When it comes to games revolving around pirate life there are oddly only a few worth mentioning. I personally think of the Monkey Island games, but those were not exactly serious. Then you get movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean and take a reference from that if you want. Risen 3 attempts the pirate life and all-in-all is a bit hit and miss. Here’s the lowdown
Probably a disclaimer needed in saying that I have never played Risen 1 or Risen 2 making Risen 3 my first foray into the series. It is an open world fantasy RPG, which has you playing as a newly reincarnated pirate. On a trip to find some treasure with your sister you run into a dark hole and are attacked by something in the shadows, and killed. A few weeks later you are brought back to life, in some form, and must find out what exactly happened to you and take revenge and… well you get the idea.
The storyline has its ups and downs. There are some great characters along the way including some mad pirates, a Tanka tribe, a Navy town and a lot more than that. There is a surprising amount of depth to be found in terms of the islands and the characters you visit and meet, and all held together by an intriguing, if rather clichéd storyline.
The problem is though, that the storyline is difficult to follow and that is mainly due to the quest system used in the game. Risen 3 is VERY quest heavy. So much so that you will have an impossible time working out what is a main quest and what is a sidequest. It gets so convoluted as you can pick up four quests from one conversation and it does a terrible job of classifying the quests. Even worse is that when you set a particular quest and a marker for that quest, at times it gives you no indication that some unrelated quest has to take place first.
There is just no order in the game making it feel like an absolute mess of a system when trying to figure out what is needed, and while the sidequests are fun, they are mostly completely pointless meaning that you can, at times, spend around an hour on a sidequest without realising it isn’t going to progress your game one bit, and you will just end up getting some gold.
When you can follow the storyline things move at a steady pace and there are some fantastic moments blended with some typical, almost dated, humour. But that is balanced out by some utterly intangible events which make you wonder if anyone in the dev team knew what was going on.
That is extended to the voice acting and the dialogue in the game. It’s even more of a mess than the story. Sometimes the lines are the wrong way around and characters will answer things and only then get the question. It’s kind of odd to see and had me laughing a fair bit, and cringing somewhat too.
The mess is extended to a lot of the levelling up and upgrading of your character. You can upgrade certain skills by attaining glory, which is essentially experience points for finishing quests and killing enemies. But it’s near impossible to work out how those skill trees work and what effect they have, so blind levelling up happens as a result.
Equipment and items work the same as any other RPG with a decent amount of weapons and armour to choose from. You can build your magical skills with a great host of spells easily accessible, and the more difficult, powerful ones found somewhere in the mess.
The combat is definitely a highlight of the game although it does take some time to get used to. Your character could be a bit more responsive which would be less annoying, but when you work out strategies and combos, and once you train further the complexity of the combat can be a real pleasure. It is at least made that bit easier that you can travel with a crew who assist you in combat at the start, otherwise you die… a lot.
That takes me to the learning part where you can upskill in terms of things like hunting, fighting and shooting. Almost all the NPCs have a skill or two to teach you if you have enough experience and money. It’s a good way of interacting, but also means you have to try remember who is where when you want to learn things.
Risen 3 is so far a mix and match between a mess and some fine elements, but the biggest let down is the look and feel of the game. First off, the visuals look grainy and just horrible. It’s a pity because the environments are so alive and wonderful. Taking on a tiger is a fantastic feeling until you start and can’t make out if it is a tiger or some other animal. There is also dreadful pop-up elements in the environment, which means you are attacked before you even realise it.
I can’t say I have ever really noticed frame rate differences, but Risen 3 really highlights it. So much so that the first time I played I got such a headache from moving the camera around too much. It is jittery and just awful. It gets worse though because when you move through certain areas it has to “load” parts of the game, which gets stuck for a few seconds before you can continue, and when there is actual loading or saving it is even longer. That is nothing though compared to the screen tearing and frame rate drops you see during cutscenes. There were times that I had to make sure that I wasn’t playing on a PS One or something.
So Risen 3 has a lot to enjoy about it, far more than I actually thought when I started. If you love getting lost in quests you will enjoy spending some serious hours in this game. If you are looking for a coherent story and smooth graphics you might want to look away, far far far away.