Review: Risen 3: Titan Lords

Almost exactly a year ago we reviewed Risen 2, and while it was a reasonably acceptable adventure, it didn’t hold up to other games in its genre. So surely, a whole year later, some of the problems would be addressed and we’d have an RPG fit to grace the closing moments of the PS3 and 360’s life, yes?


Loading up Risen 3 for the first time takes you on a rollercoaster ride aboard a pirate ship, plunging you into a manic fight which is designed to teach you the controls, but instead leaves you screaming at the TV with a mix of child-unfriendly expletives and generals squeaks of confusion. Some moments later, the game starts properly and you can start to actually get to grips with what’s meant to be going on.

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And what goes on, in fact, is a game which mirrors many of the previous title’s problems but somehow manages to turn them into something far less playable. The bizarre and frankly rubbish combat system is in place, the ropey visuals that pop up all over the place are still here (even though some of the areas have been used already in Risen 2) and while the Power Ranger type speaking animations have been toned down, much of the voice acting is pretty poor as well. Luckily there’s also the huge amount of quests to complete and some of those hold neat ideas, but as a package we’re looking at something that really won’t be capturing the souls of those who play it.

First up, that combat system. For a piratey adventure where you’ll spend a lot of time doing battle with some pretty fierce beasties (and usually with a sword) so you’ll want the flexibility and smoothness of a nice, polished system to be able to dance around and generally show them what a badass you are. It’s something very possible after a few games in a series; after all, Ubisoft have been doing it for quite some time with their Assassin’s Creed series, showing just how fun and slick a sword-based combat system could be. But Risen 3 doesn’t even come close. You can swipe away with anything up to a three-swipe combo, or use a power move, but it seems more luck than judgement if any of this makes contact, and if you’re fighting multiple enemies you’ve no idea which one you’re about to swing for. If you’re unlucky, it’ll be something behind the camera, giving you no clue as to whether you’re doing anything useful or just flapping around like the sail on a nearby ship.

But hey, good news, you can block. Well, you can take up a block pose. It’s quite likely that the bigger enemies will just plough through your block anyway and kill you instantly, so maybe you can use your expert dodging skills to help you out. And so that’s what combat becomes: dodge, swipe, swipe at something you didn’t mean to swipe at, dodge, dodge, swipe, die. To mix it up a bit you sometimes end up accidentally hitting a friendly character, who will then turn on you and kick seven bells of crap out of you before you can even think about apologising. Useful. All of this would be aggravating enough as it is, but then you’ve got the painful frame rate to go with it.

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I’m not normally a frame rate bore. I don’t sit at home on my PC keeping a beady eye on my FPS rate and sobbing gently if it drops below 60, but in the case of Risen 3 on the PS3 it’s impossible to miss. Considering the amazing things some developers have done on the PS3 (Naughty Dog and Bethesda spring to mind) there’s categorically no reason why Risen 3 should be suffering as much slow down as it is. It’s not even as if the visuals are maxing out the console’s capabilities, considering that much of the time objects pop up a fraction of a second before you run face first into them. The draw distance can be terrible at times, despite some moments making you nearly forget as you look out over some genuinely pretty scenery. Nearly, but not quite. As soon as you turn round, it all goes to pot again. And if you’re looking at these screenshots thinking “that doesn’t look too bad” then you’re right, but these are from the PC version. Believe me, the consoles don’t get it anywhere near as good as that.

The thing is though, not everything about the game is awful. There are small lights at the end of this grubby, badly made and very very long tunnel. As with the previous Risen title there is a lot to do, and I mean loads. There are loads of quests, loads of people to talk to, loads of treasure to track down and loads of enemies to get rid of. There’s also the chance that some people will enjoy the storyline, a mission to save a guy’s soul before it’s devoured by the underworld, which brings with it an element of good/evil in the choices you make. But it just doesn’t feel like enough.

It comes down to one or two things really. Do you really really love pirates? Enough to put up with a games that’s so rough around the edges it almost hurts to touch it? Do you really love RPGs, to the extent that you’ll play every last one you can get your hands on? Then you’ll want to get this. But here’s the bigger question: do you prefer to play games that are enjoyable? Well then, I’d stay away, because when all is said and done this just isn’t worth your time.

Reviewed on PS3

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