Hands on Review: The Risen Series – Pirates, Knights, Magic and Monsters

Originally introduced as a PC game in 2009 Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver Studio’s game ‘Risen’ was later adopted to the Xbox and subsequent releases were for console as well as computer. There are three games in the series Risen, Risen 2: Dark Waters and Risen 3: Titan Lords, each can be played as a stand alone game, but certain details will be missed if you choose to do so.

The basic plot in Risen is that humans are threatened by Titans, ancient creatures of great power and our ‘Nameless Hero’ ( that’s really what the character is called) embarks on a quest to find some way of dealing with the threat. The entire game takes place on a single island with new enemies and regions opening up as the game progresses.

In Risen 2: Dark Waters humans have retreated to a series of tropical islands, but find themselves trapped to a certain region when a new titan threat emerges from the sea and prevents them from leaving the region. The Nameless Hero returns, this time he goes under cover to help find a series of ancient artifacts that will help defeat the new threat and allow humans to live fairly peacefully and venture outside of the region.

Risen 3: Titan Lords sees a new hero step up. This time the son of a famous pirate has his soul taken by a Shadow Lord as denizens of the Shadow Realm rampage across the humans tropical region threatening their existence once again. The new hero must unite the people of the region to face the Shadows so that he might be able to reclaim his soul.

In all three games the player has a choice of a faction they wish to join, each faction has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and will change what sub quests will become available to the player as the game progresses.And although the games are independent of one and other characters, stories and items will reoccur throughout each game as the series progresses.

The storyline itself is fairly linear, and if one were to play just the main story line the game would be over fairly quickly. However, like many things in this game, the world of Risen isn’t quite that cut and dry. The main storyline develops through a series of quests, and along the way there is an endless list of side quests. Often one quest is completed through a series of sub-quests that will have you running all over the map.
Now at first this may seem like a real buzz kill, but as you open new areas the game allows you to quick travel to already visited regions by selecting the region on the world map in the menu.

When the game first begins enemies seem almost impossible, and the series has been criticized for tough enemies. But as you develop your character and acquire better equipment enemies that once left you near dead are worm food in a couple of hits. To earn money you take on jobs, complete quests, gather wild plants, loot opponents and pilfer items left out. As the game progresses you will learn how to pick pockets and locks, sneak behind people craft potions, spells, jewellery and weapons; you will also learn how to harvest horns, teeth, skins and parts off of animals and opponents. All of this yields you a never ending way to earn money while levelling up.

The worlds are wide open, and with each game new ways to travel are introduced. Players will be able to shape shift, posses people, use monkeys sail, teleport, run jump and swim. And because the world is wide open it’s fairly easy to take short cuts from Point A to Point B, however it’s often best to stick to the paths as short cuts can quickly lead to disaster if you aren’t extremely familiar with an area.

The environments are painstakingly rendered and get better as each game progresses, and players will find endless people to speak to as they wander through the worlds. Almost every person you come in contact with needs something done or some problem resolved, this yields an almost limitless amount of side quests for the player to engage in. The quests can be as simple as delivering a letter or as complex as trying to make peace between two factions.
But, like many things in the world of Risen, you never know who will turn on you, use you or double cross you.

The experience that you earn is up to you how you wish to use it depending on what type of character you wish to develop. Your character can be the powerful fighter, skilled mage a clever thief or a mix of any of them. Not only will you develop your skills as you level up, but throughout the games you will find numerous teachers who will teach you how to brew potions, make alcohol, pick pockets, use swords, throw knives, cast better spells or learn blacksmithing. You will also find people who will teach you how to be more menacing, how to be more persuasive, be tougher, be sneakier or how to make your healing items work better. Naturally all of these instructors will impart their secrets for a price if you have the right level of background ability.

The game encourages you to save often, and while it uses an auto save feature, they aren’t kidding when they advise this. A person can easily get lost in completing task after task then suddenly be obliterated by a powerful enemy, or mangled by a series of fast attacking weak enemies. The game doesn’t hold your hand, and you are often left on your own trying to figure out how to do a task or where to go next. Thankfully you can set something as a quest priority and follow the map to the red ‘X’.

Although enemies can be tough in parts, and often you will face parts where you find yourself being attacked from all angles, enemies will follow if you run away from them and one can quite easily lead an enemy into an area where there are other NPC’s who will jump in and fight until the enemy is dead. However, there’s a catch; if you aren’t careful you may accidentally wind up hitting the person helping you and after the original enemy is dead they will turn on you. In fact throughout the game there are regular times when you will have to beat the tar out of someone or sneak into an area risking getting caught and getting beaten up yourself. Thankfully in these times if you loose it isn’t game over, you’ll be knocked down, suffer a small penalty and then go on after.

Despite seemingly endless freedom the games offer they have been criticized for the tough combat, bugs, long load times and the camera. Occasionally the camera will swing and you find your vision of your character obstructed, which is annoying during a fight or will occasionally cause you to fall off something or botch whatever task you are in the middle of. The bugs reduced as the series progressed and Risen 3: Titan Lords was a fairly smooth game, camera issues aside.

The games are intended for a mature audience as the characters swear, drink (Rum, Grog and Cheap Booze become healing mainstays) have fist fights, smoke up, hire prostitutes and have drinking contests. Native girls are depicted barely dressed and some of the ladies in the towns have their boobs popping out of the top of their dresses. Each part of the series will take about 40-50 hours to play, and won’t take up massive amounts of your memory as some some games will.
The games have been met with mixed reviews but are popular enough that videos, maps, tips and walkthroughs are easily available all over the web.

Here are a series of YouTube links to the gameplay of each game:


Risen 2: Dark Waters

Risen 3: Titan Lords

The Risen series is an underdog in the gaming world, and many people who only play the big release games may have missed it.
But if you’re looking for a game that will give you hours of gameplay, an open world, loads of customizing and a reasonable replay factor then consider adding one or all of the Risen titles to your game library.