Back From The Depths: Risen 3 Tries To Raise My Hopes

Risen 1 was 50% dark, strange brilliance and 50% a frustrating descent into grindy nothingness. Diarising that first, fascinating, cruel, strange half was one of my favourite experiences on RPS. Conversely, playing Risen 2 was one of the most deflating, despite it being about pirates and featuring a pet monkey. If you’ve got pirates and monkeys in your game and you still mess it up, you really have gone wrong.

Now Risen 3 looms, and returning devs Piranha Bytes (they of the original Gothic games) are trying ever so hard to convince us that fans of brutal, gritty, wide-ranging fantasy RPGs are getting what they want this time around. Their 11 minute sermon about how Risen 3: Titan Lords will Do It Right even kicks off with an F. Scott Fitzgerald bon mot: “don’t forget who you are and where you came from”. I.e. “look, honestly, we’re basically making a Gothic game again.”

Talk of returning to roots and consulting with the fanbase abounds, which is good to hear, though let’s hope it leads to something great rather than simply ultra-niche. Let’s see what they’ve got for us.

There’s a lot to feel good about that, although listing features (even to this extent) is no substitute for finding out what it feels like to exist in that world. Still, Risen 2’s key mistake was to prioritise dialogue and plot over activity, and this video strongly suggests something far more free-form and player-driven. In fact, Risen 2 is barely mentioned in that video, which is only wise.

I’ll be all over it, needless to say, but I am nervous. Both the Risen and Gothic series have had as many lows as they have highs, and I’ve just got no sense at all about how clear-eyed Piranha Bytes are after all that. Still, with Divinity Original Sin hitting the right beats, Pillars of Eternity making all the right noises and Dragon Age Inquisition seemingly attempting to reverse DA2’s sins, maybe it’s OK to start thinking this is the year of the great RPG comeback. How lovely it would be to include Risen 3 in that movement. WE SHALL SEE.

We shall see in around about three weeks, in fact – Risen 3’s out on August 15th.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Risen 1 was so strange, but there was something special and wonderful about it all the same.

    Difficulty which was all over the place, it looked like a PS1 game on the 360 at least, and was a complete fucking shoddy mess.

    I played it through 3 times and loved every second.

  2. LordCrash says:

    Not everyone hates Risen 2…

    On the opposite, I think Risen 2 was a nice game.

    • Dale Winton says:

      Yup I loved Risen 2 and won’t hear a bad word said about
      I think it was just too hard at the start for some people

      • Rakombo says:

        Weeeeeeeeeeell,Risen 2 is the worst game I ever finished. Mechanically it’s a mess and it’s easy to figure out.When the most effective combat option is firing your gun and then jump around until you finish your second long reload you know something is not right,when you have to repeat this process at least 4 times per enemy you know something is completely fucked up.

        A big part of rpgs is how to develop your character,all of them have trash options but this is the first game I played that almost all of them are trash,even the good ones are trash.Magic is useless and almost nonexistent and the only advantage to being a rogue is that you get a monkey and a parrot,which is awesome but mechanically they suck.

        The biggest offender is probably the melee system,it’s so awful that it makes Skyrims Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots “swordfights” look like dark souls in comparison.Despite all of that I enjoyed it,combat FELT alright the setting was great and exploration was fun.Every second I played it I knew that it is shitty but I still enjoyed it.

        • Hydraulic Meerkat says:

          “When the most effective combat option is firing your gun and then jump around until you finish your second long reload you know something is not right,when you have to repeat this process at least 4 times per enemy you know something is completely fucked up.”

          You know there was swords, right? If some youtuber or someone said that was the most effective combat technique, and you think it sucks, then just don’t do it.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Swords and voodoo were incredibly effective together.

          • Rakombo says:

            It’s been a while since I finished the game but here are a few points.

            -Swords can’t block creatures,and I don’t remember,if there was a dodge move it was incredibly shitty.The result is that you have no effective defense in melee versus enemies that are some of the most damaging in melee.

            -Human npcs have hacks,WTF is the point of light attack if it is auto blocked.There are methods to break the block and at best score one hit.As I’ve said this melee combat makes skyrims look like fuckin dark souls,that’s a serious statement and I mean it.

            -WTF is the point?Guns do more damage faster and from range.At a certain point I made the best sword in the game and had a fuckton of skillpoints because most of them are so shitty.I put all of them in swords,guess what?The gun was still better,and it’s not even the best gun in the game.

            As I’ve said the combat is complete shit and I have no idea why,have a dodge,strong/light attack,parry and block,the basics are there it’s just that the execution is terrible. The worst fuckin thing is the enemies autoblock, it’s not hard it’s just fuckin tedious because I can barely hit them and they can hit me even less.It’s fuckin great when your pistol did most of the heavy lifting in a fuckin swordfight.

            The brief glimpses of the melee in R3 looks much better even though it’s the same concept.

  3. dE says:

    Developer casts “Get Hopes up for Gothic Series”.
    Player casts “Yeah, right” Counterspell.
    Player got a natural 20. And a +120 circumstance bonus based on past experiences. The Developer Spell fizzles, whines and goes to hide in a corner.

    Yes, well… no. If it turns out an absolutely great game without a whole dimension of bugs, I may… may consider it in a sale. There was a time where I’d get my hopes up to see the Devs behind Gothic make a game. That time has come and gone, been murdered enough times that not even a Scroll of Ressurection can get it to move again.

  4. Cvnk says:

    I played through all of Risen 1 and was sure I enjoyed all of it before I read some forums and discovered I wasn’t supposed to enjoy the second half.

    Regardless though any game that claims to be more like Gothic gets my automatic attention.

    • Urthman says:

      I thought combat in the second half of Risen 1 was pretty fun once you could summon a skeleton to be a tank for you, giving the player more room to try different combat options. And there were some good dungeons, it just didn’t have much social role-playing at the end.

  5. rcguitarist says:

    I played about 4 hours into Risen 1 and was so bored out of my mind that I had to start playing something else. It has been a year and I have still not had any urge to pick it back up. I played Risen 2 for about 30 minutes and it seemed like it was going to be just as boring so I quit it too.

    • stele says:

      I also mostly enjoyed Risen 1. I didn’t bother with Risen 2. I’m going to +1 the dev’s wishes for Risen 3. Let’s hope they succeed!

  6. InternetBatman says:

    I really enjoyed Risen 2, even more than Risen 1 (which pretty much died in the last part of the game). Yes it was janky. It was very janky and very buggy. At the same time, it was really, really fun. Its focus on delightfully pirate skills offered a very unique experience. Shoot people in dialogue, make moonshine, steal with a monkey! The game had some wonderful bits even if combat has gotten worse with each successive game in the series (I blame them using the mouse too much).

  7. Cosmo Dium says:

    Risen 1 had incredibly underrated level design. It was an excellent, tight world map whose nooks, crannies and depths only truly revealed themselves once you reached the final chapter of the game. Really impressive stuff. Risen 2 had a lot of good ideas, pirate-wise, but I think ing sacrificing their cohesive open world approach in favor of small islands, it forced players down narrower paths. That said, I thought it was still a good game, underrated.

    Perhaps Risen 3 will hit the sweet spot and recapture the highs of their games past. Alec hits the nail on the head here, WE SHALL SEE. Still, count me in w/ the niche of the Pirana Bytes cult.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Play Gothic 1, 2, & 3. All of the games until Risen 2 had physical sculptures of the world. This led to incredibly intentional level design that no game has matched.

      • TheBlackBandit says:

        Woah, this sounds intriguing. Tell more?

      • Shooop says:

        This is more interesting than any news on what future games they’re planning. Where can I learn more about this? Is there a series of documentary videos?

        • InternetBatman says:

          I’ve been following them since Gothic 1, and they had this info and some pictures on german fansites. I definitely remember the announcement that they switched to completely 3d modelling as part of Risen 2, some fans were upset. Risen 2 still displays fairly intentional level design, but its not quite the same as the multitude of hidden valleys and land features as its predecessors. Try sneaking in and out of towns using only geography and you’ll see how incredibly unique the games are.

      • Love Albatross says:

        Didn’t play Gothic 2 long enough to comment on that one, but Gothic 3 is, for me, a stunning example of map design. The variance in the landscape is amazing, starting with the coastline featuring enormous cliffs and scattered villages, giving way to rural farming areas then huge mountains and canyons, and vast plains set among valleys…and that was just the first section of the game. The desert and snow areas were less impressive but it was still mindblowing when you first realised that you could cross the sea and find something completely different. And in amongst this all were dungeons, hidden nooks and crannies, cave networks full of monsters and on and on.

        Gothic 3 was flawed but I love it. One of my favourite games ever.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      “Risen 1 had incredibly underrated level design. It was an excellent, tight world map”

      Just started Risen yesterday, and this was one of my first thoughts after poking around the Don’s camp for a while. They really seemed to take the density approach to world-building, rather than the Elder Scrolls approach – which can also be fun – of scatter a great many things across a great expanse. That even applies to the sidequests, which so far have me managing relationships more than inventory. Maybe they’re as linear, binary, and grindy as most other RPG quests, and the illusion just hasn’t worn off yet, but so far it’s good fun. Feels like a less action-focused Divinity II.

  8. lovcol says:

    Gothic 2 <3

  9. Eukatheude says:

    Why no one on rps ever seems to have played the Gothic games?

    • Brosecutor says:

      As much as I love Risen, Gothic II (+ Add-On) is, to me, still the most immersive RPG in the evar. I’m still searching for a game to recapture that magic. Neither Dragon Age nor Skyrim could do that, although those games got their own specific strengths.

      • frightlever says:

        They should re-make Gothic (1) with a modern UI.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I think Gothic 1’s UI was absolutely fine for most things (roasting 90 meats sucked), but the problem is they didn’t tell people how to use it. They certainly didn’t tell you how to pick up things en masse, which was in the game, but many people never found. Nor did they tell you how critical look behind you was, even though they implemented it.

          I also think that the series was hurt because they integrated greater mouse control. PC gamers are so used to using the mouse, unless you were using arrows, Gothic played much better just using keyboard controls.

  10. Blackseraph says:

    There was a post in steam forums that really sums ups my interest in this game, and genre I like most is rpgs.

    Generic Dark Haired Male Hero 3: Generic heroes

    I thought this was brilliant name for the game, certainly more informative than what piranha bytes have chosen.

  11. green frog says:

    The article is spot on. Risen 3 is truly the unknown quantity. I expect Witcher 3 will be great, and that Inquisition will be good, but not great.

    But Risen 3? No clue. I haven’t watched the video yet but there’s been a perplexing lack of build-up for this game – until now we’ve gotten some screenshots and an irrelevant CGI trailer and that’s about it. Whether that’s simply due to a lack of marketing resources or whether it reveals a lack of confidence in their game is anyone’s guess.

    We shall see. And soon. I’m eager to find out what’s in store.

    • green frog says:

      Okay, I’ve watched the trailer and now I’m fairly excited. This is what they needed to be showing off before, not that CGI silliness. I know it’s possible to make anything look good in a trailer but I’m feeling pretty hopeful about this one now.

  12. Yama1291 says:

    This is actually kind of exciting. We don’t get too many unknowns in gaming these days.
    I would love for PB do succeed with this. They are sure as hell working hard.

  13. Megakoresh says:

    I liked the video, but the facial animations are absolutely cringeworthy, especially for 2014.

    • Geebs says:

      I didn’t get to the video yet, but based on the screenshot I am very excited about seeing the first Flawlessly Clean Glassware Delivery Simulator.

  14. Pemptus says:

    They hit all the right notes in this video, and seem to know exactly what makes a Risen/Gothic game great. Very much looking forward to this.

  15. Batolemaeus says:

    Looks like they reused a ton of assets from Risen 2. I don’t fault them for it, but the way they mixed locations form Risen 2 and supposedly Risen 3 was a bit weird.

    I’m glad, though, that a cave behind a waterfall will once again be featured in the game. It is very important to me that a game featuring waterfalls also features at least one secret waterfall cave.

    With that said, I still like all their games, including Gothic 3 and Risen 2. However, it feels like they might turn into an anachronism of game design as the world moved on without them. Modern rpg are much slicker.

  16. RedViv says:

    Phew. Was worried for a bit there. I saw a woman that actually looked like a human woman, but then the gruff guy main character again wandered about sliding diagonally on the ground. That at least is very much back to the roots of Piranha.

  17. Chaz says:

    Am I the only one who found the narrators pronunciation of the word piranha in that video just a little odd?

    • grimdanfango says:

      It seemed to start out as an attempt to emphasise what I presume is the Portuguese or Spanish origin of the word… but it got more and more melodramatic every time he said it. Piraña should only sound like “pirana” but with a slight “y” sound after the n… ña sounds like nya.
      It shouldn’t sound like you’re attempting to lace the word with as much allusion to its exotic nature as possible :-P

    • Ravachol says:

      That’s just the german pronounciation. So, it is clearly a bit off.

  18. LennyLeonardo says:

    Is that really how you say “piranha”? Wow.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Adored Gothic 1 and 2, less so 3 (broken and spread too thin)… played the first bit of Risen 1 but didn’t get around to finishing it (though I might still) and never tried Risen 2. Cautiously optimistic about this one.

  20. KwisatzHaderach says:

    I’m very hopefull! Gothic 2 and Risen 1 are still to this day the only games where I felt wholly immersed in the game world.

    One thing leaves me worried though: just like in Risen 2 Kai Rosenkrantz is once again not aboard to contribute the soundtrack. In my book the soundtracks of Risen 1 and Gothic 2 where 50% of what made the games so magical and enthralling (the other 50% being world design).

    Just listen to this piece for example: link to

    So bitter-sweet, so unlike any other game soundtrack because it takes its time to build up this vast and solemn soundscape.

  21. socrate says:

    German game usually are extremely bad these days and even before they didn’t have really good game that marked me,even if i have good memory of gothic and gothic 2 to me these game were never godlike they had tons of flaws and their fanbase usually are german to begin with and the people that usually get these game are people that could never get into elder scoll game to begin with and are searching for an alternative….and apparently that is enough to get your crappy dev studio running for decade in europe even with tons of failure.

    For me the miracle is that these dev still have job but then again these days gamer will buy anything and you can turn in a profit on the most stupid idea and bad gameplay and lets face it they’re is ALOTS more gamer these days compared to 20 year ago and scamming people with bad game back then meant you would go bankrupt compared to nowaday dumping a really crappy game these days will net you a profit somehow with how people tend to buy.