If anyone reading this, reads my “The 8 Ball” column, a few weeks ago, I had a topic of “Top 8 Most Anticipated Games of 2014”, with Risen 3 being on it. I was looking forward to it, since I enjoyed Risen 2, and wanted to see more of the world. However, go read this here. It’s my review for Risen 2 when that came out. It honestly applies to about 90-95% of this game. Almost everything from Risen 2 applies here, largely the same combat, same lock picking mini-game, same alcohol mini-game, etc. It honestly feels more like an expansion pack than a sequel to a game. However, while Risen 2 was an ambitious but flawed (let’s say 85% ambitious, 15% flawed) game, Risen 3 is more stale and repetitive, mixed with a nice dollop of bugs that makes the game a frustrating experience.
Risen 3 is a 3rd person action RPG where you go around various islands, taking on quests, killing various monsters, collecting loot and so on. The story starts with your character and sister, Patty, doing a temple raid. Your character dies during the mission then is resurrected a few weeks later where you’re told if you want to restore your soul, you have to hunt down magical people to help you out. There are also demonic portals opening up in the world and it would be keen of you to stop them. You’ll find this is orchestrated by an evil force, and it’s your job to stop them.
The mechanics of the game are virtually the same from Risen 2. Combat is still a fairly animation-heavy affair that is still hard to grasp. You can either do quick hits with X, or hold X to do stronger attacks. You press RT to block (or counter once you unlock that skill), with RB being used for your secondary weapon; usually a pistol, or throwing weapon. You also use A to dodge around enemies, which is really helpful before you get the counter spell. The basic framework of combat is “Attack, attack, attack, guard, guard, guard, attack, attack, repeat till one of you is dead.” Enemies almost always attack in a three hit attack, so dodging or guarding against it is critical early on. Enemies also like to gang up on you in an unfair fashion. You can have one party member with you, and if you come to a group of 4 enemies, one will go attack the party member, and the other 3 come charging at you. There is a very big learning curve in this game, so if you’re awful at combat for the first few hours, that is the reason why.
Going back to the towns and dealing with various NPC’s is exactly like in Risen 2. Thankfully (and to the game’s credit), you now have a mini-map that actually tells you where to go for quests and so on. They also added two mini-games when dealing with people, arm wrestling and knife throwing. Arm wrestling is a simple QTE where you have to hit the buttons on the screen. Knife throwing is an odd game that I’m still not sure how it works. You aim a knife at a wheel of points. When you have your aim ready, a power meter appears with red notches on it. I think the idea is to hit the notch either above or below it, but being as close to the notch as possible. That is my understanding, the game isn’t real clear on this, but doing what I did worked for me.
There is also an extremely bad naval combat system that is euphemistically “borrowed” (re: copied) straight out of Assassin’s Creed 3. You don’t have control over your ship speed, and can only fire on the left, right, and in front of your ship (via a first person cannon). It’s pretty rotten, all told. It didn’t work great in AC3, but got better in AC4 (it was made fun in that game). Here, with the absence of controlling your ship’s speed, it makes turning tightly impossible to do. You have to make very wide arcs with your ship in order to face the enemies (Krakens) and line up shots on one. Have fun with the acid spitting variety Kraken, that was the only real time I died during my time with the game.
The upgrade system (putting honor into various skill schools), skill learning, store interface, crafting interface, how you interact with people, it’s all the same from Risen 2. If you liked that, then this game has got your back. I guess a returning element (from Risen 1) is that of crystal magic? It didn’t affect how I played it all, but it is in here, along with voodoo magic, and demon hunter abilities.
Note: This is a new screenshot from this game. If you looked at the Risen 2 review, you likely saw the other lock picking picture. It's the same thing.
So, what is the problem? I reasonably liked Risen 2 (more than most), and this game seems like more of the same. It is…but worse. This game is plagued with technical (and story) glitches that currently make it almost unbeatable for me.
I’ll start with the story bits because it’s simpler to explain: characters in this game are illogical. I’m not talking about the new characters you meet, I mean the returning ones: Patty, Jaffar, Bones, etc. There is barely any mention of the character you were playing in Risen 2 (and I think Risen 1). There is a very brief scene where you do meet the “Nameless one” (guy in first two Risen games), and you have a chat with him, but it feels like an afterthought. Instead, the game just contrives that you are Patty’s brother. However, when characters like Patty and Jaffar meet on the ship there should be at least some sort of acknowledgement. The game doesn’t need to pull a Mass Effect and catalog 300 choices you made per game, but some recognition would be good. Like have Patty go “The Gnome? He’s here again?!” And have Jaffar go “Sorry I stole from you last time. This time, I’ll try to steal less.” This concept gives the series a narrative structure and actual characters. Having it might actually fool you into caring about characters, and it’s odd that they don’t do it.
Also, Patty in this game looks patently ridiculous.
Now for the technical issues: my GOD is this game a mess. Animations clip out awkwardly, characters disappear, items won’t spawn for quests, etc. I was able to beat this game, after I wrote most of the review, so I talk some about what I encounter/how I fixed it in edits. But I did have a lot of problems with it, big and small. Some of the bigger issues are what happened after I picked my faction. Once you can travel to other islands you’re given an ultimate choice if you want to join the mage faction, the Voodoo faction, or the Demon Hunter faction. This is your big meaningful choice in the game, once you pick a faction, you can’t go back and switch, and you are stuck with that group.
Here’s what happened: I picked the Mage’s, and did quests on their island. One quest is called “Crystals in the Shadows”, and it involves you getting a spell to telekinetically move hard to reach crystals to where you are for pick up. Only, the spell doesn’t actually get added to your inventory. I didn’t realize this till I tried to pick one up from a branch suspended 70 feet in the air and realized I couldn’t do it. I’ve tried reloading the save, going to an earlier save (picking the quest up again), getting to the branch using the parrot trick, and nothing. I considered using Cheat Engine to just hack my way up there, but that’s not a part of the game.
EDIT: This is a slight inventory glitch. The spell didn’t get added to my inventory when it was supposed to (as a primary hand weapon). However, once I left the island and came back, it was there. So, if you’re playing this, and stumble onto this problem like I did, leave the island completely and come back. Hopefully it will be there for you.
The other issue with the Mage’s is the Monolith Stone/The Reactor quest. The big Mage quest line has you traveling to three Monoliths around the island, putting in Monolith Stones into them (activating them), then the reactor can start up and you get a character named Zacharias and the story continues. However, as I found out, you have to do the sequence in order. If you don’t, and you do step 5 first (as an example) like I did, the entire quest breaks and the Reactor becomes unusable. I did the Monolith Stone activation without being told, I had the stones, so I just did it. I told the guy (same NPC who also bugs out the Crystal Quest, Erasmus) that I did it, and his response was “Good work, now I have to think on the equations for a bit. Come back later.” This is where it breaks as he never moves passed this line of dialog. I slept for over a month in the game, just advancing the clock more and more, and that was all he said. Being unfinishable is bad, but let me all tell you about The Saga of Tokel.
EDIT: I talked with the developers about this specific quest (The Reactor), and it’s apparently not a bug. You are supposed to complete this mission in chapter 3, not in chapter 2 (where I was). That is fine, but the game never explicitly tells you this basic fact, so if you don’t know it, you’ll think the game was broken like I did.
You get a quest on the Mage island that is basically “Can you help find my two friends and bring them to town?” Being the plucky adventurer I said “Sure” and went to find them. One was already dead (this is constant), but the other is alive in a pool of water, needs help being walked back into town and is a man named “Tokel”. Tokel says to you that he is afraid of monsters, so if he spies one, he is going to freeze on the spot, until you go kill it. Trying to lead Tokel out of the lake proved almost impossible; every step I would take he would freeze (leaving my group), and when I walked back he would re-enter my group, but not actually move. He did move for a bit, but he seemed terrified of actually getting out of the water and onto land. After 15 minutes of me running around the three beaches seeing if he would climb onto one, I eventually engaged him. The only option was to tell him to “Wait”. This broke him further because from that point he, he stopped being interactable at all and stood like a statue…
….Until I discovered that if you got within one foot of him, he would take a step back. If I took another step at him, he took one step back. Basically, if I breached his one foot security field, he would step back to try to get away from me. Armed with the knowledge I could move him back to town, I began the slow (20+ minute) trek of moving him backwards through the forest to the Mage town. Navigating turns, and stairs (in particular) was a challenge, but eventually I got him to where it would trigger the reward. During this time, I reflected on the Simpsons and Cletus, and came up with a take on a classic Simpsons song:
Some folk will never walk backwards
But then again, some folk’ll
Like Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Tokel.
Most folk don’t get scared of sand
But then again, some folk’ll
Like Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Tokel.
Believe me, it was WAY more entertaining coming up with lyric-replacement song than the mind numbing task of leading Tokel to safety.
Visually, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Character look semi-decent head on (during a dialog scene), and there is some good artistic designs in the world. However, there is some pretty noticeable odd terrain deformation going on. When you’re far away from a mound or hill and you move closer to it, you can see it kind of erupt from the ground, like it’s getting inflated. Other than that, there is some good effects work going on in the world, but animation can get pretty bad in spots.
Audio is perfectly “ok”, but nothing outstanding. The music is fine, but tends to blend into the background often. The sound effects sound like the same from the prior game, but I’m not completely certain. At least 80% of the voice actors from Risen 2 are in this game also, which does help some legitimacy to the game. Some of them aren’t great still, but the game does have a fairly unique voice cast, compared to most games, which just tend to recycle the same 10 actors over and over.
There are a lot of quests in the game for you to try to complete, the basic game will take around 20-25 hours to complete, but if you want to eke out everything it would probably take around 40 hours or so. Some choice does factor into the game, especially with the big faction choice, but it is largely inconsequential to the overall game. There is no “New Game Plus” option, so you’ll want to try and do everything in a single go-round, if you are so inclined.
Game is exactly like Risen 2, for good and for bad
Combat is a tad easier this time around
The added mini-map is quite helpful
The naval combat is a frustrating joke, and just not fun
Tons of bugs or not explained content in the game
It offers almost nothing changed from Risen 2
For as much as I liked Risen 2, I felt at odds with Risen 3. Functionally, they appear to be the same game, but Risen 3 just feels like it’s a sloppily made expansion, not a full-fledged sequel. There are some good elements to it, and if you really loved Risen 2, then this game offers more of that to you, but it didn’t feel as unique as Risen 2 ultimately did, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
There are some odd terrain issues, but the game looks fine enough. Some of the designs are goofy, and others are good.
Like Risen 2, but less so. The core elements are decent, if not a bit archaic, but the bugs impact the game a lot
The music is serviceable, as are the sound effects. Good on them for getting most of the voice cast from Risen 2 back
There’s one big choice early in the game, and there are a lot of quests to do, but it can get a tad monotonous.
I honestly just think Risen 2 is a better game. The few improvements are nice, but they are minimized by all the bugs going on.