The closest analogy to Piranha Bytes’ Risen roleplaying game series is Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. The movies were campy low-budget affairs that appealed to a fairly small demographic. The same can be said of all of Piranha Bytes RPGs, the Risen 3 and Gothic series included.
If you play games only from the largest publishers, the newly released Risen 3: Titan Lords probably won’t spend very long on your PlayStation. Fifteen minutes into the game, I was cursing myself for volunteering to review this title. A few hours later, I finally started having some fun with Risen 3, and eventually, I had a hard time putting the controller down.
Starting the game, I hated absolutely everything about Risen 3. My list of complaints was pretty long. The visuals are dated, with muddy textures and limited animations, and the character models leave a lot to be desired. You are also stuck with a single character, whose appearance doesn’t match the gravelly pirate voice he speaks with.
Yet despite all of the visual shortcuts the game seems to take, the PlayStation 3 still has trouble keeping up. The framerate is often bad, particularly when starting the game or when Risen 3‘s autosave kicks in. Speaking of disc access, the load times are long, and inexplicably, when starting the game, the menu defaults to “New Game” instead of “Continue.”
Eventually, I started to get the joke, but that doesn’t mean everyone will. As I said before, the character customization options in Risen 3 are pretty limited, particularly in the beginning of the game. As a matter of fact, for the first hour or so the game plays more like a broken, pirate-themed action/adventure game than an RPG. Your hero can perform a standard attack and a charged attack with a sword, as well as jump and climb. He can also fire a gun, or throw knives with his off hand. Unfortunately, the inefficiency of the attack animation was so bad I used up all of the bullets for my gun pretty quickly.
The beginning section of Risen 3 is also pretty linear, but looking back, it serves well as an in-context tutorial. Once all of that silliness is over, the real game gets underway.
Actually, the silliness never really ends. Basically, the hero dies, and even though a witch doctor revives him, he is still missing his soul. He is also missing his ship and crew. What’s a pirate without a boat? Despite a tutorial level, combat with a sword will always be a chore.
Risen 3 will let you game the system a bit. You are allowed a companion, and that companion is necessary to keep you alive, and when they’re not up to the task, you can lure enemies towards other NPCs, who will help you fight too.
While Risen 3 is pretty combat-heavy, the meat of the game is questing, and there are seriously a lot of quests. Each of the game’s handful of distinct islands offers a mountain of intertwined missions that will have you island-hopping and fast-traveling, once you are thankfully able. You will eventually choose an alliance with one of three guilds, each offering unique skills, armories and quests. Crystal magic has also returned, allowing you to wield elements such as lightning, fire, and ice, or make use of additional magical skills to aid you in exploration.
If you can overlook Risen 3’s warts, there is a good amount of content.
The narrative that binds Risen 3: Titan Lords together isn’t terribly original or compelling, but once you embrace the cheesiness of it all, it can be a good amount of fun. It’s a pretty short list of teams that can pull off a serious pirate-themed RPG, and Piranha Bytes knows that doesn’t include them. Who knows, maybe Bioware could. Regardless, it’s no small feat that Risen 3 works at all. With all of the handicaps it endures, the fact that there’s such a deep and fun RPG in there is remarkable. There’s no denying there are serious flaws, some so bad that most won’t give Risen 3 a shot, but if a pirate-themed, Euro-RPG is your thing, this is your game.
Risen 3: Titan Lords is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.
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