Risen

aka: RPB, Risen 1
Moby ID: 42717
Windows Specs

Description official descriptions

The earth trembled and ancient temples rose from the ground, followed by unknown creatures. Cyclones drive over the sea and firestorms roam the land with not only thousands of lives, but also the hope that the gods will save the lost humanity. When the dark wave hits, the humans are on their own and only a few enclaves survive the attack. One is a volcano island which has been saved from the worst by an unknown force, but its protection is getting weaker and weaker. The protagonist arrives on the island after his ship is hit and destroyed by the dark waves, finding himself on a deserted shore with only one other survivor. He has to explore the island, discover its secrets, and find his place within one of the factions that strive for power there.

Although the game is called Risen, it is very similar to Gothic games by the same developers. The player once again takes control over a nameless hero from a third-person view and is free to explore the large island, talking to people in multiple-choice dialogues, fulfilling quests and fighting monsters and other enemies while using the experience points earned to level up and learn new skills and abilities. Depending on which of the three factions (bandits, mages or inquisitors) the player joins by earning their respect through fulfilling quests, he also chooses to a certain degree what he wants to be although he is always able to distribute his skill points into anything he likes - as long as he finds a teacher for that particular skill.

The game world is noticeably smaller than in Gothic 3, and in general the game rather resembles Gothic II in its concept and structure. Combat against the many enemies ranging from gnomes to powerful ash-beasts requires the player not only to invest points into his combat skills, but also to master blocking and dodging enemy attacks while at the same time trying to get through the enemy defense. If a parry is activated at the right moment it is even possible to land an immediate counter-attack.

Spellings

  • 異世界 - Traditional Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

1,082 People (234 developers, 848 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 75% (based on 77 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 53 ratings with 2 reviews)

A Gothic by any other name... stumbles at some point

The Good
The way Risen starts is exactly how the fans suggested that Gothic 3 should start, while also seeming to be somewhat similar to the start of the first Gothic, which I found to be a rather pleasant nod towards the fans of the series. I don’t know whether that was intentional or not, but it was the impression I got… Despite some elements being rather unrealistic, but that’s nothing compared to what’ll come in the latter stages of the game.

Still, what becomes obvious almost immediately after the start is that, much unlike the first two Gothic games, combat in Risen is actually manageable. That’s largely thanks to shields, which I see had first been introduced in Gothic 3, and the fact that you only use one button to attack and one to block, without having to struggle with combinations and leaving yourself exposed if you pressed the wrong key or even simply because of the character’s low skill level.
Soon enough you’ll see that, given patience and a defensive and tactical approach, even characters who plan to become mages can make their way through the first chapter reasonably enough, so the previous rule that said that if you wanted to be a mage in a Gothic game you should be prepared to spend more time during the first chapter dying and reloading than actually playing no longer applies. Ashbeasts and ogres are out of your league at that point and ghouls will probably get you nine times out of ten, but anything else is manageable, though you may find yourself spending a good five minutes in a fight with a war cricket, for example.

The world itself seems really nice at first, and I’m not just talking about graphics here. The way it’s designed more or less makes sense, actually seeming reasonably realistic at first, and I actually really liked the break from fighting offered by the long time spent doing quests in Harbor Town during the first chapter. The factions are also presented quite reasonably (though nobody’ll accuse you of anything if you’ll be wondering for a moment if they weren’t just copied from Gothic II, for example, and only given new names), and most fights are actually quite enjoyable… Unless they’re against ghouls or, if you’re relying on melee, against brontocs, but that’s another matter.

What also must be noted is that, in good Gothic fashion, the world is very open, only a few areas not being accessible from the beginning. Thankfully, a lot of effort seems to have been put into making sure that taking advantage of this open world and completing quests before getting them or doing them completely out of order will not break the game, in some cases the dialogue actually flowing quite nicely even after such an event, showing that the scenario was fully covered, not just prevented from causing a crash.

Also in good Gothic fashion, there are no loading screens unless you teleport, which I assume means that the various areas are otherwise loaded in the background as you approach them, making for a seamless experience.

And due to the MobyGames review format I have to mention some things about chapter four here as well, though it's rather out of place. You see, after the issues I'll describe below, I found that the game partially recovered in chapter four, providing some elements that at least made some sort of sense once again and a decent number of nice challenges, some of them quite unlike anything the game had thrown at me until then. The experience issue described below is also fixed, as you’ll actually be grouped with the ones who’ll fight alongside you in chapter four.

The Bad
I want to start by pointing out that the retail version of the game uses TAGES and, unlike Gothic 3, it has no official patch to remove it. I didn’t check this before buying it, so I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it ever since and strongly advise everyone against legally purchasing it unless or until they’ll remove this. It didn’t cause me any problems other than saying that I didn’t have the right disk in the drive once every five or six times I tried to start the game, which was fixed by simply starting it again, but I’m firmly against any such methods and don’t want to support anyone who uses them.

Moving on to the actual game, I must say that this determination to only use two buttons to control your combat actions does make for some strange situations later, if you train your weapon skills and gain new abilities. If you’ll learn to charge your strikes, regular attacks will then require just a tap on the attack button, as if you hold it pressed for just a fraction of a second you’ll start charging your strike, so at first you’ll find yourself charging when you don’t mean to. And if you learn to counter-parry, you’ll also see that it requires just tapping the block button, as holding it pressed for just a fraction of a second will result in a regular block, therefore making an already difficult action even worse. And if you add the little fact that neither the text tips nor the game’s manual mention anything about dodging, you’ll see that they could have done far more for the combat after all.
(In case you didn’t know, you dodge by either quickly tapping a movement key twice or by pressing and holding a movement key and then tapping the jump key. It only works if you’re not blocking at the time and if you choose the latter option you must make sure that you press the movement key first, because if you press the jump key first you’ll just hop around and give your opponent a free hit.)

When it comes to the game world and the story, the fact that it's a seamless experience from a technical point of view will become irrelevant when all the care and the realism that the game seemed to be based on at first will suddenly decide to go away at a later point. In fact, the realism takes a serious hit after you’ll do something in chapter two, which will have some rather dubious effects. That can still be waved away if you have otherwise enjoyed the ride until then, but the chapter’s end is nothing short of frustrating and most of chapter three pretty much requires suspension of disbelief while also including several frustrating moments of its own.
In case you’re wondering, when I’m talking about frustrating moments I’m referring to the fights during which you’re not grouped with your allies, which can be up to twelve at one point, and you therefore stand to lose thousands of experience points unless you somehow manage to land the killing blows on everything, which will only add to the experience the game will always trick you out of when you level up, unless you’re extremely careful.

Even in chapter four, which I said above that I considered a significant improvement, there’s still a feeling of the game being rushed here and there, doing quests out of order or completing them before getting them will, as in chapter three, result in rather broken dialogue and even some confusion, and there’s at least one place where you will get stuck and need to return to an earlier save if you don’t do what the developers wanted you to.

And the very end is something of an anti-climax, appearing both rushed and out of place. One dialogue before it may or may not even take place and the final fight would seem more at home in a JRPG, not to mention that it’s awkward and I needed to check a guide to see what I actually had to do to win it. I was somewhat reminded of the end of Escape from Monkey Island, as I recall trying to win that fight the wrong way for well over an hour before giving in and checking a guide. Here the hour included several deaths, but the general idea of a fight that can only be won in a specific and counter-intuitive way is the same.

Otherwise, since I always play mages, I found it rather unpleasant that they’re not worth much in Risen. You can start from the fact that crystal magic doesn’t home in on the target and some projectiles can be rather slow, so hitting moving targets is close to impossible, but the main issue is that crystal magic can be used by warriors of the order as well and scrolls can be used by anyone, so all mages get are runes. However, using a rune requires its corresponding seal, which means a certain minimum wisdom and also five learning points spent for each, so 20 total, while using a scroll doesn’t have such requirements and only costs half the mana, but the effects are the same! So using runes means basically trading mana for money… And mana isn’t easy to raise either. I finished the game at level 30, with just 194 mana, and that was after playing as a mage!

At least wisdom isn’t trained in any of the usual ways, instead being raised by reading books and stone tablets, allowing you to save learning points and permanent effect potions for the combat skills and attributes you’ll need to get through chapters three and four, but it’s quite annoying that you need to do that. Then again, it’s probably the price to pay for the manageable chapter one. If in previous Gothic games mages had to get used to being killed by anything and everything at the start but knew that they’ll more or less just cruise through the end, now the difficulty is spread out more evenly…
Well, at least until you’ll give in, dump a bunch of learning points in a weapon skill, I’ll say most preferably sword, and make and drink as many strength potions as needed to pick up the best weapon you can find and just cleave your way through anything that dares to stand in your way, with your magic only there to back you up in the few moments when it may still be needed… By which point you’ll be wondering why didn’t you just do that from the beginning.

The Bottom Line
I started playing Risen without going through Gothic 3, but after first playing and finishing the first Gothic several years ago and then starting and giving up on Gothic II, both with and without the expansion, multiple times since. As such, I was probably more surprised by some features of Risen and less surprised by others compared to anyone who either played all of Piranha BytesGothic games or none of them… But I guess that could at most affect what I liked about the game, the reasons for annoyance probably being more or less the same either way.

In the end, in most ways Risen is Gothic by another name. From what I know so far, in some ways it can even be said to be more like the first two Gothics than Gothic 3, and certainly far, far more of a Gothic game than Gothic 4. And that’s a rather good thing, especially since some of the issues that had previously plagued the series seem to have finally been resolved in this game, though character development is still tied to the faction you choose.

Unfortunately, game designers either ran out of ideas about halfway through or just got bored of it, and the entire team seems to have been too rushed to release the game to polish the last two chapters. So it starts as a good game, then drops everything, becomes frustrating and rather dubious before somewhat successfully trying to recover… Only to fall more or less flat at the very end.

Despite all that, I still enjoyed it and, while certainly not planning to buy it if they stick to TAGES or any other such methods, I am looking forward to playing Risen 2… But perhaps a part of the reason is also the nice voice-over you’ll hear at the very end of the credits, if you don’t skip them and pay attention. Let’s hope they’ll work it into the next game in the series somehow, though what little I heard so far would unfortunately seem to indicate otherwise.

Windows · by Cavalary (11411) · 2011

This Gothic-inspired game almost makes the grade

The Good
Anyone who has played the Gothic games will immediately feel at home in "Risen". After the franchise was acquired by JoWood in 2007, Piranha Bytes' first effort after that split is impressive. "Risen" is essentially Gothic reborn.

The world of "Risen" is confined to one island, but that island is full of life. The majority of the population inhabits one town, a monastery and a bandit camp, but there is quite a lot in between. More people live in other areas working on farms or stationed in encampments. From coast to coast, you'll be exploring a diverse landscape in addition to the main populated sections including sandy beaches, dense forests, misty bogs, babbling brooks with waterfalls, rocky high mountain peaks, remote farmlands, strange ancient ruins, and secret caves.

Graphically, the world is gorgeous - every blade of grass, leaf and rock is impeccably realistic. When the sun rises and sets, you can't help but be awed by the color in the sky and the moon and stars at night. The island's tropical atmosphere is given more personality with the intermittent shaking and rumbling of earthquakes and the occasional rain shower. Rivers shimmer with moving water and you can almost feel the spray from the waterfalls.

"Risen" is non-linear, meaning you and your "nameless hero" are free to go everywhere and explore at will from the start. You can choose your difficulty level during the "new game" process, always a nice feature. The level chosen appears to determine the number of enemies that randomly appear in the game rather than their overall strengths.

Many other features are familiar including points accumulation for assignment to various skills, and the no-weight-limit inventory and its organization into categories. The quest log is more similar to Gothic 3 and has map markers. Gone are the long lag times experienced by some in Gothic 3. Inventory is organized into groups, but is in full color now.

There are some great new creatures and monsters in this game, and each type has a specific style of fighting. Cute but deadly gnomes, lurking ghouls with sharp claws, huge scorpions, monstrous ogres, large winged creatures, frightening gorilla-like ash beasts plus the armour-clad lizard men are just a few of the creatures to be faced. (I'm so happy to report that there are no orcs in this game!) Straying off the path could mean meeting up with a much stronger enemy; one that can't be beaten until later in the game. These battles, plus many of the quests, make for frequent trips back to areas already visited.

The combat system has been revamped, and it seems better and more balanced to me, although it is still the same in concept. Fighting is still a challenge, and you can be surprised or surrounded of course. Practice and learning the techniques of the different enemies are key. The power of your armor is recognized, and your strength and skill level with your chosen weapon determine the power behind your strike and the moves you can make.

Speaking of armor, in "Risen" armor is gained with achievement rather than something you can buy from a merchant. Shields and a few helmets can be purchased or found, but not main armor. When you complete one of the major quests, higher level armor will be offered to you, for a price, and automatically worn when acquired. I'm not certain I particularly liked that, but it seemed to work okay.

There are two distinct factions vying for control of the island. Quests completed for NPCs in Harbour Town and the Monastery will eventually align you with one of the two as well as determine the profession of your character. What I particularly liked is that it is not specifically about which is good or evil. Both factions seem to have the same goal (to save the island), but have different means in mind to attain that goal. Luckily the game keeps up with your choices so you can complete a good portion towards one and then try the other before finalizing it.

Ultimately you will join either the Bandits or become a Mage or Warrior for the "Order of the Flame". This decision directly effects how the game is played, how NPCs respond to you during conversations, and how your character develops overall. However, that alignment does not limit you to learning other skills. For instance, you can still use experience points to add Alchemy and Staff Fighting to a Bandit's repertoire of skills, or Lockpicking for a Mage. This type of diversity is great and lets you become the character you want to be.

There are a bunch of other things to keep you busy in "Risen". Read books to gain wisdom. Cook raw meat over a campfire or stir it in a cauldron with herbs and vegetables to make healthy stews. Dig up buried treasure. Make magical jewelry as a goldsmith. It's nice that any type of character can use magic scrolls. In fact, it's necessary to do so to complete the game.

The music in "Risen" is somewhat classical and medieval and is pleasant to listen to, although I must admit not paying much attention to it. The sound effects are good, especially those of the monsters. Memorable is the roar of an ash beast which reverberated from a distance, and the chatter of the cute-but-vicious gnomes. The combination of professional actors and excellent script writing resulted in marvelous conversations with little or no monotony.

The game is divided into 4 Chapters. The main quest is clear and the sub quests get you there. Naturally there are some incidental sub quests that don't further the plot. Most of those help to earn experience points towards adding to your skill set, though, and are therefore worthwhile. Others are sub-steps to help you get a needed item or gain entrance to an area barred to you, and so you must do those. All give you levelling points, but I can recall only a thimbleful of quests that seemed needless or tedious.

The Bad
After the raves in the above section, you've probably gathered that I really enjoyed playing "Risen". For all the accolades, though, it is not perfect.

There are a good number of women in "Risen", most with minor parts. They have various professions (barmaid, housewife, prostitutes etc.) and different clothing, but ultimately they all look and sound alike. There is little, if any, diversity to their shape (i.e. every one of them had the same bra size).

Speaking of characters, the town and the monastery are pleasant enough, but they lack the vibrancy and NPC character development that gives other games such pizazz. The population is diverse, and the conversations are original and entertaining, but essentially there is nothing to keep you interested in them. Even your main character is aloof with no past - a blank slate. There is nothing here to get you emotionally involved.

The DVD needs to sit in the drive at all times. That's fine, but sometimes clicking on the desktop icon didn't work. The disc wasn't recognized! Luckily simply opening and closing the drive brought up the start menu and the "Play" selection. This is a minor thing, but a design flaw that should have been fixed before release.

It took me about a month to get to the Final Big Boss in "Risen". After all that time, after all the effort, the final fight should be a culmination of everything that came before it. A fight to end all fights in the game. Right? Unfortunately that's not the case. The finale is a huge disappointment. I won't spoil it for you, but in my opinion it has nothing to do with power and skill and everything to do with reflex action and luck. To make it even worse, after you are victorious, the game just .. ends .. abruptly. It leaves you wondering what happened to the rest of the island and the remaining people. That is completely unacceptable and unforgivable for a game that is otherwise so good!

The Bottom Line
Gothic fans will enjoy "Risen" because its heart and soul are Gothic. It has a little bit of each game built into it plus it improves upon the earlier games and adds a few new enhancements.

Roaming freely across a beautiful landscape, different quests and fighting styles between the factions, various types of skills to learn, its replayability, bug-free - all these make for a fun experience. I'd say that 90% of "Risen" is absolutely fantastic.

It takes more besides beauty and challenging gameplay to make a great game. A good story must have a tantalizing beginning, a progressively interesting middle and a satisfying conclusion. "Risen" got the first two right, but then slams you to the floor with its shoddy ending. It's a damn shame!

Many people have played through the game two and three times just to see what's different in each of the professions. For me, once was enough. I mean, what's the point? Better luck next time, Piranha Bytes. Personally, I'm moving on.

Windows · by Jeanne (75367) · 2010

Discussion

Subject By Date
Awesome review Patrick Bregger (290571) May 8th, 2011
Out of all the lamest plots in gaming history... Indra was here (20633) Apr 4th, 2011

Trivia

Censorship

The game could not be given a OFLC classification in Australia and was banned, according to news articles in August, 2009. The reasons cited were:

"During the course of the game, players can interact with prostitutes (referred to as “whores” in the game) at a local brothel. Players can trigger a lengthy dialogue to engage in their services; sexual activity is strongly implied, but never depicted on screen. Many of the characters in the game smoke a fictional drug called “brugleweed.” The “wood reefer” plant is described as having a mild relaxing effect on users, and can be bought, sold, and used by players. Some profanity (e.g., “f*ck” and “sh*t”) can be heard in the dialogue."

The OFLC Classification Board felt that the game contained sexual activity and drug use related to incentives or rewards.

Parody

Risen (more precisely: the development of the game) was parodied in an episode of Die Redaktion (The Editorial Team), a monthly comedy video produced by the German gaming magazine GameStar. It was published on the DVD of issue 02/2010.

Information also contributed by Jeanne.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sicarius.

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series added by Plok. Nintendo Switch added by BOIADEIRO ERRANTE.

Additional contributors: Terok Nor, Indra was here, Jeanne, Paulus18950, Patrick Bregger, Plok, Evolyzer.

Game added October 26th, 2009. Last modified September 19th, 2023.