Risen 3 is a massive game. It’s a remaster, an enhanced edition of a last gen title – should it have been remastered though?
Risen 3 comes along at a nice time. Gaming is a bit light as we prepare for the annual slog of big hitters. It’s a meaty offering and not only that – it’s a pirate RPG. Why aren’t there more of these? With this prospect I jumped in and prepared to shiver my timbers, with no knowledge of the title it was time to find out what Risen 3 is all about.
Despite it being a lengthy RPG, Risen 3 wastes no time in throwing you in. Straight into combat you go and it’s immediately clear that the combat in this game is terrible. You have one attack button that swings your sword and press it three times for a staggery, poorly animated combo. Holding for a second does a power attack which is the exact same thing but with a pause. You have a dodge and a block that doesn’t really block very much, and the use of a second weapon (mostly a pistol) to aid you. By the time you’ve finished the combat tutorial you have seen it all (save for a few spells you can cast but they’re supplemental to the base attacking). It is in fact quite difficult to articulate how bad the combat is – it’s like a terrible afterthought in a game where it should be high up on the list of things to do well.
The obvious comparison here is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Assassin’s Creed but pirate themed, it does almost everything better than Risen and shows that despite limited combat commands it can still be exciting and constantly fun through a long game.
As with any RPG worth its salt, Risen 3 has a vast number of upgrade options. Contained within an unnecessary complex menu system, you can improve combat elements to a degree although I struggled to notice the improvement. You have to persevere though as doing so rewards you with gold and experience. You can use this to further upgrade yourself, be it skills such as picking locks or engaging with NPCs to advance your learning. The NPCs are particularly hilarious as they are mockney swear-athletes cursing like their lives depend on it. Realistic to the setting perhaps, but the voice acting is unanimously terrible and at its best just plain bad.
As if the warning signs weren’t enough, a particular moment is seared into my brain as the defining moment of my time with Risen 3. At the thought of enjoying a nice sail to another island, the game fast travels you there. No pirate shanties like in Black Flag. Instead you warp there and off you hop to do the mission. “You must do this for your legacy” Bones tells me. I do what looks like swimming to get to the beach and three sand insects attack me. I am strafing, attacking, sort of blocking and dodging as a horribly animated and janky combo type melee brawl ensues. Realising there is nothing in my offensive arsenal to survive this battle with low-level creatures with my health at a reasonable state I make a run for it. Some hills you can run up, some not, and the three insects are in tow as I try and navigate my way through the wilderness. A higher-level beast is nearby and joins in the chase. While trying to see how close they are to me, I walk down a slope and collapse in a heap. It’s not a stamina-simulated exhaustion; it’s the game’s attempt at fall damage. Never fear, there was surely a checkpoint on the beach. Nope. It’s my last save game over an hour ago. I swore like a pirate.
There are some good things going on here though but it’s not the plot (which is ludicrous); as son of Captain Steelbeard (yes, really) you die and come back to life by the magic of a chap called Bones. Nonsense ensues but the world is massive and it looks pretty good. There was a fine job done on enhancing the visuals to make the world look detailed and interesting, capturing the lure of a tropical paradise ripe for plundering. Seeing the characters walk around it shatters this illusion somewhat as it’s awkward and somewhat disturbing, same with wildlife that want to fight you are every turn.
There’s only so much combat you can handle but thankfully I discovered a top strategy. If you ask, a buddy NPC will run along with you and basically suck up all the damage and deal with the baddies for you. If they die, they revive (not from the last game save like you do) and you still get the XP. Recommending the best way to play this game by not getting involved in it is hardly the best endorsement.
Should you want a pirate game with a large amount to see and do then get Black Flag. If you’ve already played that then it’s a toss up between getting this or spending your money on something else and that really depends how badly you want to play another pirate game. For most, the first five minutes will probably be a horrifying enough vision of the next potentially 30 hours but if you’re that desperate for huge quest logs across tropical islands then you may be able to live with it.
Reviewed on PS4