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.