by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Cast & Slash
In most RPGs, starting off as a melee fighter is usually the easy way in. It is odd, then, that Piranha Bytes games favour ranged and especially magic so much. Risen 3 is no exception to this. Granted, the ‘queued’ melee attack system is no longer as much of a hazard as it once was, but after 5 games you would expect melee combat to be smooth and enjoyable.
This time around, the melee pain comes from a failed attempt at promoting the game’s melee by adding extra moves and combos. Stringing attacks together, or even invoking a slower but more powerful attack is simply not an option with the speed and ferociousness of enemy attacks. They become so overpowering that you quickly descend into quick slashes, parries and dodges while hoping that your henchman distracts the enemy for long enough for you to do a proper strike.
Fortunately ranged and magic combat fares a lot better. Both are fun, challenging and rewarding enough for you to forget all about melee, at least until you hit a set-pieces scene where you cannot save and die over and over and have to go through the same three cutscenes as many times - a cardinal sin in gaming.
If the dull icy, white world of Skyrim bored you as much as it did me, you will be delighted playing Risen 3. The islands are filled with weird and wonderful places and rarely will you get that sense of having been somewhere before when you are sure you have never set a foot in the area. Every island and every location upon it has been painstakingly put together to make it unique, interesting and sometimes magical looking. And then it turns dark, or starts raining and suddenly the whole world looks new and different and you have to find your bearings again.
That same amount of detail can be found in the island’s inhabitants. With the exception of that of enemies and Gnomes, I have yet to find a duplicate face on any of the people I have met. And while creatures always look the same, fighting them comes with all sorts of little surprises. A sand crab rolling over and struggling to get back on his feet, a serene little spring that turns into a pool of death when it turns out to be the home of a sleeping alligator hidden just underneath the surface… it’s always dangerous and rarely boring.
Back to its roots?
Piranha Bytes, realizing they have gone off the track with Risen 2, have been adamant about returning to their roots with Risen 3. It is no idle boast. Risen 3 is every bit as engaging as Risen 1 or the earlier Gothic games and follows their exact same formula of character progression, the appeasing and joining of factions and restoring peace to a troubled region. While the seafaring life remains a major component throughout the game, you can quickly shed most of the swashbuckling theme by joining one of several factions found in the game. Once you do, the game resembles its older siblings much more than it does its immediate predecessor, and that is a good thing by any account.
Risen 3: Titan Lords oozes atmosphere and serves as a reminder that this type of roleplaying game is absolutely timeless. All you need is great gameplay, a decent storyline and a rich, varied open world in which every time you turn in a new direction a new adventure awaits. The time-devouring Risen 3 is as much about the player looking to claim back a lost soul as it is about Piranha Bytes finding theirs.
Beautifully crafted world, engaging quests.
Melee combat is still a weak point for the franchise.