Australia's video game classification system has claimed its third victim for 2009 with Piranha Bytes-developed role-playing game, Risen, turned back at the border. The game joins the banned club alongside titles Sexy Poker and Necrovision, both of which were later passed fit for sale after resubmission with changes to their respective offending content. The Classification Board’s refusal to grant the game green-light status at the maximum MA15+ rating due to its inappropriate sexual material and drug use now makes Risen illegal to sell, rent, or promote down under.
GameSpot AU was able to obtain the Classification Board’s full decision report for the game, and the document outlines specifics of its failure to adhere to the maximum available rating. In several instances, the Board found that the game used sexual activity and drug use in conjunction with in-game incentives. “The game contains ‘quests,’ which a player may choose to complete by acquiring the sexual service of prostitutes. Though it is purportedly not a necessary element of the gameplay, players gain rewards or advance through the game more easily by engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes." The ruling specifically highlights a scenario in which the game’s protagonist is able to bribe or distract a guard by visiting a brothel and paying the mistress for the use of a girl.
The Board also found that use of an in-game drug called “Brugleweed,” which is “commonly referred to in text and dialogue as ‘weed’ or a ‘weed reefer’ and rewarded players who used it with experience points, failed to meet acceptable classification guidelines. In Risen, a player can both trade and smoke this drug, which mirrors an illegal ‘real-world’ drug in its terminology, use, and depiction.”
Madman Interactive, the game’s Australian distributor, confirmed the ban to GameSpot AU, but a spokesperson declined to outline specifics of the company’s future plans for the title. "We're working with the publisher to come to a resolution, but before that, we're looking at the options available to us, whether we take it to review or to amend and resubmit," he said.
Risen is set in a fantasy island named Faranga where your character has been stranded after a shipwreck. The island has been experiencing strange occurrences, which have seen the sudden appearance of dangerous creatures threatening the island's equilibrium. The game currently has no planned Australian release date, though it’s due to launch on the PC and Xbox 360 platforms in October this year.
For more on Australia's classification regime, check out our Censory Overload feature.