Risen is Gothic in a new jacket. Great world/level design and relatively good polish for a "Gothic" game.
Risen nevertheless copies the old formula to the letter, and that's both a good and a bad thing. Everything you ever liked about Gothic is back and so is everything you didn't like.
From my perspective the punishing difficulty if you want to play an all out mage was once again frustrating. Again it takes too long before you get to cast your first spell. Do you invest points in strength and weapon skill to make the going easier or do you not? To make things worse, I ended up joining the Inquisition faction instead of the mages, all the while thinking I indeed joined the mages. It's a trap more people will fall into, no doubt. And you keep asking yourself who's the "seal" magic teacher...
It's a shame PB didn't improve on the existing formula; I would have appreciated a few more spells... And why can't you create your own character?? I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't have been able to choose from at least a few character models (male/female).
I first downloaded the demo and had my doubts about the voice acting, since the actors start off rather uninspired. Luckily things get better from there; it's actually quite good. Graphics are good with the exception of the faces.
Regardless of whether you've played a Gothic game before, Risen is certainly recommendable. I pointed out the negatives above, but there is a lot to like too. The environment is beautifully crafted: caves, buildings, towns and their inhabitants all have a natural feeling to them, like they really could exist that way. Risen is a full-blood RPG the way they should be made!