[REVIEWED] Risen 3: Titan Lords

Risen 3: Titan Lords is a cheesy, clichéd RPG that I just couldn’t help falling in love with despite its share of flaws. It’s by no means revolutionary, but it gave me, a fan of the studio’s previous third-person role-playing games, exactly what I was looking for, just polished to a brighter shine.

In Risen 3, you are another nameless hero in a fictional piratey Caribbean-esque setting, except this time your soul is stolen in the game’s opening sequence and it’s up to you to get it back from the demon hordes who are now pouring into the world through mysterious crystal portals that link this world to the land of the dead, the Underworld. You must polish your fighting skills and join one of three factions – mages, demon hunters or voodoo-wielding natives – in order to defeat this new threat and recover your soul. Along the way you’ll make new friends, drink much grog, dig up many treasures and fight many beasts as you explore a vast and beautiful world.

R3 - Purty
Just one of many very, very pretty scenes.

There are eight islands to explore, each with their own people, histories, and of course quests. Each time you land in a new place, expect to spend hours just getting to know people, listening to cheesy yet well-acted dialogue, fighting monsters and levelling your character up by earning “Glory” (XP) through questing and combat. The levelling system is the same as in Risen 2, requiring you to put your earned Glory into eight categories of attributes and levelling them up enough to qualify for training in various skill categories, which you must pay for once you’ve found the appropriate trainer. It requires a balancing act of Glory and money acquisition that ensures things progress apace, and has you unlocking new abilities right up to the end of the game.

New to the game is the ability to turn into a parrot that lets you fly to hard-to-reach places, which works quite well alongside the option to buy a trained monkey that lets you steal things hidden in otherwise-inaccessible areas.

Still clunky

Piranha Bytes games are known for their clunky combat, and even though I was expecting it I was still quite annoyed at how weak I felt for the first eight hours of this 30+ hour game, despite acquiring a rather nifty sword and double-barrelled pistol combo early on. Combat seemed more a matter of having enough healing boosters to survive each battle than it was about how good my fighting skills and weapons were, and monsters appeared crazily overpowered resulting in quite a few annoying deaths.

R3 - Fighting
Seconds from disaster.

Until I levelled my skills up a bit and trained myself in a few combat skills, that is. It also helped that I figured out Risen 3’s combat is as much a rhythm game as it is a matter of the right skills and stats, requiring that I time my blows and dodges rather than simply mash buttons and hope. Once that became clear, combat didn’t become a cakewalk but it certainly helped me feel like I wasn’t being cheated by an annoying combat engine. It’s just a pity that gamers who don’t know this about Piranha Bytes’ games may give up on Risen 3 before it truly gets going.

And it really does if you stick it out. Combat gets even better when you start learning spells that let you hurl fire and ice at enemies later on, and there’s a few seriously fun sea battles to be enjoyed in the latter half of the game that are entirely new to the Risen series but which I almost wish were more a part of the core game. They’re fun, but over too quickly.

Lots to see and do

With three factions and eight islands to explore, there is a lot to see and do in Risen. It’s especially gratifying to see a number of familiar locations from Risen 2 again in the third game, overhauled to reflect the ongoing demon invasion rather than simply recycled. It’s a nice touch for fans and gives a “been here but haven’t seen that” sort of vibe that’s much appreciated.

Instead of locations that unlock on the map once you discover them, allowing you to travel there automatically as in Risen 2, Risen 3 offers strategically-placed teleporters that must be activated with special stones to achieve the same end. It’s a clever way of executing an existing concept, but I found the teleporters were placed a little too far away from each other for the most part, meaning I ended up re-treading the same areas over and over again.

R3 - Teleporter
An activated teleporter.

On the disappointing side, some of the quests in Risen 3 are still of the “fetch X number of Y thingies” variety, but there are enough interesting characters to meet and stories to hear that make up for it. The over-arching “save the world” storyline is also a little cheesy but it’s still enjoyable and the graphics are so much better than Risen 2’s were (a gorgeous game in its own right). The soundtrack is appropriately epic as well.

PC Master Race™

I can’t speak for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, but Risen 3 looks simply amazing on PC, to the point that I didn’t mind doing fetch-quests as they took me all over this beautiful, lovingly-detailed world. Character models still need a bit of help, because although their bodies were modelled quite nicely, their faces weren’t. Lip-synching is particularly badly done, and faces are rather forgettable for the most part. In fact I’d say Patty – a returning character from Risen 2 – is about the most memorable of the lot, if only for her, er, endowments.

R3 - Characters
This isn’t Patty.

In the end, I really enjoyed Risen 3 and highly recommend it to fans of the Risen and Gothic games from Piranha Bytes. It may not be revolutionary but it offers more of what made those games what they are, both the good and the bad. That’s both a blessing and a curse as returning fans will get a kick out of it but it will likely put off new players who’ve got far more polished RPGs to play.

Risen 3 is out now for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It sells for R499 on PC and R699 on Xbox 360 and PS3.


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