, suggest that the more vocal proponents of these titles would be better served talking up the positive aspects of Risen/Gothic rather than arrogantly attempting to dismiss their competitors if they want to help a struggling developer make some sales.

    • damien says:

      with oblivion / fallout 3, my choices tend to be based on the dialogue choices. say there are five responses to any given dialogue point – usually (tone wise) only one or two sounds like anything i’d want my characters to say.

      as for the other parts, both games tend to provoke my desire to play thieves / rogues. i dont like talking to people in them, but exploring. as a result i tend to avoid combat in oblivion as much as i can and always have. in fallout 3 i tend to snipe in VATS (which is just like avoiding combat).

      i think you just mistook me as a “hater” of bethesda’s games, when i’m not. i own all of them and have put more hours into playing / modding morrowind / oblivion / fallout 3 than i’d be happy admitting to. they’re great fun.

      i will say that i dont know what any of the three of them are about, tho. as i’ve never played any of their plotlines / main quests.

    • Vinraith says:

      Yes, I’m gathering that I misread your tone there, rather badly. It’s much too easy to do that on internet forums. Apologies for the excessively defensive/hostile reaction.

      And yeah, avoiding the plot line in Bethsoft games is usually the way to go, certainly after you’ve been through it once. I did like the “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” quest in Fallout 3, though.

    • bhlaab says:

      Well let me ask why does Oblivion have a character creator when in no time at all your character’s stats are so homogenized that you’re playing as a Barbarian Thief-Mage?

    • damien says:

      i guess to clarify as much as possible,

      i buy a bethesda game because of the wonderful, worlds they make. bethesda create amazingly lush canvasses to roam around on and to screenshot and to then fill in with my own mods or the mods of others. they do this better than anyone else in the industry.

      i buy a gothic / risen game to explore someone else’s living, vivid world. full of decisions, consequences and characters.

      i’ve never fully understood the hostility found between players of these two series because they dont have much in common when i play them. its like comparing games from separate genres to me.

    • malkav11 says:

      One possible approach (which is, admittedly, kind of a pain) is to poke around, doing all the basic scut work and questing as such as far as you possibly can without spending your points or making decisions that define your character role, keep a save or two at that point, and work from there. For example, in Gothic II, the big choice is whether to join the mercenaries, the city guard, or the mages – so do all the preliminary questing, track down the accessible loot, etc, and then when you’re either at a point where you have to join a faction to continue or simply can’t manage to progress without training some, save and then make your decision and keep going.

      Personally, it’s never much bothered me because I’m simply not that likely to replay games, especially great honking big games like these.

    • JuJuCam says:

      The thing is, Vinraith, when you think “RPG” you think skills and stats informing gameplay decisions in terms of combat and problem solving. When you think “Character creator” you think customising the look and basic skills of your player character.

      While Risen and Gothics do incorporate choices like those (aside from looks), the priority for the developers has clearly been to create a Role-Playing Game in which you are free to play a role. Alec arrived at Harbour town with intentions of learning magic but as he progressed found more value in the thieves path. In my game I made a beeline for the bandit camp thinking I’ll side with the freedom fighters and found the situation a bit more complicated and indeed a lot grubbier and more sinister than I expected. It’s easy to imagine another game path that takes you to Harbour town and results in siding with the Inquisition, and feeling with as much conviction that you are on the right side.

      In addition, the game constantly provides you with opportunities to subvert your choices up to that point and betray the people you’ve been working with. To the developers whether a man stays loyal to his benefactors or not is a more compelling character creating experience than what colour hair he has. And it happens fluidly in game, not taking time before the game starts. The fact that you start with basically no skills at all means that you can make an informed decision as you play regarding what character build you want, rather than being stuck with a few skills that seemed promising at character creation.

      I’ve been more immersed in Risen then I ever was in Oblivion because I feel like I’m making the decisions that I myself would have made if I was washed up on this strange island. I am not some paragon of virtue but I am loyal and trustworthy and I’ll do whatever it takes within my power to help those that I feel deserve my help. Risen allows me to be that person without lecturing me or trivialising my efforts or even offering any special incentive to do so besides my own personal satisfaction. and satisfied I am.

    • Vinraith says:

      “i’ve never fully understood the hostility found between players of these two series because they dont have much in common when i play them. its like comparing games from separate genres to me.”

      I get the impression, from what I’m reading here, that you’re right about that. That’s a good thing, really, as it leaves me better able to dismiss the bizarre distaste PB fans have for Bethsoft games as a simple matter of genre prejudice rather than some kind of battle for the soul of the RPG.

    • malkav11 says:

      Also, for what it’s worth, not every Gothic fan detests Bethesda games. I think the Gothic games have a very different sort of appeal in an ostensibly similar approach (large, open worlds), but I’ve spent many, many hours with Morrowind and a lesser but still large number with Oblivion and Fallout 3.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      Your point about saving post-tutorial is well taken, since there’s no character creation anyway I suppose there’s no down side to that idea.

      And I’m glad to hear the two schools of open world RPG can co-exist happily with some gamers. I’m hoping to be one of them.

    • Leafcutter says:

      I think I watched a PB dev interview on YouTube where the guy explained that they made the central character as generic as possible so the player could become what ever they wanted to be.

      cheers.

    • ilves says:

      You do realize that to do a character creator they couldn’t fully voice the character without voicing it a minimum of twice (per gender) over again? Most likely, for it to fit, they would have to do the voices multiple times for different genders. Add into that translating into different languages, do you realize how much more work and money that would require? Oblivion/Morrowind don’t voice the main character, that’s why you can have a character generator. You’re the silent protagonist, in Gothic/Risen, you are not. By the way I love Gothic 1 and 2, love Morrowind, Oblivion was meh.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      I think that the difference between character creation in Oblivion may not be all that great, certainly not compared to games like the Witcher, where you play one very specific character. The guiding principle of western RPGs has traditionally been that your character is an everyman – that you define who they are and what they become. It seems to me that in both Oblivion and Risen, you’re given a great deal of scope to choose that during the course of play.

      But there’s a big difference between the character and the face.

      I don’t think that Risen would have been enormously different if it came with a face/clothing/hair editor that you had to run through before playing, and I don’t think that Oblivion’s “My name is Jimminy, my star sign is the Kettle and I have a 5% resistance to the colour yellow” really makes that much difference either. Just saying :-)

    • AndrewC says:

      I never ever ever understood this desire for character creation either. It just feels like a frivolous waste of time that gets in the way of playing. Even a name chooser just feels like a sop to petty ego.

      But lots of people love this stuff. People go crazy for the purely cosmetic customisation in car games. Free MMO’s apparently do earn money through micro-transactions on haircuts. People spend hours playing with the eyebrow sliders before ever entering Oblivion.

      I don’t get it, but it is waaay too popular to pretend that there isn’t something to get.

      Also, as full disclosure, I started playing a Zelda game this weekend and, in honour of Kieron, I called Link ‘Cuntface’. And it is very funny indeed.

    • tKe says:

      @AndrewC everyone knows Link’s real name is “Fagballs”.

  12. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    I think this is becoming a problem with how games are reviewed, moreso than in any other medium. Especially open world games are getting a less than fair treatment because journalists have deadlines, and other work, which means that they play through the game faster than perhaps the game should be played. In this particular case, it’s only when Alec’s taken the time to do a diary, something that’s far more in depth and slower paced, to truly appreciate the game. If he was rushing through it because he had to get a review in, surely he’d be frustrated by the little things that hindered his progress, and miss huge swathes of the game.

    Maybe we need to rethink how we review, or perhaps take reviews of open world games a little less as written. I don’t know, it’s a difficult issue.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Doing this kind of thing in a hurry has its negative consequences for sure, but it’s not as cut’n'dried as you fear. The quality/type of both the game and its reviewer are much, much more affective than the deadline. For instance, I suspect there’ve been a couple of cases where people have been given Risen on 360 to review because they’re known to have dug Final Fantasy or Fable* or something. That’s just not going to play out well, y’know?

      * Despite including them in the same sentence as Final Fantasy, I also really like the Fable games, but for entirely different reasons to Risen.

  13. MrTest says:

    Sponge: isn’t that precisely why sites like RPS exist, and magazines and traditional review sites look so clumsy and arbitrary?

    • The Poisoned Sponge says:

      Short answer: Yes.

      Longer answer: Not really the point, because RPS, while brilliant, isn’t the majority of the published media, and thus when it champions a game like this it can only do so much, whereas a mediocre/negative review on a major site or magazine can seriously damage the sale of the game. And they’re the ones doing the traditional reviews.

  14. Howl says:

    I so want to try this out but I just know it will go the way of Oblivion, Morrowind and countless other single player RPG’s I’ve tried and failed to get into over the past 10 years. I used to love this stuff but I feel like I’ve been tainted by MMO’s. I can’t enjoy more than a few hours of a single player RPG without wondering why I’m playing it, particularly sandbox style RPG’s. They rapidly feel hollow and pointless when you’re on your own, even though the narrative and environments surpass current MMO’s.

    Is it just me? It’s like being cursed. RPG was my favourite genre. Perhaps there is a single player RPG malaise that’s responsible, rather than bad PR.

    • Sagan says:

      I also didn’t like Oblivion and Morrowind and I probably wouldn’t like Risen. Still I consider RPGs to be my favorite genre. But I limit myself to Party-based western RPGs. For me it’s all about playing interesting characters. Had I only played Oblivion, Fallout 3, etc. in these last few years, I would have probably lost interest in RPGs, just as you did. But I still like the Bioware games and Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 and the mods and the addons. Currently I would recommend trying the demo for The Spirit Engine 2. That is about as far away as you can get from Oblivion in western RPGs.
      Maybe you will like RPGs again if you try something different.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      What you say is interesting to me, Howl, as I have the complete opposite reaction.

      I got quite into Oblivion, VERY into Morrowind and VERY VERY VERY into RPGs like Baldur’s gate, PS:T, the Witcher and all that Jazz.

      I played several MMO’s and whilst I did enjoy the social aspects, I felt the entire gaming experience was hollow and pointless.

      I think what matters for me in RPGs is always interacting with the world and developing my character – and having the world react to that in a convinving way. MMOs are static beats – or largely static beats. And the game world doesn’t care who your character is really. I suspect that the potential is there – it’s just not really what the mainstream audience wants, or things they want.

      I mean this as no disrespect to MMO players out there but every MMO I have played (and I played a few) has felt kind of like a tripped out MSN messenger. Addictive, but I always felt pointless.

      Whereas, following through a story and contextually meaningful character development leaves me satisfied and feeling accomplished.

    • Earl_of_Josh says:

      I definitely know what you’re saying. After playing WoW and finally getting that last piece of tier 1 (yeah I played along time ago… no time for it now) and having everyone in my guild notice and congratulate me, it did seem a little meaningless when I got some achievement in a single player game where its just me that’s happy about it.

      At the same time, what really got me back into enjoying the single player rpgs was how incredibly fast paced they were. When you’re waiting for half an hour for your guildies to get back from Ironforge or whatever, or you’re grinding honor/faction/spleens or something it takes a LONG friggin’ time. I jump into Final Fantasy, and in six hours i’ve uncovered major plot points, progressed my character 20 levels, and got some pretty sweet gear? Six hours of grinding only got me 20 faction!?! (er, its been a long time since I’ve played, so I actually have no idea if that’s even remotely realistic).

      But, while the camaraderie was gone, and others appreciating your accomplishments is gone, there’s a whole hell of a lot more happening in a gaming session in single player.

  15. Aphotique says:

    I think game reviews in general have deteriorated over the years, and its not limited to any specific genre. The review process now occurs most often before a game is released and is used as a further marketing tool as an ‘independent’ or ‘out-of-house’ viewpoint. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but its led many reviewers to play games as their job. Instead of a review that should be that person’s experience playing the game in the way they would play that game (in a short and intense burst, casual play sessions, or many sessions over the course of weeks, etc) had they rented it or bought it for fun, it is now a pros and cons list weighted by deadlines, often on an unfinished build of the game, using standard or review form type checks and X’s, resulting in some flimsy score that ultimately means jack all.

    This is why I read RPS. Through reading articles, I found that interests and loves I have were shared, thus opinions could be trusted. So far, its been the best investment I could ever imagine. Though my perpetually empty wallet may disagree.

  16. Lambchops says:

    Despite enjoying these diaries the initial press has killed interest in this for me I’m afraid.

    Before you call me close minded; I’d add that I’m not the biggest fan of RPG combat even when it’s apparantly really good. So the idea of playing any RPG with combat thathas constantly been described as ‘stodgy’ or ‘turgid’ doesn’t exactly fill me with desire to play it. Combat in RPGs is something I tolerate due to the fact I enjoy the other aspects of the genre (interesting quests, a good story, more fleshed out characters, obsessive item collecting) but combat I don’t enjoy will kill my enthusiasm for such things. Shame really as some of the other aspects of the game sound quite well done.

    Still keep up the tales Alec – at least the game can be partly responsible for some enjoyment without me having to play it!

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Fair points, but you could just give the demo a try and see what you think of the combat. Personally I wouldn’t call it “stodgy”, it takes getting used to but I liked it pretty well.

    • Lambchops says:

      That’s true – I probably will give it a try and see. I’ve just got so out of the habit of playing demos recently (with the exception of puzzle games – which are always a try before buy thing for me). Don’t know why really but I’ve become a lot more reliant on reviews or word of mouth and just tend to buy or not buy now. it’s not something I;ve really thought of until now – I guess it must just be because often demos these days are either too short or because i’ve played some shitty demos for fantastic games (see the original Darwinia demo).

  17. Wounder says:

    Please, for your own sanity, make unique saves often. Every 30 minutes of play time, save to a new file.

    I’d explain why, but then I’d get bitter about how I’m likely to never see the end of the game after losing three hours of time to bugged quest. A “can’t continue without solving” quest. Wait, now I’m bitter. Dangit.

    Actually, instead of an arbitrary 30 minutes, make it the maximum amount of time before you’ll lose interest if forced to replay.

    • Alec Meer says:

      It’s worth stating (and I will in one of the posts at some point) that I’m not taking any advice from anyone who’s already played the game, not matter how dire the warning. If I encounter some howling great problem, either in terms of a bug or some content I should have seen but somehow missed, I want to be able to report it here. This isn’t about me having the perfect Risen experience, but about showing what the Risen experience is.

    • Wounder says:

      Then how about we read that “for your sanity” as the generic “your”, not specifically meant for Mr. Meer?

      It’s been fairly good about bugged quests and such, but this one caught me at a bad moment when things seemed to be thundering up to a gripping conclusion. And that’s not sarcasm, which is atypical of me.

    • Klaus says:

      I think he was making a general point, not necessarily chiding you.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      Seem to be bugged on a quest in Chapter 3 myself :( Far as I can tell from my questlog and internet scouting I’ve done everything I need to but someone who’s supposed to talk to me refuses to talk to me.

      This is a bummer.

      Might be able to save the day with console commands… hopefully.

  18. Wounder says:

    While I’m at it, if you haven’t yet started, but do plan on buying the game, you might benefit from creating a unique save after getting the beach bunny to safety. Life altering decisions start soon thereafter and if you find yourself wanting to replay as a mage, it might be nice to skip having to repeat all that.

  19. Helm says:

    After the demo hang I decided perhaps to play it a bit on a friend’s machine, and I got hooked and made it work on mine too. The final code is surprisingly robust, something like two minor bugs over the last 20 hours of play. I suspect the hang I got when I tried to fight the first enemy was in the ‘let me find that chunck for you sir’ code of the game that makes the whole thing stream without any loads besides the initial one. PCs are curious mechanical creatures, so the demo crashed fatally once but the full game works like a charm. If you’ve been skeptical due to PB’s past failures with quality assurance, don’t be as afraid with Risen, chances are it’ll work and work well for the most part. Oh, I did get that other bug where the logbook didn’t have any text on it, but I changed resolution once (I’m playing in a window so as to pretend I can alt-tab to some work at any time) and it went away.

    I’ve gotten significantly further than the diary (with guilt, as I watch my work pile up). I think this is the best game of this type available so far. The Witcher came close but it was more a series of dense hubs than an open world, though it made up with better writing and art direction (though both games curiously share the beachball-and-tiny-waist idea of womanly beauty, which baffles me). Risen wins because its disparate gameplay mechanics are pulled into a whole pretty seamlessly, whereas the Witcher felt more like an alchemy minigame on top of a combo-combat action game. This doesn’t mean Risen is perfect, it just means we’ll probably see a peak to this genre of open-world, subtle yet rich, single player action rpg thing in the next 5 years, not earlier. The technology is there but the way of thinking required to make the technology work to the advantage of the seamless open world experience is still incubating, apparently, in the minds of the Germans, Polish and Eastern Block developers. There’s so many little niggly things that one could change about Risen that would, if all applied, make the experience fuller, but the development cost would go up as well. I’m actually surprised how well this holds together, and I aim to finish it, and then get back to work work work.

  20. Vandelay says:

    I think I’m really going to have to try out the demo for this at some point. Reading through this, it seems like you are given enough direction and freedom to make things interesting. The morally grey world sounds like it is done fairly well and it appears as if you get a fair amount of freedom to make decisions, although it may have a few missteps (women sound like they are particularly badly treated).

    The main question is, do these decisions actually have an affect? Alec talks about deciding to buy expensive equipment from an exploitative trader. Does the rejection of helping the poor end up affecting something later in the game? I expect something like this would only have a minor effect, such as the farmer not helping you in some way later on, but it would serve as a good indication of the way the world reacts to you.

    • Taillefer says:

      One example:

      (Kept vague, but potential spoilers)

      I double-crossed somebody to gain the favour of somebody else. Then they refused to deal with me for betraying them. Sometime later, I was leading a group of people to do stuff. After our mission was complete, the toughest member of that group told me he’d been hired by the person I’d betrayed to beat the crap out of me. I then had a couple of options of how to deal with that situation.

  21. Helm says:

    Also sorry for double-post but I realized above I didn’t speak about the design of the game, really.

    It’s all very hardcore. Risen makes you feel as if you’re behind the curve for the first ten hours, even if you use your levelling up points in an informed manner. Any creature you meet will be able to kill you if you don’t fight carefully, pretty much until level 15 or so. There is no ‘grind’ here, meaning, you don’t press a button detachedly and watch a number go up, you fight for your life against every boar, wolf and horrible, cruelly beaked and oversized chicken on the island. My character is level 16 now and I haven’t had a thought to when I’m going to level up next so far, it just happens when it does and I reap the benefits when I return to civilization. More busy trying to survive all the rest of the time. The design mentality shares much more with say, Magic Candle than it does with Final Fantasy, or even hey, Oblivion. It demands from the player to be aware and responsible of how he’s going to approach situations and seems to be structured with quicksave/restore in its core (I suspect this is a huge gripe with some people). Players who are easily irritated or tend to give up when things get rough are seemingly not welcome and this a cruelly punctuated fact on top of many an insta-kill spear trap.

    Games like Final Fantasy (or even Oblivion) are in their core, logistical (and not really tactical) games. You’re not in any immediate danger in any place when you play such a game, even enemies stage a war of attrition against the player’s reserves, where perhaps, a boss, after 5 bad turns of combat, might put one of your characters to the dirt, only for you to spend a character turn next to revive them. That’s fine and I see a lot of merit in that concept of relaxed, logistical gaming. However, Risen is in its core a survival game, which is diametrically opposed in the spectrum of ‘what makes games fun’. Death is everywhere. The most gratifying thing about it is when you manage to survive. An encounter with 3 wolves, or a trapped crypt or even finding a place to sleep and cook your dinner.

    I suspect that the reason games like this don’t go down well with the paying public is that they are expecting an ‘rpg’ (meaning, a logistical challenge) and are getting a survival simulation more akin to Robinson’s Requiem than to Oblivion. It’s difficult to market for the merits of this design because the gaming masses aren’t familiar with the joys of staying alive (I wonder what the ad campaign would look like “Arduous Wilderness Toiling”). Games are mostly here to live out vicarious power-trips where you grind some numbers up and then you can kill everything, they’re not prepared to get hit by a boar three times in two seconds, die and have to reload, again and again, until they figure out the timing and just barely survive for 25 xp.

    • NickS says:

      One thing Risen needs is more land to explore on the island. In less than a day, I’d gotten into just about every above ground area of the game, and wiped out the wildlife, gnomes, skeletons and pissed off lizards that I crossed paths with…

    • unclelou says:

      I am not so sure – that’s what they did with Gothic 3, and it wasn’t ideal. What’s great about Risen is that, just like Gothic 1/2 – is that it gets the effort/reward structure right. At first, there’s lots of places on the island where you can’t go. Then suddenly you’re strong enough to kill gnomes. Then skeletons. Then ghouls, and you “conquer” more and more of the island, and that feeling of triumph when you finally kill the DAMN GHOULS that chased you away a dozen times before is just immense – this idea of revisiting places and really getting to know the whole area bit by bit works well, I find.

      Granted, I am a little surprised it only took you one afternoon. I must have put 20 hours into the game now, and there’s tons of places where I haven’t been yet or aren’t strong enough to go.

  22. Taillefer says:

    Risen just crashed when I turned into a nautilus, bah!

    But, I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve barely developed my character beyond thief skills and mainly focussed on exploring, so now I have lots of spare learning points for later. I’ve been able to work out non-combat alternatives for most of my quests too, to make the most of my thieving ways (including that armour pieces quest :P). One thing I’ve found odd, and it was a similar case in Gothic 3, is that there are so many wisdom increases available for free (especially where I am right now), but they’re very rare for other stats. Almost as if it’s nudging you to go with magic.

    I’m finding so many little things hidden away that I convince myself I’m the only person who would have found them. I love it.

    • Wounder says:

      I had a wisdom that was higher than my strength and dexterity… combined. This was fairly late in the game, fourth chapter range.

    • alset says:

      You find so many wisdom shrines because that’s the only way to raise that stat .STR and DEX and life and mana can be increased with potions or trainers.

  23. Jimbo says:

    They didn’t really do themselves any favours with the demo did they? Kill some wolves. Pick up some grain. Gripping stuff! It’s like an MMO without the other players.

    I think I knew I wasn’t getting this game right after that part with the frying pan. Oh, you used to keep your key lying around near your cupboard, did you? Well obviously everybody is that stupid, so the key must be here somewhere… oh look, here it is on the bedroom floor. I can’t believe I didn’t check there first.

    So to recap: They deserted their house and left it completely open, but not before making absolutely sure the frying pan was safely locked away and the key carefully hidden in the middle of the bedroom floor? Thankyou, Mr. Game Writer, consider my disbelief well and truly suspended once again. Why don’t you just have me tell Stranger-Who-Looks-Like-A-Rapist where the girl is and be done with it? Oh.

    • Taillefer says:

      To be fair, that’s all set up to be a sort of tutorial. Keys open locks! Pans cook food! And so on. And you don’t have to tell him about the girl if you don’t trust him. You can, in fact, tell other people where she is instead. Because, you know, maybe he is a rapist, and the game isn’t afraid to let you make bad decisions.

      It was probably bad material to show off for a demo though, for sure.

    • damien says:

      i find your exasperation / hostility to a series of very simply puzzles in what amounts to a game’s tutorial stage somewhat strange.

    • Jimbo says:

      You’re right of course, but I think if you’re going to make the opening of your game about finding a frying pan, you had better make sure the frying pan at least has a convincing backstory.

      And I think if the opening of your game is about a frying pan, you should probably demo a different part of your game.

  24. Zack says:

    long-time reader, first-time posting.

    i just wanted to commend RPS on the awesome write-ups they do, like this one. until reading this, i had little interest in this game. it scored rather averagely (slightly above, i guess) on most outlets. but after reading the first few paragraphs, i’m definitely intrigued.

    you guys may not have the manpower and financial backing like IGN or some of other sell-out websites, but most of what i read here is quality stuff.

    major props and keep up the great work.

  25. Vinraith says:

    How moddable is Risen, anyway? Is there a tool set of any sort? What about the Gothic games?

    • damien says:

      while there are mods for the gothic games, most of the larger ones are in german.

      there are some UI mods for 2 and 3 and texture replacers for the 1st, and community made patches for 2 and 3 (the community patches for 3 are huge and game-sweeping), but nothing like what a bethesda-version of gamebryo modders would be used to.

      also, no specific tools that i’m aware of either.

    • Vinraith says:

      Any idea if the German mods work on US copies? My German is rusty but that might be a fun way to brush up.

    • damien says:

      depends on the mod. most of the texture mods or other “fluff” mods work with any version of the game, the larger ones, the ones that make game changes or fix / change quests, etc tend to work only in the german game.

      some have been translated, tho.

  26. Jockie says:

    I think part of the issue with the score thing is that Risen is a PC RPG through and through, the kind a lot of PC gamers/reviewers may have played before (for instance the Gothic series). As far as I’m aware Pirahna Bytes have been sending out a lot of Xbox 360 review code. For a console gamer their only real points of reference are games like Oblivion, Fable and Fallout 3. So when they get an RPG thats on the surface quite impenetrable, fiddly and has it’s charms somewhat hidden, their first reaction would be to compare it unfavourably to the aforementioned titles. Obviously a review -should- go beyond first impressions but by all accounts the xbox version is a pretty bad port.

    The PC version of Risen actually has quite a decent score on Metacritic (79 at the time of writing).

    I haven’t gotten around to grabbing Risen yet, but you’ve pretty much sold it to me with this post, though with the cavalcade of AAA’s around the corner I may have to wait until a price drop.

    • bhlaab says:

      Basically you’re saying it’s like serving a fine risotto to McDonalds customers.

    • Spoon says:

      I like to think its more like getting rednecks to try to eat with chopsticks.

    • Jockie says:

      Nah im not really a snob like that. But I did happen to read one review, which compared it to Fable several times as though that was the only RPG the reviewer had ever played. It seemed like an odd comparison to me because Fable isn’t really a typical RPG.

  27. Klaus says:

    Trying the demo, again. Does anybody know what .ini setting to change to start it in window mode. If it is at all possible that is. I dislike having it freeze up my computer while trying to fix the problem.

    -Off to browse the official forums.

    • Klaus says:

      Bleh. Is giving up (for now), damn thing just freezes my computer. >:(

      Gonna play Hitman and pretend every hit is that Risen fellow.

  28. noom says:

    Sod Risen. Everyone just get themselves a copy of Wizardry 8. Best RPG evr.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’d completely forgotten I owned that. I love the hell out of it, but most of the time I can’t even make it out of the friggin starting dungeon it’s so insanely (and charmingly) difficult. It’s about time I had another go at it.

  29. Vinraith says:

    “To the developers whether a man stays loyal to his benefactors or not is a more compelling character creating experience than what colour hair he has.”

    Of course it is, I just don’t see any reason why the two should be mutually exclusive. If I’m going to spend countless hours staring at the back of an avatar, I’d like to have a say in what that backside looks like. It’s a small thing, but it’s strange to be denied such a simple choice in a game that prides itself on allowing choices.

    The more important issue is one of starting skills and whatnot. I can appreciate the philosophical appeal of the “blank slate” model but in practice it just seems to mean I have a terrible character at the beginning of the game and have to slog through some number of hours of gameplay before it’s possible to make him interesting. The problem’s exacerbated on replays, when that beginning slog is invariably the same because the character is the same before I’m able to differentiate it.

    • Vinraith says:

      *sigh* This was a reply to JuJuCam’s post above.

    • ilves says:

      well, I said this in a reply earlier in the thread, but the issue I think is that the Gothic protagonist is voiced. You would have to do multiple voices if you had a character generation, which can take a lot of money and time if you have to translate the different voices as well. Granted, Mass Effect did it, but it had 1 voice per gender I don’t think had a ‘true’ character generator, more like a template you could mess with.

    • Alastayr says:

      Vinraith, don’t get this wrong, but I think you have already become too entrenched in your own thinking to empathise with a different point of view. I don’t mean any hostility towards you. We all develop our tastes for certain things and defend them against people that think less of, or even just different about, them.
      But please, give Risen a try. I do not know if you’ve already tried the demo, but I strongly urge you to.

      There seem to be some misconceptions in your image of Risen, which I hope can be rectified. You do not start out as someone who is terrible at everything. Your basic starting skills are as developed as in TES games, only all of them are at this level of sophistication. Whereas in TES only a subset of skills can be chosen, which you (theoretically) have to live with for the rest of the character’s life, Gothic/Risen gives you the chance to make an informed decision of every skill’s usefulness in-game before asking which ones you really prefer. I can pick up that stick, knife or sword and try my hand at each of it, while not sucking, whereas I got my ass handed to me by the first bandits in Morrowind because I chose to fight with a nice Sword I found lying around but couldn’t effectively use because I chose axes at the start. I liked Morrowind a lot and had a few hours of fun with Oblivion. But I restarted them a lot, simply because I couldn’t gauge a skill’s usefulness at first.
      Generally, Gothic/Risen enables you to become (and role-play) a certain character that is defined by your moral choices and actions, embedded into the game’s world. Whereas TES-style games enable you to outlive your preconceptions of a certain archetype of character, with mostly inconsequential changes to the game world.
      And now I lost my train of thought here, maybe someone else can chime in and carry on.

    • Vinraith says:

      “I do not know if you’ve already tried the demo, but I strongly urge you to.”

      I actually already tried, but I think the download was corrupted as it wouldn’t install. It’s my intention to give it another shot, because the game does look very interesting. I’ll keep your thoughts in mind, thanks for sharing them.

  30. Soobe says:

    Two things:

    1. If your on the fence and can afford it–get it. It’s a fantastic game and for the PC at least, very stable. None of the problems of the XBOX version are present.

    2. Why no mention of the Nautilus transformation animation? I swear that despite it’s crude animation it’s one of the best “transformation” sequences ever. The yelp of pain, the grabbing of his head like he just got smacked with a hammer–friggin gold man, gold!

  31. Vinraith says:

    @bildo

    Wait a minute, did you fail to realize that Post Maker’s post is supposed to be sarcastic?

  32. Klaus says:

    @bildo
    The plot of Oblivion, Morrowind and Fallout 3 is pretty empty. I would say the catching feature is the open world exploration, not the plot – which is fluff. It’s exploration that you’ll usually find yourself more immersed in than the main plot.

    The plot in those aforementioned games just reminds that I’m not totally wasting my dicking around in caves fighting mirelurks and necromancers. There are rpg’s that heavily focus on the plot and those types of games aren’t them. Because if you’re playing those games for the plot, you can’t really justify becoming the Archmage, or breaking your legs for Moira while being on a- what should be -very important quest.

    Edit: Also yes, what Vinraith said.

  33. unclelou says:

    I’ve been a bit disappointed with Risen at first – I was enjoying it, but it wasn’t quite up to Gothic’s standards, and I didn’t like being locked in that city for hours. Now that I’ve left the city, though, I absolutely love it. Great game.

  34. Lobotomist says:

    Quote: “These guys, and everyone else I fight inside the town, don’t expire once their health bar’s depleted. They just fall over for a bit, then their health bar slowly returns and they get up again.”

    Actually you can go for killing blow when they lie unconscious. (So beware if you mistakenly try to loot them while still having weapon in hands)

    • Malagate says:

      Whilst it is nice that you can beat someone into unconciousness and then have the choice whether or not to give the killing blow, I’ve noticed that that applies to the player character as well! I played the demo and got given a red-ass beatdown by some priesty type who I was stealing from, however I was surprised when I noticed that I hadn’t died but was just k.o.’d as he dealt with some boars. He was still pissed off at me when I woke up, but he didn’t try to beat me up any more, and after using the “make joke” spell on him (which I stole from him in the first place) we were best buddies again. Yay for stealing!

      I’ve got to get this game, I’ve found the demo so much fun, especially when you don’t run through the quests to get to the ending and start exploring parts which are available but waaaay beyond your skill level to handle. I found a cave guarded by toughish wolves, with spinerats inside, a huge swarm of tough Moths (with some Nautilis), but byeond those, deep in the cavern, I found a ghoul. Which murdered me. And I had forgotten to save it before I tried tackling it. I loved it.

  35. Tei says:

    “That’s all there is to it,”

    Heee… Is a trap.

    heres some tips, avoid if you want to avoid minor spoilers:

    Theres herbs that raise you stats. Normal food like apples, eggs, that raise stuff. Theres food that you can “craft” that raise stats permantly. Alchemy that let you do that… with herbs you can consume. Leveling is somewhat freeform, multiway.

    The box need dex, the other range tool need str (you can aim clicking right click to show tha aim reticule). Axe need str, axes are slow but more powerfull than blades. You can’t use shield + 2 hands axe/blade. But once you have 6 points on axe or blade, you can use 2 hands “bastard” axes or blades + shield.

    Theres a way to forge a item, that give you some magic skills, but for most normal stuff, you can learn to write spells, and that will get you everywhere.

  36. Lobotomist says:

    Also on topic of Risen getting very bad coverage in gaming press:

    In last two years we have seen real excellent games (especially RPGs) coming out from European developers.

    Drakensang, Kings Bounty, Stalker and Witcher … to name a few

    Despite the bad reviews Witcher went to win PC RPG of the year. And Bioware is largely ripping their morality idea for Dragon Age….

    Its hard not to notice disparity between those game quality and popularity and reviews they were getting. In my opinion number one reason is Anglo Lingual Snobism ;)

    All those games were slanted for bad voice acting.
    It seems that even a slight hint of accent can bring game mark down by whole notch.

    Also production polish is what european games lack. Since they dont have huge budgets.
    This also seems to be thorn in the eye of some revievers…

    But what they do not lack is gameplay , story, atmosphere and immersion.

    But it seems reviewers dont care about that a whole lot.

    • neems says:

      To be fair, in my experience it is not accents that lead to accusations of poor voice acting… it’s poor acting. Accents actually make sense when it comes to a lot of these games, but it helps if the script is accurately translated, and then read by somebody who understands what they are reading, and knows where to put emphasis and inflection.

      Although it would add time and expense, I have long been of the opinion that translations of books, films, games etc should be done twice, from both sides as it were. In the case of The Watcher, have a Polish translator go first, then an English translator. Then have an editor check it to make sure it actually makes sense.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I agree. For example in Risen you can clearly see that some dialogues (jokes especially) made sense in German , but translated to English are far away from amusing.

      Same goes for Witcher and Stalker…

      Problem is that it will take complete rewrite of the material to fix this , not just translation – and that can be both costy and time consuming. And it could even change some original texts intentions.

      So I guess reviewers and players should approach these games as they approach foreign language films. Perhaps that will lead to better reviews and understanding

    • malkav11 says:

      They -are- treating them like they would foreign language film – because foreign language films released with bad English dubbing tend to receive…mixed critical reception, shall we say?

      I’d personally really like it if foreign games could go the “original language plus subtitles” route that most foreign films do nowadays – I won’t watch dubbed films, and I’d not play games dubbed if I had the option, either.

    • Lobotomist says:

      True. But games are not films. Although modern RPGs with the amount of narrative content are getting real close.

      Problem is that native english speakers see english language as their native tongue , while rest of the world sees it as universal communication language.

      I face this problem in my creative area as well.

      As comic artist. To reach larger audience with my web comics I have to do them in english.
      But no mater how much i try , the story i write in english will be obviously “foreign” . Which leaves me no choice but to work with english speaking script writer. Who in turn will not want to do my story. And comic is dead before it started.

      Perhaps English should not be universal language. But let say esperanto or some other invented tongue. Than everyone would be happy ?

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, that’s not really true. I’ve encountered quite a number of people out there for whom English is a second language who can write it quite indistinguishably from native speakers. And, for that matter, it’s quite possible to (either yourself or with the aid of someone who’s got a better command of the language if need be) produce a translation that conveys everything it needs to without losing that sense of the foreign about it – and I for one actually find that pleasing. It’s like…reading the novels of Koji Suzuki in translation, or Let The Right One In, or Frank Schatzing’s excellent The Swarm, or the Witcher books, I can absolutely tell that they weren’t originally written in English. But even though the writing approach is clearly foreign, the actual language used flows naturally and conveys everything it needs to convey.

      And I encounter translations of this caliber (or entirely native-sounding, for that matter) over and over again in more modern Japanese games and in foreign movie subtitles and such. It’s possible. I think that if European games are really going to succeed in America, they’re going to have to manage this.

      And I’d still like to skip the dubbing, thanks.

  37. Lambchops says:

    Oh well, the demo doesn’t work. Decision taken out of my hands I think.

  38. WingNut says:

    but I’m not keen on their ability to side or backstep like they’re rollerskating across of a puddle of oil

    You can do it as well. Just double tap the left/right strafe or the backwards button. Very satisfying to dodge an opponent’s lunge and hit him from the side. Sometimes they recover quickly, but usually you can get a quick 3 shots in before they recover.

  39. Hi!! says:

    I’ve been hooked on this for… um, since the release day. Evidently I’ve been playing too much of it, since I can’t even remember how long it’s been (the game says I’ve been playing for two days). It’s been ages since an RPG (or any game) hooked me like this. The last one must have been King’s Bounty.

    So, yeah, love it. I’m playing for the order. Don’t believe what the don tells you, we’re good guys really. Some order-guys are a bit mental for sure, but we’re not all like that. You’ll certainly find some bad apples among the bandits as well.

  40. Subject 706 says:

    I’m going to meet you halfway, Vinraith. The main story arcs in the Gothic games and Risen are in no way better than in the TES games, but at least when it comes to Oblivion, the Gothic games have way better world building and mechanics.

    PB and Bethesda have both released good games. Both have also released one game each that was a real disappointment to me, namely Oblivion and Gothic 3. PB have redeemed themselves with Risen. Hopefully Bethesda will release something really good in the future.
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  41. neems says:

    I’ve just recently hit Harbour Town for the first time, after many hours out in the wilderness / swamp, and I must confess that I’m not enjoying it as much now. This basically seems to be because I more or less stick to the same ethical ‘code’ every time I play an RPG, and I seem to have found myself in a place now whereby I cannot progress without being a dick. No matter how I work it, somebody somewhere is gonna get screwed. Which isn’t really to my liking, although at the same time I rather admire it as a design philosophy. I can’t wait to get back outside.

    As an aside, does anybody know where I can get the prospecting skill?

  42. Carra says:

    Well, the magazine I read (PC Gameplay Benelux) gave the game a great rating. 87% if I remember well. And they actually praised the lack of intruisive bugs.

    I might have to give this game a try.

  43. Villane says:

    You can get the prospecting skill from one of the three treasure seeker brothers, the imprisoned one.

    • neems says:

      Thank you kindly, I have the quest, just haven’t followed it up… there’s so much ore out there.

    • Tei says:

      Prospection its probably interesting to collect all the gold and make interesting items.

      I am playing normally, no cheats, and I have all the skills, so I think is safe to pick all crafting skills, because all skills pay.

    • neems says:

      Maybe I can make something for Fred. Although his outfit is pretty snazzy already.

  44. Ian says:

    I bought Gothic 2 because of this damn website (or people replying on it) ages ago and still haven’t got stuck into it yet.

  45. Leafcutter says:

    The main female protagonist scolded me for saving her from effectivly being buried alive because I didn’t have her old man’s map. No pleasing some girls.

    So off I went with my gentleman’s gentleman (although already dead) and recovered the missing articles from my lady friend’s foes.

    She was happy, I was happy… she buggered off and I slept til morning…cause when you fight those Skeletons a’la ‘Jason and the Argonaughts’ at night it can be hard.

    Cheers.

  46. Hi!! says:

    Leaf: Just a friendly little hint: If you liked fighting alongside her, you should keep an eye out for her in a later chapter. As she’s a trainer you can always find her through the quest map. Just saying, because most people seem to think she just disappears after a while, which isn’t true. She’s quite helpful later on.

  47. Jockie says:

    I can understand people spending a long time on customization in an MMO completely, it's how you are representing yourself visually to the other players in the game. You can tell a fair bit about another player from their name as well, someone with a serious in canon name is probably a closet roleplayer, somebody called el337one is to be avoided at all costs and someone called Deathslayer Painmantle probably has a serious lack of imagination and possibly psychological issues.

    With singleplayer roleplaying games it's about looking at something that's visually appealing for the majority of the game, or possibly god forbid, someone wanting to immerse themselves with a character that fits the setting and their peronal tastes, something they aspire to be perhaps.

    Customization lets us take the games assets and create something that belongs to us, individualises us and allows us to an extent to play the game in a manner of our own choosing. I enjoying tweaking things and creating things myself, customization and choice is simply a bit of fun. However it can sometimes get in the way of portraying a decently rounded protagonist, especially in a story-led game.

  48. HolyShitMatt says:

    Thanks for continuing this coverage/opinion piece. I’m really loving it.

  49. Taillefer says:

    I’d like them to patch in the system they had for colour-coded naming of chests in Gothic 3.
    If the text was red, it was locked. If it was yellow, that means you haven’t opened it yet. And white meant you’d already opened it. I found it very useful.

  50. Waltorious says:

    A few people have expressed interest in buying either Gothic 1 or Gothic 2 in these comments, and I figured I would point out that the games are available from Good Old Games for $10 each. The version of Gothic 2 for sale includes the Night of the Raven expansion pack. I bought them myself but haven’t yet had a chance to try them out… too many other games to play first and not enough time.

    Anyway, I figured I’d point it out because it’s a good way to get the games without dropping too much cash. And they might give you a sense of whether you’d like Risen also, before you drop a lot of cash on that.

    That is all.

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