by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
A game of numbers
Put the Metacritic scores for games developed by Piranha Bytes into a graphic and you would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the studio should only ever develop one game and never consider sequels.
Gothic - 8.1
Gothic 2 - 7.9
Gothic 3 - 6.3
Risen - 7.7
Risen 2 - 6.9
Risen 3 - …
I fell in love with Gothic, enjoyed the sequel and hated the 3rd with a vengeance for being released long before it was ready. I scored Risen with an 8.5 for being more seductive than a succubus in heat but gave Risen 2 a wide berth after oddly shifting to a pirate theme and for being a bugfest. If Risen 3 were to follow the trend of its siblings, the most logical choice would have been to ignore its very existence. I’m glad I didn’t.
Rise of the Shadows
In Risen 3, the fight against the Titans is temporarily pushed to the background as a more immediate threat presents itself. The Shadows are consuming large swathes of land everywhere they go and they have even consumed your soul. But souls can be mended, and to do that you will need the help of some powerful healer or magician. With the help of a crazy shaman who presumes to be your doctor, you set out to fight the Shadows and save your soul.
Risen 3 is a large open world, albeit it not as epic a one as say Skyrim. Much of the map is comprised of sea, the rest are islands within it. Most are controlled by factions that you can attempt to join by rubbing up to their leaders, which means completing a variety of tasks ranging from your average fetch quests to fixing local problems or defeating baddies. The more interesting quests seem to align well with your own agenda of going after the Shadows but even those that don’t will increase your experience and thus your ability to improve your character.
And when you’re not busy gaining experience, you are probably gathering wealth which can then be spent on upgrading skills or learning new tricks. Stuff you find on the way can be sold off or used to concoct potions, brew healing booze or hammer out new weapons. None of these things are required to complete the game - you have complete freedom over how you develop them - but crafting skills do have a profound impact on your bottom line.
An amazing amount of voice-work supports both the central storyline and pretty much every smaller quest on hand. Most voice action is confident to quite good, with the only exception being the voice acting of your own character whose every word sounds like he is trying to convince a bunch of inmates that he really is a tough guy. Fortunately, the colourful and unlikely crew that you gather to man your ship, make up for the disappointing performance of the lead character.
The overarching story itself is fairly generic - the world is in peril and only you can fix it - but the bits and pieces that it is made up of are all colourful and entertaining. Those bits are sewn together fairly well too. After some 20 hours of playing, I have only once caught the game hiccupping, though strangely enough at the very beginning. As I approached the pirate town of Antigua, a guardian warned me about hellhounds occupying the town. I offered to help him get to the town square where - after defeating the hellhounds together - he asked me what the hell those creatures were… And while you will occasionally finish a quest even before you knew it was one, I’ve not encountered a single broken one.
Beautifully crafted world, engaging quests.
Melee combat is still a weak point for the franchise.