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About the product
- Game is divided into 4 chapters and lets you decide which side you will join
- Spells can be cast either through a scroll or a rune (30 different spells)
- Full world streaming support - No loading of screens
- With each level, the character learns and improves his skills
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A sweeping story captivates players from the start! An epic story in an authentic world hand-crafted with an eye for detail and populated by "real", plausible characters. A Mysterious Volcanic Island The heavy tremors on the island bode ill for its inhabitants. Ancient temples have risen from the ground recently, bizarre creatures are terrorising the area. Fear and terror is spreading among the population. The End of All Hope? A group of powerful men who call themselves "The Inquisitors" have taken it upon them-selves to put an end to these events. They send an exhibition to this remote island, but a storm takes hold of the ship and destroys it at sea. A Hero Will Come As if by a miracle, the player survives the shipwreck and is stranded on the volcanic island alone. He finds himself amidst a chaos of rebellion, tyranny and mystic rituals. He must now decide to which side the pendulum of fate will swing.
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I am a longtime RPG fan and have been very pleasantly surprised by many of the games coming from European developers over the past few years. What started as a "time killer" when taking breaks from online games like EverQuest (1) and Lord of the Rings Online has opened my eyes to some of the more obscure releases. Like most RPG players, I of course was familiar with The Elder Scrolls games, but although comparisons are inevitable, most of the Euro games have a much different feel. Risen is no exception. As has been abundantly stated already, it is essentially a sequel to the Gothic series, so if you liked those games, Risen carries on the tradition in fine form. However, if Oblivion is the game by which you judge all others, Risen may not be your cup of tea. I personally found Oblivion to be rather stiff in terms of both combat and overall gameplay, with Risen being much more fluid. Oblivion does look a bit more polished, but I'm of the opinion that third-person perspective makes for a more enjoyable gaming experience, especially in combat-heavy games. Combat in Risen is understandably quite similar in overall feel to its Gothic predecessors, although with some variations. Interaction with the game environment - picking plants, mining ore, opening doors and chests, and creating player-made items - generally incorporates specific animations and text/voice feedback, rather than just popping something into your inventory unannounced.
Much has been said about character development in Risen, whether good or bad. Early on, the shipwrecked main character will have all the resources of a caveman, meaning some sort of club, plants, raw meat and maybe a shiny rock or two. First inclination might be to use things as you find them, but some items will be of later use. For each level gained, training points are awarded, which can be used (often with some cash offering) to start molding your character into a respectable adventurer. You can't have it all though, at least not right away, so some weapon training is a wise choice, along with lock picking. Alchemy, smithing, prospecting and gutting of animals are all useful, but combat skills can be developed to a much greater extent. I opted to train primarily with swords and crossbows, with strength being the required attribute; bows and a couple of other weapons depend on dexterity. Something to keep in mind is that there is rarely only one way of getting items you need for quest completion, even in the deepest of dungeons. Furthermore, I never found myself prevented from coming back to an area later if for some reason I wasn't able to complete a task there right away. That goes not only for items, but also for battle with tougher opponents. And although there are no horses or other mounts, fast-travel methods do show up as you explore the island. Expect to do a lot of running around early on, and take advantage of the various maps!
NPC interaction is critical to any RPG, and for the most part, Piranha Bytes did a fine job in that area. The voice acting is vastly improved over previous Gothic titles. Most dialog between the player and NPCs uses the regular character models rather than animated cut scenes, so it may not be as "pretty" as in some games, but is well executed in general. In playing through the entire game (outlaw faction) I didn't find ANY bugs caused by NPCs being absent or unresponsive. However, be aware that NPCs may very well end up fighting monsters during the course of their daily routines (yes, NPCs have more to do than wait around for you to bother them) and although NPCs crucial to the main storyline are for all practical purposes immortal, those involved in various side quests aren't necessarily so sturdy! A few times, I saw NPCs try and fail to fight monsters before I'd talked to them for side quests. Also, if an NPC assists you in battle against a monster without explicitly *joining* you, they will be as vulnerable to your attacks as the monster, so be careful! Risen is M-rated for a reason. There are some spoken "f-bombs" sprinkled here and there, some sexual references (although nothing graphic) and use of various substances that might not be appropriate for younger players. There is the usual video game violence, of course.
Risen isn't flawless, although most issues I encountered pertain to gameplay and pacing rather than stability. On a couple of occasions, I did stop and restart the game because movement started to "stutter" or act bogged down. It's mostly the camera angles that bothered me, given the game's propensity for either zooming in to the back of your head or being completely obscured by terrain when in close quarters . . . such as at the edge of a cliff (as it turns out) or while fighting in a dungeon. When fighting multiple opponents at once, it also seems to arbitrarily target them, regardless of which is closest or immediately attacking you. Once or twice, I did get "hung up" when trying to interact with certain items, but backing up and approaching from a different angle corrected this. And after having fully trained my hero in swordfighting, I found that some combination of mouse clicks would actually sheathe my sword in the middle of combat! This didn't occur until my training was complete or nearly so (I trained three levels in one training session, so I can't be sure) and not at earlier levels. Weird.
Finally, I have to join the crowd in saying that the ending was disappointing. Actually, a couple of things were disappointing regarding character/story development in the last chapter or so. Once it's established that you're the island's last, best hope for survival, the inhabitants apparently become shy in your presence, because there is very little interaction with all but the integral quest NPCs from that point on. That damsel in distress who seemed so into you? Cold shoulder. The ghost you awakened, so eager to send you out on arguably your most dangerous quest? Don't expect any enlightenment or fantastic tales when you return successfully. Perhaps the biggest letdown is the final battle, which throws all of your training out the window with a sequenced arcade-style boss fight that falls flat compared to the otherwise excellent combat throughout the game. That's really the end of the game, too, with no further opportunity to revisit your favorite locales and inhabitants. Just a brief cut scene and the credits roll. So, if you have any loose ends at all to tie up, do so before embarking on that last phase of the main quest.
So, all in all, Risen is quite a good game. It's not nearly as buggy as Gothic 3, better executed than would-be competitors (Two Worlds, Fable, etc.) and open for all kinds of good ol' adventuring without ever getting too repetitive. The ending could have been better, but I suppose that's what expansions and sequels are for. If you are looking to get a few more miles out of your old PC and like spending many hours (40+ if not more, with side quests) in a mostly non-linear environment, Risen is a good choice.
The game is ridiculously hard sometimes even though I had it set to "easy". Here's a hint, if you're planning on getting the game. Use all of your learning points for magic or fighting first. Get all of your fighting skills up to level 10 first. You may not be able to do so after finishing certain quests because the trainers will no longer train you and there are only a couple who will train you up to level 10. I didn't know this and the game was so hard to fight monsters off and I couldn't find anyone to train me for fighting beyond level 6 and you really, really need to be at level 10 with one fighting skill and one magic crystal. I recommend the frost crystal because it immobilizes some of the enemies while freezing them and if you're far enough away, after they break from their frost state, they'll forget that they've been attacked and you can keep attacking them until they're either dead or really easy to kill with your sword or whatever weapon you use. This will come in handy when fighting on Chapter 2 and 3 of the game where the monsters get impossibly hard and always seem to attack in groups of two or more.
I had to use cheat codes to get through the game because I did not know those things while playing. There was no other way I would have gotten through the game.
But I recommend it and it's fun. Although, to me, it was too short.
Probably my biggest complaint is that it is the type of game that requires (or at least is greatly aided by) some external research before beginning. It helps a great deal to know in advance which faction you want to join, how you will spend Learning Points, and which quests to do first so you don't block them out later. It also helps to know little details like eating 10 apples or 10 eggs gives +1 to strength, but only for a maximum of +5. You will also need to find potion and item recipes at fan websites, because there's really no other way to know how to do these things. In other words, it's the kind of game that you could hurt yourself later on if you don't know in advance how things work and what you want to do with your character. Perhaps it's not as big of a deal as I may think it is (in other words, I'm sure the game is still perfectly playable, if not necessarily as easy), but I think most people will enjoy knowing ahead of time what needs to be done in certain situations. Just check out fan sites or the official forums for some of this information.
I never had any technical problems, just one bugged quest where an NPC didn't show up where he needed to be. But after reloading a few times, it worked properly. Some people complain about the game being too dark (mainly on the Xbox), but I will say that at night it does get rather dark. But it was the same in Gothic 2, so I don't think it's a problem specific to this game.
Overall, I'd give the game 4.5 stars for its depth and for the way it completely sucked me into its story and world. Highly recommended for RPG players, especially (but not limited to) the hardcore type.
Edit: Installed and ran perfectly on Windows 7 64-bit.
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