With a well-crafted island to explore and excellent pacing, Risen is better than you think.
Looking for a sound console Western RPG? Already played Oblivion, Fallout 3, DAO and ME2 to death? Want a game that you can sink some quality time into, that will make you feel by the end that you're a very powerful character, but won't ever let you slide by easy? Want a game that encourages exploration through a well-crafted environment? Want a game with methodical pacing? Risen is most definitely for you!
As backstory, you probably already know that solid console RPGs are far and few between. Most of the JRPGs are tired re-writes of the same game over and over. And more and more (albeit wonderful) RPGs are jettisoning methodical character buildup in favor of simply pouring on more action without a breath. If your trying to decide on picking up a "B"-Title game, choosing between Divinity 2, Two Worlds, and Risen, take my advise and go with Risen. The other games are fine, but Risen is actually quite a decent little gem. Why? Well...
1. Pacing. Not since Morrowind have I played a game that gave the player time to grow into the world methodically, while at the same time presenting a strong challenge. Unlike Oblivions (for instance), Enemies in Risen will (almost) always be a challenge, especially since you wash up literally with nothing but your underwear, so its freshing to be able to take your time, build your self up, and eventually, dominate. Enemies scale, but not to gross extremes. And the night and day light cycles are very welcome too, as is the acoustic soundtrack. While FPS freaks whine about having to have a frying pan to cook one's food, my response to them is then to go back to Halo if they want a game that's brainless and irrational.
2. Exploration. I've yet to play an open-world RPG who's setting was as interesting as Risen. The island is as vertical as it is horizontal, with tons of nooks to explore, and the lush forests are a treat, making Oblivion look stale in comparison. Sure, you'll die often, but there's no better way to learn combat is there? And no, this isn't your Diablo loot crazy game, but you're constantly rewarded in significant ways for your exploration efforts, either with interesting quests, rare but significant items, and other little tid bits. Furthermore, there's some great dungeons in this game, filled with devious traps, difficult monsters, and good old loot. I like that great loot is saved for great dungeons.
3. Character development. This is partly a pacing issue, of course, but Risen will require you to make some decisions. It'll be very difficult to spec your character with more than a few primary attack capabilities. You won't be an effective jack of all trades, you'll need to decide and follow through. Thankfully, each path is very doable if you commit. Furthermore, the story (as you likely know) will also force some commitments sooner or later, though theres a decent sense of moral ambiguity.
Of course Risen isn't perfect. Here's what to expect, though not too hard to get over:
4. A very few small but annoying glitches. The end boss fight, for instance, continued to mess up repeatedly. Other than that, very few crashing or pixelated problems. Bugs were very exaggerated in my estimation.
5. Combat control issues. Combat is very hard in a good way, overall, but the 360 controller does have one issue: when you try to scan side to side, or turn to face an enemy (or turn at anytime) it overcompensates, at times nearly turning you in a full circle. With a little finesse and some pure adjustment, you'll be able to cope with it, but it can be annoying especially early in the game when you're not expecting it.
6. Mediocre Visuals and Acting. While voice acting is quite good overall, the visual counterpart is poor (lots of repetative arm movements that don't fit right) and while the island is overall very lush and looks good, environments are not very varied and can look washed out at times (though that is perhaps an X360 problem mainly).
Risen is a very playable and palatable game. I enjoyed it much more than Divinity 2 or Two Worlds, and in my mind, it's just a notch below some of the more well known RPGs on the system. It's got flaws, but they're easy to look past in favor of a solid open-world RPG that gets so much right.