Monday, 10 October 2011

Review: Risen (Xbox 360)

I've always loved a great RPG. It's a genre I can sink hours into-whether it be completing a large number of quests, to simply exploring the land by my own free will. Risen almost was a great RPG, but there are a few frustrating, and incredibly disappointing moments that prevent this from happening.

The game follows a nameless individual who, after a shipwreck, has found himself washed up ashore on a remote island. When your character wanders inland, you will notice that the island is divided up into three factions: a monastery containing a band of spiritual men-not all, you soon find out, were voluntary members, a swamp run by the cruel Don Esteban, and the central town, which is fighting an on-going battle against the swampland's stubborn leader. Upon entering, you will be given the choice of which faction to join and fight under, which will then lead to a long, and rather boring first act.
Unfortunately, Risen suffers from a very slow start, and there is nothing that interesting about the struggles between each of the factions. The obligatory "fetch and return" quests that most RPGs tend to adopt at least for a while make up the majority of the early quests in Risen. Personally, I don't mind these types of quests, but when the first half of the game is mainly made up of them, you start to get a little frustrated. I craved more action-something this plodding pace wasn't really investing in enough. 

However, the slow pace is not the only negative aspect of the game. Another downside is that the voice acting is rather awful for the most parts. The game is not that impressive visually. It looks like a game that would have been released on the original Xbox, rather than for the upgraded Xbox 360. The NPCs in particular suffer the most graphically, and combine this with some dull voice acting, and what we are given are rather lifeless NPCs. Thankfully, there are a few that pack in some emotion during the beginning talks about the island inhabitants struggles under an oppressive ruler, but for the most part, it sounds like a lot of the characters are bored. The game is also plagued with frame-rate issues, which can cause quite a lot of frustrations during combat. At times, fighting felt like it was being done in stop-motion, which eventually I got used to, but should I have to? The point is, this is something that should have been fixed during the games final testing stages. It definitely adds to the feeling of the game being a little unfinished. 
The final negative point comes in the map. RPG's tend to have an expansive world to discover at your leisure. Whilst Risen has quite a large map to explore to your hearts content, the games map hinders the progress during quests and exploration. Unlike Oblivion and many other RPG's on the Xbox 360, there is no mini-map, so tracking your quest is going to be a frustrating one. Finding your way to your destination involves opening up the menu, scrolling down to your selected quest, highlighting the map, and taking a look at the markers on it. The map is poorly drawn, and does not always reflect the areas in which you are currently standing. It also does not save your desired destination, so once you leave the map, it will completely wipe everything, leaving you playing through the game without any guidance. Requiring the map again means you have to go through the complex and long process of firing up the menu again and going through several options before you can view it. It's perhaps the worst aspect of the game, and really hindered my own enjoyment of it. Wandering around aimlessly is fine when you have chosen to do some free-roaming exploration, but you shouldn't be forced to do this when you're actually wishing to get somewhere. 

If you look past these flaws, you may feel pleasantly surprised. Risen picks up significantly after the ultra long first section has been completed. Quests begin to feel more fleshed out, and more combat-heavy quests are thrown into the mix. Wandering around the land and talking to the residents is actually pretty enjoyable after you've escaped the dull opening. The games strongest point comes in the large amount of choices you are given as you make your way through it. Quests will vary depending on what faction you originally decided to join, and what choices you have made during your time on the island. The story seems to shape it's way around your actions, thus allowing you to build your character, and your gaming experience, in any way you wish. Unfortunately a lot of people will miss out on the full enjoyment of this, due to the games flaws, which seems a big shame, as Risen has so much potential. 
Risen has plenty of room for character development, and a rich, expansive landscape with a multitude of quests makes this sound ideal on paper. Unfortunately though, there are too many aspects here that stop this from being a great game. One gets the feeling that the game lacks a lot of polish, and feels a little unfinished, thus resorting in an often frustrating rather than enjoyable experience. It really is a shame, as it promised to be so much more than it ended up being. 


  1. Nice one 8-bit.

    I agree, Risen had a lot of potential but lacked the polish it's next-gen RPG brethren.

    I made some bad decisions at the begging of the game and ended up in a cave full of monsters that were too powerful for me to defeat. My only option was to turn myself into a crustacean and retreat!

    I also thought the game was far too dark. Even with a torch in hand and the brightness turned up to 11, I still found it difficult to navigate some of the indoor areas. I thought it may get a patch but don't think it ever did.

    Bad points aside though, I'll be keen to see if the sequel can build on some of the better aspects.

  2. Kudos on a very well-written review.

  3. James Sterling: I agree with you. It definitely needed a polish, and I found it to be a hard game to see in many points. Playing it when night falls was a nightmare!

    Hopefully the sequel will improve on things. Fingers crossed!

    NintendoLegend: Thank you! :)


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