This game originally passed me by when it first dropped for PC and Xbox 360 back in the day. At the time I wasn’t really into role playing games unless they started with the words Final and Fantasy. Since then, I’m learned to embrace western RPGs a bit more. So today, we’re going to discuss how I feel about a Western RPG with out of date mechanics. Maybe it will take me down memory lane…
The island Faranga needs a new hero, you! Delve into a gritty, raw and atmospheric action-RPG fantasy game in which every action has a consequence. In the epic world of Risen, filled with mysterious earthquakes, fearsome monsters and unimaginable treasures, forge your path with the sword, learn the art of staff fighting or become a powerful mage.
A mysterious volcanic island. The island of Faranga’s heavy tremors bode ill for its inhabitants. Ancient temples have risen from the ground, bringing with them bizarre creatures that terrorize the area. Fear and panic are spreading throughout the population.
The end of all hope? A powerful group calling themselves “The Inquisitors” have made it their quest to put an end to these events. They send an expedition to Faranga, but a ferocious storm takes hold of the ship and destroys it at sea.
A hero will come. Miraculously, you survive the shipwreck and are stranded on the volcanic island alone. You find yourself caught amidst rebellion, tyranny, and mystic rituals. It is up to you to decide which way the pendulum of fate will swing.
Pros & Cons:
- Visuals. Right at the start, I want to temper your expectations. With this game being a direct port of the Xbox 360 title, you can expect just that. If you’ve already played the game back in 2009 and are just looking for a portable experience for it, this will scratch your nostalgia itch. But if you’re someone who never experienced the title or never played 360 games, then this may be a shock to you. This is especially true for those who have played beautiful ports like The Witcher 3. However, the difference here is that the source material is a generation older. So be very certain you’re okay with graphics that are well over a decade old now. Does that mean they’re ugly? Hell no. There is some occasional screen tearing, but I feel like this could definitely be resolved with a patch in the future. Look, these were some of the best-looking visuals of their time and hold up pretty well today. I’m sad that I overlooked this title back then, I could’ve actually had fun. And now I want to slap old me across the face and tell him to play it.
- Gameplay. And because they looked so good at the time, they play very well on modern hardware. Even though the Switch is finally showing its age, games from a previous generation will always look and work well on it. Since we’re working with a game that plays well, that means that we’re working with a smooth experience. There did not appear to be any noticeable frame drops while I was playing. So the game didn’t hiccup and had smooth combat.
Speaking of combat, this game follows traditional RPG elements. You can really customize how you want to fight and select from a wide variety of weaponry. Spells are part of your physical arsenal too, they’re not something that you have to learn like in some RPGs. Skill points are your friend as you continue. Later in the game, you’ll feel like you wish you’d had the strength you have in the beginning. But that’s the nature of these kinds of games.
The game is typical in how you use weaponry and such. There is a lot of close-quarters combat, you know, because there are no guns here. You’ll find that poking, parrying, and or dodging are all par for the course. There is combat that is unique to this game, which is stances. For instance, if you swing in the wrong stance whilst they dodge, you can lose the entire fight. This mechanic works in both directions though, It’s very tactical and smart in that way.
So far all I’ve mentioned is weapons and attacking. You can definitely be stealthy if you’d prefer. Don’t get me wrong, there will be points where lock picking to get through an area isn’t the only way. There will be some times you have to use violence, but on the whole, the game is classless. And as such, the game does indeed try to cater to you. I’m unsure if this style of custom class continues on into future sequels. But I hope that it does, because having a class to choose from and pigeonholing yourself, is rather boring.
- Story. The developers definitely just throw you into the story. It feels like Skyrim may have been their inspiration, but starting the story is where the inspiration seems to end. You wake up as a stowaway on a large ship. And without too much of the story being spoiled, the ship ends up sinking in a very unique way. You’d think it would be a Kraken or a Siren that causes the distress of a ship and its crew out in the ocean. You (and seemingly nobody else) wash ashore on the island of Faranga. This is where the entire game unfolds for you. This is a game where every decision seems like it’s going to impact the story. However, the devs have crafted a game that, smartly, stays intact regardless of your decisions. This is a good decision on their part because you may hate your situation halfway through a game where decisions do matter. Then you either give up or start entirely over, both of which is a fat ass bummer. There are plot points that do change the overall trajectory, but they do not affect every little element and ruin your playing experience. And that is the beautiful balance of this game. Your actions will always yield a reaction, but the story is relatively linear, so go crazy with your choices!
- Replayability. Risen on the whole is no “short” title, coming in at an average of 30 hours. I definitely dislike games that exceed 10 hours because I have ADHD and have such little free time. However, I fell into this game and I got well over halfway through my time with it leading up to the review. If 30 hours isn’t enough for you, I wish I could tell you that this game has a New Game Plus built in, but alas, I didn’t see it mentioned in any of the marketing for the title.
- Portability. As I said, I fell into the rabbit hole that is Risen. On the Switch, I really didn’t run into any issues except the aforementioned minor screen tearing. If you need this game portably and you like the old graphics and UI, then this is going to be exactly in your wheelhouse. Imagine having a lightweight, 30 hour RPG in your backpack. Ready to take out and play at any time. An RPG that is feasible to easily beat as you take it along everywhere, playing it here and there. This game is definitely not heavy-handed and doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s easier to consume versus the Wither 3s of the world. Now, if you need a more robust, better looking experience on the go and you own a Steam Deck, I recommend that experience over one on the Switch.
- Cost. This game doesn’t take itself too seriously. Obviously, it’s just a cost for reimbursing THQ Nordic’s cost of having developers port the title to the Switch. Their hope is clearly that you will be hooked and you will want to play the sequels. This chain reaction will get them more money than they had before. Maybe we’ll see another sequel come out too if the reaction to this game is good. So for a paltry $30, you can start having dozens of hours of RPG fun, right now.
- Fun? Does this game actually offer any real entertainment value? The images posted in this review do look generic. My explanation of the visuals, sound, and gameplay might leave you still perplexed as to whether the title is truly fun. RPGs can be more of a chore in certain games or an overpowered thrill ride in others. I think what has happened here is something truly unique to this title. It seems to have taken little bits of what made the other RPGs of the time fun and successful and stick them in. There are some unique elements too, but on the whole, you’ll find a little bit of everything from the time. But they don’t bore you with a game that is way too long, giving you a job versus giving you fun. No, because they distilled this into a 30 hour experience, you get a little bit of it all and then it knows when to call it quits. So yes, on the whole, this is definitely a fun experience. One that can be had for $1 per hour of play.
If you already have purchased and/or beaten it, I’m not sure that there is a reason for me to justify you buying this rerelease. The Switch version looks and plays like the 360 version. And playing the Xbox One and PS4 version looks like it is not worth the extra $10. So if you have an Xbox One, just buy the $19.99 version for the Xbox 360. As far as the game is concerned, I missed it’s original release and I’m glad to have had a chance to play it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously while still offering challenge and fun.