The new RPG from the makers of the Gothic series begins in an all too familiar fashion. Shipwrecked on the volcanic island of Faranga, it is your mission to initially defend yourself against those creatures that would seek to swiftly remove you from their land, with naught but a piece of driftwood to aid you. The mystery of the island will soon encompass you however, and the desire to develop your strength, skills and the many secrets that the island holds will rise to hold you captive for many hours.
Risen is an open-world RPG, though at times it might feel more restrictive than some other titles in the genre. It is similar in its function to the Gothic games, making the controls easier for those who have played them before. For the inexperienced it will take some time to understand exactly what’s going on, and with no mini-map to aid in your explorations you will find yourself spending a lot of time exploring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the world with which you are presented in Risen is a captivating place to explore, with plenty of hidden goods to uncover.
The game starts slowly; you are likely to find that the first few hours consist primarily of running errands for the local residents, while locking you into a specific area of the island. Before long this does become somewhat tedious due to a lack of much action. One benefit to this period of time however, is your interaction with the local residents. Some impressive voice acting and good scripting will soon endear you to those that you will typically need to save later in the game.
Voice acting isn’t restricted to cut-scenes. The majority of the lines spoken by any characters are both spoken aloud and written on the screen, creating a more immersive atmosphere. As you find your reputation increasing from the quests that you have completed you will even find that the attitude of these civilians toward you changes. This almost side quest of social progression adds a nice touch to the game and a new challenge as you seek to be well liked by residents from around the land.
Perhaps the largest positive in Risen is the effect that your gameplay will have on many different outcomes. The decisions that you make can affect everything from the skills that are available to you, to the quests that you are able to complete, to even the development of the world itself. This constant choice ensures that you are constantly thinking about the path that you choose to tread, with even smaller side quests approachable from many different angles.
An interesting skill progression system featuring both levelling up and visits to trainers who will instruct you in the art of different skills, everything from hand crafting weapons to picking locks, encourages development. This is a nice addition to the main plotline, as are the numerous side quests in which some of the skills that you have learnt will be put to good use.
Risen is not without its flaws. In places voiceovers will not align with the character that is speaking and will sometimes be uttered out of order. Inconsistencies regarding the spelling of names may also cause some annoyance. Issues aside, if you can get past the initial tedium, you will find this to be a game that is likely to tantalise you and hold your interest for many hours.