The Risen series has always been a sort of guilty pleasure of mine. Beneath their B-movie veneer, these EU made RPGs have always been pretty deep role-playing experiences. But they’ve also been marred with bugs, inconsistencies, and an overall lack of refinement. So it was with trepidation that I booted up Risen 3: Titan Lords, Piranha Bytes’ newest entry to the franchise. Out today on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, Risen 3 is still rife with the campy voice overs its forebears are famous for, but I’d also say my first couple of hours have been… well fun. Titan Lords isn’t going to sweep awards at year’s end, but so far it’s been an enjoyable RPG.
The original Risen from 2009 was a fantastically received RPG. Its sequel, Dark Waters, did not fare as well with the press. I’m willing to bet that the 3rd entry: Titan Lords will wind up somewhere between the two. Risen 3’s visuals feel dated, but they’re not altogether unpleasant. Male human character models seem awkward, but they sure are careful enough to make his sister and fellow protagonist “Patty” voluptuous and pleasing to the eye. Still, Risen 3 has a serious sense of “last gen” about it, especially when compared to other upcoming RPGs such as Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age: Inquisition, or The Witcher 3.
Like Dark Waters before it, Titan Lords is a pirate-themed Action-RPG, with players taking on the role of a grizzled, badly voiced, “Badass Pirate”. This is a sequel to Dark Waters, picking up shortly after Risen 2 ends. This time, our nameless hero finds himself stripped of his soul after venturing too closely to an underworld portal, and must set out either to reclaim it or find himself going down a demonic path. This is the game’s “light or dark” character development path, and the choices you’ll make throughout the game will affect your humanity gauge. Said choices aren’t always obvious either, at least so far into my journey, making it uneasy to “game” the system. This could change the further I go, so we’ll see.
Risen 2 was praised for its ideas, but knocked for their implementation and for straying too far from the original game’s more open medieval format. Risen 3 seeks to bring back the more open adventure, and after your first half-hour or so you’ll be allowed to choose in what direction your journey goes. The sailing isn’t free-form, but there are several locations and paths your quest back to humanity can take, as well as several side missions and the overall goal of reuniting with your sister, Patty. It’s not the most novel of stories, and as I said before the voice acting and dialog are laughingly bad… but the game itself is still pretty fun so far.
Combat is pretty fluid, but not perfect. It’s a little too easy to get locked into knockdown and wind up dead, but perhaps that’s just the learning curve. As you can see in the gameplay video above, you must parry with the right mouse, dodge with a double-tap of a movement key, and strike when you see an opening or a delay in your opponents attacks. Risen 3 is an action-RPG, but it’s not a straight hack and slash: some measure of restraint and timing is involved. You also get secondary weapons like pistols, throwing knives and the like which can do some serious damage but are limited in quantity.
The biggest issue I’ve had so far with the action has been the camera. It sticks behind you as best it can, but frequently gets lost on geometry. There haven’t been a lot of bugs otherwise, and the game gets you into the world and action quickly: a huge step up from Risen 2’s slow start. It’s funny, because as I play the game, I’m consciously aware of how cheesy and somewhat low-budget it seems. But I still find myself rather enjoying my time with it. It’s got an old-school sensibility to it, and a quirky charm that’s all its own. The jokes our hero makes are far from funny, and the swearing comes in at awkward times, but that’s part of what I like about Risen 3. It’s like a SyFy movie… if there were a Sharknado RPG, it could be made by Piranha Bytes.
I’ll be playing Risen 3 more over the coming week and more, and hope to share our final review by the end of August. We only just received our review code, but here’s what you should take away from this first impressions: if you’re sad that Witcher 3 is delayed, and can’t wait another month or two for Shadow of Mordor or Dragon Age, it’s very likely that Risen 3 will provide you at least some fun for the several dozen hours Piranha Bytes claims the game will contain. Just don’t expect something one the same level as those other titles, and you might very well be pleasantly surprised.
Stay tuned for our final review. In the meantime, if you picked up the game today, what do you think so far?