Risen - 360 - Review
Released on the PC last year, Risen was a hidden gem, a solid RPG with some great features and a pleasant surprise. While the story was pretty generic for the genre, Risen did have solid mechanics, a long and involving campaign, and a great world to explore. Now the game is making its way to the Xbox 360. The port of the game cuts a few corners from a technological standpoint and doesn’t look nearly as good as its PC counterpart. However, the controls work pretty well and the overall experience has streamlined for consoles, making for a solid, if flawed, RPG.
Risen takes place on the island of Faranga, a lush, volcanic island with a variety of wild creatures and human settlements. Ancient ruins have begun to pop up around the island, exposing a connected network of tunnels and dungeons. Due to this, the Inquisitor (the powers that be) has imposed a lockdown on the island, not allowing anyone to leave. As a recent arrival at the island (you washed on shore with nothing after a shipwreck), you become enveloped in the story of the island and its politics, and become its potential savior.
The game’s quests are seldom mapped out, meaning that you’ll have to do a decent amount of exploration. Mission goals are fairly enigmatic and even going back through your journal entries will reveal few clues on what you need to do to progress. There’s not a lot of hand holding to be had in Risen, but the point of the game is that you explore the environment and that is most of its charm.
Risen puts a lot of emphasis on exploration in the mission structure, and this is the most appealing element for RPG gamers. While the game starts out pretty slowly, and you’ll be little more than a glorified gofer for the first third or so, it does give you time to explore the island and check out new areas. The game is far from linear, giving the player ample choices for playing the game and allowing you to take on a wide variety of quests, and giving you plenty of options for completing them.
You’ll have plenty of means for building up your character as well. While leveling them up moves slowly, you’ll also be able to meet up with trainers in order to teach your character new skills. You can teach them several skills that will cater to your individual play style, creating a thief character who is adept at picking locks, pockets, and sneaking into guarded areas unnoticed, you can train them in a variety of trade-type skills like alchemy and smithing, making it possible for them to craft their own weapons and items, and several other abilities. The game is very flexible in that regard, and hardcore RPG gamers will have no difficulty creating a character that will suit their play styles.
The game’s exploration system means that you’ll spend a lot of time wandering through the world trying to figure out what your next step is, and this is further exacerbated through the game’s somewhat underwhelming interface. The game doesn’t offer you much in the way of a mini-map, The game’s actual map is unintuitive and cumbersome, requiring you to pull it up and select where you want to go after jumping through some unnecessary hurdles to figure out where you’re going next. The interface is also tiny and difficult to see, even on big screen TVs, making it all the more problematic.
Additionally, the combat is a drag. It’s not so much of a problem when you’re facing off against an opponent one-on-one, but when you have to take on several enemies it becomes a huge pain. The game uses an automatic targeting system that works very spottily, often targeting enemies in illogical ways, leaving you open for attack. While you do eventually get ranged weapons and spells that will make battling more intuitive, it still lacks fluidity and feels very sloppy.
Risen was a pretty good looking game on the PC, but the aesthetic quality was greatly diminished in the porting to the Xbox 360. The textures are pretty muddy, and the character models are lacking. The whole game has taken a real polish hit in the transition, including the framerate, which gets pretty laggy especially in towns.
The game’s sound effects fare much better than the graphics. The music sounds great and adds an excellent ambiance to the game, and the voice acting is spot on.
Risen is a solid game brought down by a shoddy port to consoles. While there’s still a lot of fun to be had with the deep missions that foster exploration, the game’s technical presentation is subpar and there are some gameplay issues as a result of the move to the Xbox 360.
Review Scoring Details for Risen
Risen has a solid framework and is a long and deep experience, but there are a few shortcomings. The quests lack direction and can be confusing at times and the game’s combat leaves a lot to be desired. The controls are well mapped for the most part, but there are some weird technical issues like overly sensitive turning that feel strange. The interface is also very cumbersome.
The game’s graphics took a big hit when moving from the PC to the Xbox 360, and the game’s realistic environments look muddy and bland and the character models a bit simplistic. The framerate is also pretty spotty.
The game definitely has a great soundtrack, and the voice work is solid throughout.
The game’s story is well done albeit fairly generic, and the game features plenty of missions to keep you busy.
Risen loses a bit in the porting process to the Xbox 360, but aside from the technical shortcomings, this is still a pretty solid experience that brings some good things to the RPG table.