By Alec Meer on October 13th, 2009 at 8:49 pm.
Everything went wrong went I made it out of the first city.
Alert! There are a few spoilers in this, one of which may be major, but I honestly don’t know. But I’ll flag that one up in the post as it approaches.
Apology! I’m away in France at the moment, and all my screenshots are back home. So I’m going to illustrate the post with pictures of kittens instead.
Key to Risen is it is two opposing factions: the bandit fraternity of Don Esteban, and the religious fanatic/mage alliance of the Inquisition. Fairly early in the game, you decide which of these most appeals, and work towards it. It’s one of Risen’s cleverest systems, in fact – rather than simply following a fixed plotline that eventually unlocks chumminess with one or the other, instead you pick and choose your sidequests. Once you’ve done a given amount of them, and acted in favour of a specific faction, you reach the point where your favour is high enough that the core story progresses, one way or another.
It’s good stuff, because you’re carving your own path through the game whilst simultaneously advancing the plot. Compare it to, say, Fallout 3, where it’s only ever either/or. (The last thing I want is to inspire yet another bloody Elder Scrolls vs Gothic pissing contest, but F3′s simply a contemporary touchstone).
So, I picked my side – as detailed yesterday, through my actions rather than through what I’d pretended was my conscience. I did a bunch of stuff for the bandits, and I was off to see the Don, via a secret escape route from the city that meant I didn’t have to pay a tithe to corrupt guards.
No hurry, I reasoned, as I wandered through some fields, smashed some gnomes in the chops and had an idle chat with some pacifist monk types. What’s up this hill? Oh, some sort of monastery. The monastery, in fact. Can’t hurt to take a look…
Fade to black.
I’m inside the monastery and labelled a recruit, due to invisible powers its doorman had apparently exercised to force me inside. I was pretty disgusted at the game for this – it’s supposed to be a game of choice, but the mere act of a guy seeing me caused it to break its own rules, deny me the chance to fight for my liberty and force me down a certain path. Perhaps some sort of mention of magic would have appeased me, but no – I was supposed to presume that somehow this one guy had overpowered me and dragged me inside. Couldn’t I have fought back?
I roamed the monastery for a while, occasionally pausing to rob things. Seemed I was stuck here. I found my to a parapet and gazed forlornly at the mountainside below. Then I remembered the ring. I’d reclaimed it from a shrieking harpy of a woman who’d somehow acquired it from the cartographer across the road. He wanted it back, but, puzzlingly, was so pleased that I’d retrieved it for him that he told me to keep it. Whatever.
Only now did I remember it had the property Acrobatics +1. Only now did I remember a loading screen message that told me Acrobatics was the only way to survive long falls. I gazed at the drop below me, assessed the nearest thing I could land on. There- a lump of gleaming crystal about halfway down. Steady, steady…
Crunch. But I’m still standing, just. Neck a health potion and then…
Crunch. Yes! Freedom!
Thump. Ow! Whassat?
Three gnome-murders later, I really did have freedom. Right, back to the city to sell all this monk crap I stole.
A few hours pass. Things are sold, beasts are slain, sub-quests are completed, skills are upgraded, big swords are bought. Everything’s fine. Time to go see the Don at last.
The Don won’t see me. Why? Because I’m a flippin’ monk.
Oh. God. So I’d thought escaping from the monastery was part of the game, something allowed – but it seems it was me finding a loophole. Nothing had changed about my appearance or statistics, but everyone in the Don’s camp knew I was and treated me as a member of the opposing faction. I’m insulted, I’m threatened, and if I try to enter the Don’s chamber, I’m met with a small army of angry, sword-wielding bandits.
Meanwhile, the head of the Inquisition faction in the city had earlier told me to bugger off for signing up to the bandits. So I’m not in with them either. What happens now?
Possible spoiler! Possible spoiler! Aieee! Safety resumes immediately after the next kitten picture.
On the plus side, a failed attempt to bypass the Don’s guards by turning into a snail and sneaking in had revealed the big man was sat in front of an enormous mountain of gold, fleeced and taken and bullied from the people of this island. This is not something a Good Person would do. So allying with him probably would have troubled me, ultimately.
Still: I’ve broken the game. And, while I have been keeping several safety savegames, due to various overwriting I didn’t have one that was close to the time I was thrown into the monastery. I only had shortly afterwards and six hours previous. Bloody, bloody hell. If only the game was clearer that my status had immediately, irrevocably and invisibly changed, despite no visible and stats difference, then I’d have immediately known to have reloaded immediately. I wasn’t given any monkish garb or token, no quests were given or cancelled, and the guys in the city had treated me normally upon my return – so there really was no sign that I was pervading some unseen monkish aura all of sudden. I’m not certain if it’s a bug, poor explanation, rank stupidity on my part of a bit of all three. Whatever, I’m in quite the pickle.
So what now? Do I rewind by what amounts to around 9 hours of play? Or do I see how far I can get in this bastardised state, if enough monks will treat me as an ally to allow progress, or if too many doors have been shut by my earlier banditery? Am I friend to no-one, enemy of all? Does it even matter, or can I simply head off-piste and go exploring until I get bored – hang the fate of the world?