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Default Risen semi review

October 8th, 2009, 15:17
Iím 21 hours into Risen (PC version), a so far I think the game is fantastic, and now Iíll try and explain why (wall of text warning and possible spoiler warning).

First a little about me, Iím a 35 year old guy who loves hardcore RPGís. Iíve been playing PC RPGís the last 15 years. I play on a 2 year old rig (July 2007):
Intel Q6600 quad core CPU.
4 GB RAM dual DDR2.
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512 MB.
Windows 7 64 bit.

I started playing the Gothic series back in 2003, I actually started with Gothic 2. After completing the game twice, I bought Gothic 1 and completed it. And in 2006 I got Gothic 3 and completed it as well. Hereís what I think about the Gothic games, which all fall into the hardcore RPG genre:

Gothic 1
Great game, immersive story line, big world to explore. But as with more or less all Pirahna Bytes (PB) games, Gothic 1 had its fair share of bugs, when it was released in 2001. I would give it a review score of 85% back then.

Gothic 2
PB upped their game, and released an RPG that was bigger, better and even more immersive than the first Gothic. The game had a lot of replay value and I think I completed it around 4-5 times in total, just to try the different factions and character options. But once again bugs were and issue, especially concerning quests; some quest lines could be broken making them impossible to complete. But still it was the best Gothic game to date. I would give it a 90% score.

Gothic 3
In 2006 I jumped on the next Gothic game in the series, but it was a mixed experience. The game had super potential, PB really tried to improve on everything that made Gothic 1 and 2 brilliant. The world was huge, and imo way too big, but as with the other games, fantastic landscape design. I have never seen anything coming close to PBís level of landscape design. The story was good, the faction choices was fun = replayability. The character development was the best to dateÖ but. Never have I seen a game with so many bugs. With Gothic 1 and 2, I thought PB should have waited a few months, with their released to polish the games. But with Gothic 3 it felt like I was playing and alpha version or an early beta version of the game. The game had insanely high hardware req. and it would often crash, sometimes during saves thus rendering my saves corrupted = game stopper.
I managed to complete the game anyway, and if you could ignore the huge amount of bugs, the games was actually really cool.
Huge respect and thumbs up to the group of fans, that spent 1.5 years and hundreds of hours to fix Gothic 3 via community patches. They made the game reach its full potential. My score prior to the community patches = 70% - after = 85%.

When I found out that Risen had hit the market, and that a demo had been released, I was a little hesitant. Being a huge fan of more or less all games from Blizzard, Iíve become accustomed to the extremely high quality of their games, something they seem to have mastered better than most other developers imo. Thinking back at my Gothic adventures, I had some great and fun times with some of the best hardcore RPGís I have ever played, but with that also came a lot of frustration, because of the poor technical quality of these games at their release, as mentioned above.
But I decided to give PB another chance, sincerely hoping that they had improved, since their latest game Gothic 3. So I downloaded the demo, and started playing.
I play on a 22Ē monitor, resolution set to 1680 x 1050, everything set to max except for the filtering, which I set to linear. At first glance the graphics havenít improved much since Gothic 3, but Gothic 3 also had excellent graphics for its time. But the more I played the game the more I noticed that the graphics really had improved, especially the lightning.
The music fits the game nicely, the sound effects are realistic and work great in surround sound Ii use 5.1), there are a few minor glitches on the sound effect side, but I reckon that can be fixed in a patch.
And the demo was more or less bug freeÖ WHAT. Yep, I only experienced one crash in the demo, and I have had zero crashes in the full game. Good job PB, maybe using Deep Silver to distribute Risen, instead of Jowood who distributed all the Gothic titles, gave PB the extra time they needed to polish their newest creation.
After playing the demo for a few hours and gaining a few levels, I hit the demoís boundary, meaning I couldnít explore the game any further. I was left with a feeling that I wanted more. Because Risen was fun, exciting and new, but it still reminded me a lot about Gothic, meaning it reminded me about everything that I loved about the Gothic games, everything that worked that is.

The next day I bought the full game, and started playing for real.

Risen takes place on a tropical island, and the island is about the size of 1 of the 3 lands in Gothic 3, which imo is perfect. Not too big but not too small either, there is plenty to explore, once again PB shows off their excellent skill in creating great multilevel landscapes.
As with the Gothic games, you develop your class during the game, meaning that you donít start out with selecting a mage or a warrior class to begin with. Whenever you gain a level you receive 10 learning points, and you can put them in whatever you want. I really like this system, because you can chose to develop your character into a strong warrior, ranger (shooting bows or crossbows), mage or a combination of the 3 and you can spice your choices up with thief skills, prospecting, alchemy etc. The character sheet is simpler, but better than what we saw in previous Gothic games. Now you can level any combat skill from level 1 to level 10. This goes for melee weapons, ranged weapons and even magic.
Ranged weapon skill is empowered by dexterity and it works pretty much like in the other Gothic games, which is not bad at all. Magic is cast faster and does more damage when you level up in it.
Now melee is a bit more interesting imo, compared to what we have seen previously from PB. As with any Gothic game, you start out as a weak nobody, who can hardly defend himself against an angry rabbit. This is one of the things I like about this kind of hardcore RPGís, itís hard in the beginning, but it gets easier as you progress, and later in the game your are more or less a demigod eating dragons for breakfast. This does not mean that PBís games are not challenging later on, believe me they are, the power wise character progression is just really well made. Anyways to get back to the melee skill, in the beginning it is button smashing, because your character is not trained in using melee weapons very well. So if you press the left mouse button 3 times in a row, your character will first attack from the right, then the left, ending with an attack from above, that is, if you opponent has not decided to counterattack you in the meantime. If you hold the right mouse button you parry. The interesting part comes when you start putting points in your weapons skill, because you get a new trick you can perform with your weapon of choice for every point you raise the skill. Fx. when you have 2 points in staff fighting, you get the ability to make a special parry during your opponents attack, that sends him stumbling backwards open for your attacks, if you time it right. When you have 3 points in staff fighting, you get the ability to surprise attack your enemy from the side during combat and so on. Iím sure you get the picture, and this means that melee combat has become a lot more interesting and challenging. So yes you start out with button smashing, but that is only at skill level one, the fun comes when you skill up, and that means combat keeps being fun and different throughout the entire game.
I have not tested ranged weapons beyond skill level 1, so I canít say what fun they will present further in the game.
I always prefer to play a mage, especially a fire mage if I can. And in Risen as a mage you get to choose between frost, arcane or fire magic, didnít I play a MMO for the last 5 years with a similar setup? No matter, because it works well in Risen.
In Risen you can choose between 2 factions, you either join the big bandit camp in the swamp or you join the Order. The Order is a group of warriors and mages that uphold the law on the island. I chose to join the Order, as it seemed to be the fastest (and maybe only) way to become a mage. A little tip though, I started doing the quests in the bandit camp without joining them, and when I joined the Order, all my bandit camp quests got cancelled. But thatís ok, itís extra XP.
I loved the part of Gothic 2 where you enlisted at the monastery and had to go through a time as a novice, performing all kinds of tasks, and finally passing the tests to become a real mage.
The same goes for Risen, except this part is a lot more fun and immersive. The time you spent as a novice is about 2-3 times longer than in Gothic 2 and the tasks are much more fun and deep.
The difficulty setup in Risen is similar to the Gothic titles, you move around clearing areas of mobs, until you get to an area guarded by mobs so powerful that you canít overcome them at your specific level. Then you level up and get better gear, and come back to rain down furious payback on the mobs, you couldnít handle a few levels earlier. I like this system, it worked well in the Gothic games, and it still works very well.
Becoming a mage, makes you able to cast fx. fireballs, and that really makes the world open up for you. When you are a novice the weapon of choice is a staff, and giant scorpions donít really care about your staff, you are just fast food to them. But when you hurl fireballs at them from a great distance as a mage, then they donít even get within range to hurt you, if you use your range probably that is.
PB has improved a lot of the old skills, fx. pickpocket and lockpicking just to mention a few. Lockpicking is now graphically displayed instead of just being audible. Pickpocket is a lot of fun, because now you talk to your victims while stealing from them. A small inventory of the victims belongings appear on the screen, and you have 5 seconds to decide which one item you want (often the most valuable), before the time runs out.
Just like we have seen before, the game is split up into chapters, it takes around 30-60 minutes from the beginning of the game to reach chapter 1. It took me another 20 hours of playing before I reached chapter 2. But in those 20 hours I had explored quite a few areas of the island, killed a lot of mobs, completed many quests and reached level 13. My guess is that Iím maybe 25% through the game by now. And wohoo what great 20 hours of fun it has been, itís been a very long time since I have had this much fun with and RPG, I mean I have been really immersed in this game and I canít wait to get back in there.

Let me put it simply people. If you are a fan of the Gothic games or hardcore RPGís in general, then Risen is the game for you! Itís like with the Gothic games, your either love it or hate it, and Iím a lover.
Risen is like the next Gothic game in the line, yes itís a new hero and a new world, but it smells and tastes like Gothic, but without all the bugs. It builds on some of the greatest features in the Gothic games, and improves more or less every single one of them. Yes, this game might not be very original, but who cares when itís so immersive and so much fun.
My review of Risen so far = 92% wohoo.
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October 8th, 2009, 15:34
Good review and spot on. I agree with everything you've said. The game rocks.
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October 8th, 2009, 16:12
Nice review - only the final score is a bit too high - some things can be improved and I think PB will do this in a sequel or maybe in an addin like the fantastic "Night of the Raven" for Gothic 2.

We should say 87% and (87% + 5%) = 92% for Gothic fans
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October 8th, 2009, 16:15
IMO, they do not make games like this enough, it is so immersive, and completing quests at times actually feels like an accomplishment, no hand holding. love it, sure, can always be improved, but, IMO, blows most mainstream games away. Give me games like Stalker, Risen, me a happy boy, long live PC gaming.

Games today are to easy and devoid of any challenge. risen is not, thank god.
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October 8th, 2009, 16:38
Originally Posted by mastorofpuppetz View Post
imo, they do not make games like this enough, it is so immersive, and completing quests at times actually feels like an accomplishment, no hand holding. Love it, sure, can always be improved, but, imo, blows most mainstream games away. Give me games like stalker, risen, me a happy boy, long live pc gaming.

Games today are to easy and devoid of any challenge. Risen is not, thank god.
s.t.a.l.k.e.r. R.u.l.e.s.!.
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October 8th, 2009, 19:59
Really nice review there thanks for your effort
I am a huge gothic series fan as well, with gothic 2+notr sitting in my Top5.. swamps(yey to G1 sects), thieving.. and what i loved the most in G2.. get my novice robes and start distributing sheep sausage! Risen here i come

edit: also awesome to know that the game is hard..
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October 8th, 2009, 21:45
I agree and it seems there is a type of gamer that really likes games like Gothic. There are loads of people that can't seem to enjoy those type of games, but for the rest of us it's great for exactly the reasons pointed out in your review. Not much hand-holding, immersive and atmospheric gameworld, but Risen is more complete and polished than their previous games. Risen is like Gothic++, not necessarily original, but I never really cared about original and innovative, anyway. It's not like they simply remade Gothic. There aren't many games like this made anymore, so I'm very glad Piranha Bytes still does.
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October 8th, 2009, 22:01
Yeah i love this game. But one thing while great wasnt very gothic like. The last boss fight reminds me of a good Zelda boss more than gothic.
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October 8th, 2009, 22:02
If Risen would have had own set of skills and whole new character development system, then I'd give 9…10 out of 10. Now I'd give 7.5, since after playing all Gothic games, this doesn't bring any "Wow" effect or any surprises. Still a good game though and best RPG for a while, but it would have been so much more.
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October 9th, 2009, 00:41
Keep making these games PB!
I hope there are enough of us that like your kind of games the best.
…and I'm from North America…
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October 9th, 2009, 02:23
I think Combat is very good, but too easy. As a level 0 character, I should not be able to defeat every NPC in the arena, which I did. Then while fighting a spiked rat, I died quickly.

It seems, as long as you have a shield and sturdy branch, you are invinsible to all NPC's, given the correct fighting strategy. I remember Gothic, where I stayed clear of all guards as I knew if I look at them crooked, they will kick my arse.
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October 9th, 2009, 12:33
The adventure continues

Thx, for the positive comments. I'm glad that a few people, could make use of my little review. Which inspired me to write a little more, maybe a diary of my Risen adventures, hehe.

I will touch down on a few things that I didnít cover in my mini review, and throw a few tips into the mix as well

Once again I must warn you against possible spoilers.

After another 5 hours of play, Iím at 26 hours total now, Iím level 17. Becoming a mage really helped me, to take down the mobs that had previously caused me great problems. I had saved up some learning points, lesson learned from the Gothic series, prior to the mage promotion. When I got my promotion I was able to upgrade my fireball to level 4 right away, and during my adventures yesterday I further upgraded it to level 6 out of 10.
The fireball is the secret to my higher level of monster slaying, since it makes it easy to stand at maximum range, and kill most mobs before they reach me. Some mobs do require a little kitting, like ghouls and ogres, but they are definitely doable, as long as they come no more than 1 or 2 at a time. This does not mean that I can take down everything I come across, I have had a few encounters with some evil beasties called Ashbeasts. They remind me of ghouls, but they are bigger and faster, have way more hitpoints and hit a lot harder. I found some of them deep inside ruins, where I had killed a lot of ghouls first, and I guess the Ashbeasts were put there to tell me "this is as far as you get", well at least for now. I will revisit them in 4 or 6 levels, with a level 10 fireball

The graphics keeps amazing me, the more I play and the more different scenarios I see, the more details I notice. And I must say that PB has really done a nice job, because it does not require crazy hardware like Gothic 3. But ofc it helps to run the game in a high resolution, with everything more or less maxed out graphic wise. One thing that really helps, when enjoying views from up high, where you can see very far, is to set the Depth of Field to Off.
For further graphical optimization please refer to this post (thx Ergonpandilus):

One more thing, if you have a Nvidia Geforce 6 or 7 series video card, then a hotfix 1.01 has been released to fix the fog issue. You can find it here (thx Gorath):

Another thing that has really been optimized by PB compared to their previous games, is the Load/Save function. Saving takes less than 1 second on my PC, and it doesnít matter if itís a quicksave or a normal save. Loading and quickloading takes about 5 seconds, unless you have just started the game, then itís more like 10 seconds. This is a GREAT improvement, and very acceptable. I guess some of you still remember "quickloading" in Gothic 3, before community patches, hehe.
The game actually also autosaves whenever you enter new zones/areas, nice feature. Imo manual saving, moves your focus away from the immersive experience and draws you out of the game. Some great games have solved this, by removing manual saves all together, and have implemented autosaves in such a great way, that the player never has to worry about it, thus you stay deeply focused in your adventures. Maybe PB can do this in their next release.
Another cool thing is that during loading screens, different game tips are displayed. These tips are actually really helpful, and they have helped me more than a few times.

Like with previous games from PB, when you advance a chapter, a limited number of mobs and flowers will respawn. Vendors will also upgrade their inventory, so remember to revisit them.

A little money tip/exploit. Behind/above the bandit camp lives an alchemist, I believe he is called Rhobart or something like that. He gives you a repeatable quest, where you can turn in 10 pieces of weed (a flower), and he gives you 70 gold and you also get a little XP. With a pickpocket skill of 2 out of 3, you are able to pickpocket this guy, and you can steal back all the weed you have turned in, and turn the weed back in again
So the more turn ins you do before the pickpocket, the greater the reward.

I have seen quite a few negative reviews of Risen, where the reviewers believe that the game has bad combat mechanics, like button smashing and crap parry ability. Is it just me, or does it seem like these reviewers, have only played the game for an hour or two? I have already described above, how the attack ability develops with upgraded weapon skill levels, but I would like to defend the parry ability now.
As a mage you are told that your weapon of choice is the staff, a staff is a two-handed weapon btw. A staff is great at parrying humanoid opponents, unless they have a strength score that is a lot higher than yours, if this is the case then they will send you stumbling backwards. But against beasts, a staff is very poor at parrying, and I believe this is indeed very realistic. A shield combined with a one-handed weapon is, on the other hand, a very effective way to parry both beasts and humanoids. A wolf will often attack you 3 times in a row, if you parry with a shield, you will be able to absorb all 3 attacks and pay it back right after.
Since I fight beasts more often than humanoids, I prefer to carry a good one-handed sword and a shield. As a mage I always open a fight with fireballs, but if a mob is reduced to below 10-20% health by my fireballs, I switch to melee and finish the mob off with a sword, to conserve mana.
So imo parrying works great in Risen, you just gotta work out how

Now a little info, about my adventures and my choices in Risen. I ofc started on the beach like everyone else, I then moved on to clear the immediate starting area. At the first road crossing I chose to go the bandit camp in the swamps, where I did all the quests I could without joining the bandit. My low level also set a natural limit for what I could and could not accomplish. After my swamp adventure, I went to the Order, to volunteer my service, as my goal was to become a mage. They gave me a beating, and send me to the monastery, ouch.
I did all the great and fun novice quests here, but before I could become a mage I had to go to Harbour Town. After getting inside the city I did every single quest here as well, which took a while, but I had a really good time
The trip went back to the monastery, after I had finished my tour of Harbor Town.
I now became a mage, chapter 2 started, and I got my new epic chapter 2 world quest. I now decided to go and explore some more with my new fireball, which allowed me to go to places I couldn't before. Thatís what I did yesterday, and I ended up at the big ruin in the bandit camp. This is where my adventure will continue today, i canít wait.

So far my review score of 92% remains. This game is just so much fun and surprisingly polished for a PB game.

If some of you people, feel a bit entertained by my ramblings, let me know and I will turn this into a diary of Taldrey's crazy Risen adventures.

Have fun.
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October 14th, 2009, 01:52
Great report! I'm enjoying it so far.
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October 14th, 2009, 12:26
Originally Posted by Damian Mahadevan View Post
Yeah i love this game. But one thing while great wasnt very gothic like. The last boss fight reminds me of a good Zelda boss more than gothic.
I agree. The rest of the game was fantastic but I could have done without the final boss.
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