|Release Date:||October 2nd, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Some games are just built to be on a PC. Risen, with its tricky menu system and thousands upon thousands of items, weapons and potions, is just screaming, "I should be played on a PC", and you know what, that's right.
On the Xbox 360, Risen comes across as a poorly implemented, dull looking game with very little character of its own, bogged down by interminable menus and a combat system that leaves a lot to be desired.
However, despite the rickety start to the game, the plot can pan out to be quite rewarding and challenging, if you manage to cope with the menu system. Starting out on a boat in the middle of the sea, the game's plot revolves around a mysterious man who's cast ashore in a shipping incident after an 'inquisitor' loses a battle with a giant sea beastie and leaves you to drown.
Washed up on the shore of a Mediterranean island, Farranga, you have to battle your way through a storyline which revolves around myths and legends, gradually unravelling the story of the great temples which have, ahem, 'Risen' up from the ground, and become the hero the island has been waiting for.
Sounds simple enough yes? A nice, simple RPG with no major hang-ups? No.
It's just a shame that the game instantly spoils the half-decent opening from the get-go. Awaking on the shoreline, the mysterious lead male joins with his partner, Sara, and is immediately attacked.
Grabbing the nearest sturdy stick, you have to defend yourself against massive vultures or risk being eaten alive. This is where the problems start to seep in. To get a hold of the stick, you have to be standing in the right place, you then have to fight your way through a few menus to select and equip the stick, and only then can you fight back against the vulture- if you can hit it.
Yes, the combat system is so badly flawed that as soon as the game started I found myself fighting for my life to beat off a mangy seabird because my swings either wouldn't connect or did only a tiny amount of damage, while the bird could keep attacking me through my blocks.
It doesn't get much better from there. Risen has an unhealthy obsession with potions and alchemy, and pretty soon you'll find your dozens of menus are clogged with monkwort, wolfsbane and all sorts of herbs and spices which you can combine to make potent brews- great if you're into chemistry, but not when you're being eaten alive by a vulture you can't hit and need the Risen equivalent of a Phoenix Down, right now.
To be fair though, the game does get a little better once you eventually get past the opening half-hour and into the main meat of the plot. The various factions and punters that ply their trades in the towns and villages of Farranga have loads of missions for you to do, ranging from (dozens) of errand-boy 'go here - get that' missions to more interesting raids into temples and dungeons, allowing you to get your hands on some neat weapons and armour, and really customise your character to your liking.
There's lots to see and do once you've really got stuck into the plot, but the game takes such a long time to really get going, and you're so likely to be put off by the terrible first impression it leaves you with, that even getting that far can be a challenge in itself.
You can, however, level up your warrior as you would expect in an RPG, and the system works well enough to be able to squeeze some enjoyment out of the game.
Graphically, however, the game is nothing special, and once again seems to be crying out for a modern PC's engine. The pallet is mostly dull greys, greens and yellows, and is presented in a boring, flat style. There is very little of the bright sunsets and shimmering water that the trailers promised, as it is instead replaced with muted blues and blank walls of the many dungeons that litter the island.
The sound design is pretty decent though. The voice actors are compelling on the whole, though the main character has all the excitement of reading a 10,000 word book filled only with the word 'boring' in a monotone in the middle of a whitewashed room.
The battle themes are nice and rowdy, and once you finally get a hang of the clunky combat system you can really start to enjoy the fast pace of the battles, even if your target shifts from time to time with no warning. You can even learn to fight with the staff if you so wish, but I'd stick with the swords and axes if I were you.
The score itself is also very nice, the moody music of a night-time descent into a dungeon being particularly unnerving, and the cheery music of the towns is a nice backdrop to the buying, trading and skill learning you can engage in (if you can puzzle out that silly menu system.)
Risen is a real mixed bag. The combat system is clunky and tricky to master, the menus are buried in a heap of pointless control commands and the plot takes ages to get going - but once it does, you're in for a good ride. There's a lot to see and do on the island, even if the graphics are oddly inconsistent for a game with the Xbox's power behind it.
The developers had a good go with Risen, but it falls far short of the best games in this genre, being easily surpassed by the likes of Oblivion and Mass Effect for sheer polish and user-friendliness. If you're an RPG fan you might consider picking up Risen when it's come down in price - but make sure you get the PC version.
- Lots to see and do (eventually)
- Decent plot (eventually)
Not so good stuff
- Stupid menu system
- Clunky combat
- Dull graphics
- Disappointing gameplay experience
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