I’d like to preface this with the fact that, whereas I have Risen 2 - Dark Waters in my Steam library, I haven’t gotten around to playing it yet. And I wasn’t even aware there was a Risenbefore I got it.
This means I went into Risen 3: Titan Lords - Enhanced Edition with no expectations, other than what I remember from our review of the original version. Which honestly was nothing. The Enhanced Edition is basically just better graphics and added DLC. Apart from containing all updates, fixes and DLC, the graphics are now comparable to Ultra settings on the PC version.
The first thing that players will see is a ripoff of the Game of Thrones opening credits. Some epic-esque music playing over a map as parts of it are swiftly constructed. I was so surprised by how blatant it was, especially as the series itself is world-renowned, that I had to check whether the first two games did the same. Neither of them do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea to get the lay of the land, but be a little subtler...
As the game starts, we meet the piratey brother/sister combination, Patty and… her brother… Yes, despite both being the children of the dread pirate Steelbeard (whom I really hoped was a cyborg!), only Patty has a name. This is likely due to her being a recurring character, which I’m not sure her brother is. As the rest of the game is quite well-written and full of lore, the fact that you play a nameless bloke is kind of jarring. I’m all for immersion, but having a name doesn’t nullify it.
With Patty and bro arriving at the Gold Coast after a brief tutorial inside a nightmare, I did find myself quite enjoying the graphics. You can zoom in to three levels, which helps with the somewhat awkward combat. Because of course, you’re attacked shortly after arrival, and will learn too late that your secondary weapon ammunition is quite limited.
Swinging the sword is explained as being similar to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, with combos happening to timed button presses. However, it is much more awkward than that. You can do combos, but if you time them wrongly you will do a different swing which will open you up to being hit by the enemy. And given that the enemies like to use multiple attacks, this can quickly whittle your health down as you do pain animation after pain animation, sometimes being knocked down and so completely open to any attack. You can defend some of the hits, but occasionally there is no way of knowing which strike it will work against. You can also roll away -- but usually this just means they turn around and hit you before you’ve gotten up from the roll and swung. It does help that you’re allowed to take one of your seven crew members along with you, to take some of the constant heat off of you.
Outside of combat, the world is quite rich and full of life. Birds fly past, innocent monkeys scamper hither and thither, and the giant spiders are fucking frightening. Playing games for many, many years, I’ve seen dozens of zombies and frighteningly mutated monstrosities. Giant spiders don’t usually bother me, even when going first-person in Skyrim. However, a couple of times my mild arachnophobia ratcheted up to eleven and I wanted to run -- but then I’d have been running away from it until I ran out of stamina and had to fight it anyway. Enemies don’t let you run away… I had two giant crabs, three sand devils and a giant spider all attacking me at once, at one point, because I didn’t want to fight a bloody crab and ran past it…
Now I think about it, the last time I was so startled by a spider in a videogame, was when I played Devil May Cry… Bloody lava-tarantula-demon thing… I noped that game out of my PS2 and never played another DMC.
When I first saw the world map of Risen, I was a little disappointed. There are only a handful of islands to travel to, and the sailing is done via cutscenes, so I figured it wouldn’t take long to do everything. Add in the fact that, whereas The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has every second character giving you a quest, Risen only has a few with a strong drive towards the main story, I really wasn’t expecting much.
I was proven incorrect on both counts. The islands are large and detailed, with lots of people to talk to and a lot more things to kill. The quests don’t come thick and fast, but when they do come it’s not always ‘Go fetch this’ and ‘Go kill that’ -- though there are those kinds of quests. It’s an RPG with giant spiders, of course it has ‘Go kill that’ quests…
However, the problem with having such large areas comes when loading them. It’s always met with an autosave and a one second pause, which really messes with immersion. Much more than naming the main character, who is a set entity and completely non-customisable… But given that saving is a three-step process, it does help to have the odd auto-save -- it just could have been handled better. I’ve noticed it with a few enemies too, appearing in a stutter and a flash.
Whilst I’m talking about graphical issues, there is a problem with lighting. Whilst talking to someone, when the camera focusses on the other person, it can go quite dark for no apparent reason, lightening again once it pulls back out. This also happened whilst fighting and going near the shadow of a nearby mountain.
Finally, it seems unfair to mention the frame rate problems, such as going from really smooth whilst looking at the sea, to quite noticeably lagging as soon as you look at the dock next to you…
But it’s not all bad, as I said before the game does look great. I saw one texture problem, but other than that it was very nice to look at. The main character’s voice actor could have been better, but the game sounds great too -- yes, even the bloody giant spiders. The four or five different types of giant spiders… The music isn’t very memorable, but it suits the mood of the game well.
One thing I want to congratulate developer Piranha Bytes is the fact that there are lots of hidden details. I love to explore, and in Risen 3 it is encouraged. Literally in the case of a guide asking where you want to go. Whilst exploring a part which was out of the way, I found two skeletons with apples on their skulls, surrounded by a pile of throwing knives. No story, no quest, just an unlucky pair who decided to let their friend practice his circus act which went awry -- I assume. Why else would they be there? I’m genuinely curious!
I’ll briefly mention the ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ undertone of the game. I can’t talk about it much without spoiling anything, so I apologise for vaguarity. You get to make many choices, which will affect the ending of the game. Being mean or violent will earn you a bad point, being good and nice gets you a good point. I love the way it is woven throughout the conversations you have with people. The difference between saying “I don’t fucking know” and “No idea, mate.” can alter how future conversations, and the end of the game, go -- just like in real life, being mean can get you beaten up!
If you’re up for a challenging action RPG to spend 30+ hours on, then Risen 3: Titan Lords - Enhanced Edition is perfect for you. It’s not as long as Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the world is much fuller with quests and people to meet. Combat is challenging, but can be satisfying when you’re doing it correctly. If you’re a fan of the series, well done for waiting for the console release. Fans of the genre or even pirates in general will still enjoy it, despite the few bugs and challenging difficulty.
Risen 3 - Titan Lords (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Combat is challenging, but can be satisfying when you’re doing it correctly. If you’re a fan of the series, well done for waiting for the console release. Fans of the genre or even pirates in general will still enjoy it, despite the few bugs and challenging difficulty.