There's never enough of good RPGs out there in fact, there's a lot of options on the market, but many are underwhelmingly boring and make you question if they're worth the usually huge time investment. Luckily, Risen is a very good option if you want to spend countless hours in a world of monsters, magic and heroes.
Risen can sure look good, dense forests with tons of vegetation, beautiful night skies and lighting strikes during a storm. The story is good and well presented. It's not overcomplicated like it happens way too often in the RPG genre. Main characters are well designed and have interesting personalities, more so than in The Elder Scrolls series, but not as much as in The Witcher or Mass Effect series. Gameplay remains interesting throughout the entire experience and If we compare Risen to the preceding Piranha Bytes game, Gothic 3, which had some pretty broken combat mechanics, dull quests and an underwhelming main story, Risen comes out as a clear victor. One of the stronger points of the game, taken straight from the Gothic series, is that enemies don't scale with you as you level up. This makes you feel the progress your character is making on the environment. Once tough enemies become easier and easier to fight, unlike in The Elder Scrolls games, where enemies are constantly equally (easy) to defeat, despite all the leveling up. Risen is no Gothic 4 (or 5), but that's a plus. After a solid, but not great, Gothic 3, it's an improvement in almost every way. The world is smaller yes, but it feels alive. It is both, small and big, but in a good way.
On the other hand, despite the nice graphics, many textures are of low resolution and polygon count is not the highest. This becomes very apparent in the largest town on the island and in many dungeons throughout the game where most of the buildings are made out of stone, yet all the walls stand completely straight. A technique called tessellation would have helped tremendously in this case. Human characters are also copied and pasted a bit too much throughout the island, which takes away from the illusion of an authentic world. The combat is unfortunately still quite literary a hit or miss and is liked by some and hated by others. The truth is, it can get frustrating being killed by a pack of wild hogs or wolfs at mid-stages of the game, when you should be slaughtering such weak animals without problems. It's a far cry from Gothic 3 though, where a single wild hog could have easily killed you at the late-stages of the game. Sword, axe and staff fighting is designed around parrying and blocking enemy attacks, but that becomes almost impossible when multiple enemies attack you at once and surround you. In such cases, it's crucial to use either, a crossbow, a bow or magic, and your legs to run away. This becomes a problem in enclosed environments such as underground dungeons, which offer little room for maneuvering. In the first half of the game, there's a lack of variety in weapons and armor to choose from. In fact, there's only about three worthwhile swords, two axes and two shields available. Not to mention, you only get to wear a proper fighter's armor about 25 hours into the game, which is absurd for an action RPG. In addition to that, most of the early quests are basic and can get a bit boring and the game only picks up after you leave Harbor town, about 15 hours into the story. Interestingly though, later parts of the game turn into a little bit of a dungeon crawler and you suddenly start getting better and better equipment.
All in all, Risen is a very well made RPG, that has a good story with, for the most part, well made characters, interesting world and varied enemies. The ending might be a little bit underwhelming, some of the early quests boring and combat not for everyone, but it's a very good game nonetheless. Low scores and ratings this game received upon release and later are, in my eyes, not justified.