Pirhanha Bytes - the venerated and cheerily mad studio behind the Gothic RPGs - are backbackback with next month's Risen. I've spent a little time with some preview code, and they've just released a making-of video. See how I kill two birds with one stone. I am Bird-Killer, killer of birds.
My experiences with the game are fairly brief so far - I got sidetracked by Majesty 2 - but general impression is it's rickety and strange and cold... but promising. Risen's is a hostile world - it begins with me washed up on shore from a shipwreck, the corpses of my former companions grimly littering the beach. I take their stuff. It feels wrong, but I have no other possessions, no other means of getting them.
I'm attacked by monsters, I meet a couple of surly guards, and eventually I find a small town. It's not a happy place. The unseen, unelected ruler of it takes the earnings of everyone who lives there, and his direct employees are bad-tempered bullies. Others seem more friendly. There's a great/horrible early quest in which an apparently helpful NPC asks you to come with him to fight something or other. You trot along willingly because, hey, cash! Fighting!
Then he beats the snot out of you and nicks all your stuff.
It's possible I could have beaten him, if I was a little more accustomed to the combat system and less frustrated by the bizarre camera (the player character is like a third-person model stuck uncomfortably onto the front of a first-person perspective), but in a masochistic sort of way I enjoyed getting my arse handed to me.
It's a fascinating statement of intent on the game's part - this isn't some fluffy, friendly world. I have to say I was a little ticked off I couldn't then declare war on the nasty oik without the entire town attacking me, but perhaps it's something that's revisited later in the game.
I only got a little time to explore beyond that, but I get the sense there may be a sizeable world beyond. There were certainly plenty of options in terms of where to go, who to talk to and how to talk to them. I started creeping towards potential resolutions to the greedy-overlord situation, and with hints that however it played out, someone would lose. No easy answers, I suspect.
Will I play further? Mmmaybe. There was promise, but nothing oh-gosh-wow, perhaps aside from the relentless gloom. The interface and levelling system was crude and poorly explained, but that latter could be down to this being early code. I have no doubt this'll find a passionate audience, as the Gothics did, but what I saw was distractingly rustic in its presentation. Perhaps it's the next Witcher, in both the good and not-so-good ways that suggests. I'll be interested to see the response to it, certainly.
Also, the preview code included a button to change my character's haircut instantly. I fear this is just a facet of the early code, but hereby petition it is left in.
Oh yes, that making of video. Discusses, among other things, the nature of German humour and how it compares to American and British humour. Apparently we're all still watching Monty Python.
Oh, and that humour style? Something like this, apparently.
God knows what that's on about, but I fear farting plus Euro-house may be pandering to stereotype a liiiiiitle too much.
Perhaps you're better off with this trailer. Features a soundtrack from Nightwish, who are apparently 'the most successful symphonic/gothic metal band world-wide.' Jolly good.