Risen Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

So often, it’s graphical quality that’s seen as the instigator for immersion in a game world, but there’s other aspects that can drag you out of the real world and into imagined ones, take Risen for example.

Risen has an abundance of visual issues: the framerate falters, the pop up is shocking for a contemporary game, textures are horrifically blurry and, aesthetically speaking, there’s just not much in the way of general detail in the island of Faranga. There is the occasional flourish of beauty, such as glorious sunsets, flowing waterfalls and sunlight filtering through trees to admire, but overall what could have been an awe inspiring setting and a strong imitation of natural beauty is held back by the games weak visual quality.

In spite of this, because of the strength of the story and characterization and the rich detail in the island, Faranga feels alive, and this rises above the poor graphics to make you feel as if you’re a significant part of that world (I’m still there now, so just let me collect my thoughts), especially since you’re given a number of morality choices throughout, of which can affect the islands denizens, be it positively or adversely.

Risen starts with the unnamed hero being shipwrecked and washed up on the island of Faranga, and so begins your epic journey. The island is huge, but eventually you’ll be able to teleport around it, by seeking out teleport stones. There’s also a generous helping of quests, which often offer mini stories and talking to the many people can be amusing, as the game has a likeable sense of humour and the script and voice acting are largely strong, whilst the story itself is engaging.

Faranga is also home to all kinds of different beasties. The combat system itself isn’t anything extraordinary and in truth can feel a bit unwieldy and unfair, especially when you have to contend with a group of enemies, who can quickly surround you and then proceed to empty your health bar, but many will be pleased that more than just button bashing is required to see them through many of the fights. It also does its job well of allowing you to grow stronger through levelling up, as well as acquiring items and weapons from the fallen bodies of your enemies, which, as always, is an engaging process and perhaps every bit as important as the quality of the combat system on offer.

You don’t choose your class at the beginning of the game, instead you must reach a certain point within the story, choosing the faction you want to join before you’re able to change it. In Risen, the classes don’t always have to have obvious strengths and weaknesses and they can all wield the same weapons, albeit of varying skill. It’s really up to you of how you want to shape your character. Mages can be physically strong and warriors can be mentally adept, it’s completely your call.

Levelling up doesn‘t immediately reward you with an increase in your stats, but instead you gain learning points, of which only can be spent by talking to trainers, some of which allow you to increase your proficiency with certain weapons, others allow you to learn new abilities including mining and alchemy, and finally some of them, of course, give those good old stats a boost.

The interface is a bit fiddly and even after sinking tens of hours into the game, I still never felt like I was in perfect harmony with its somewhat clunky ways. The different menus are all accessed through the d-pad, of which essentially pauses the game, allowing you the uninterrupted gulping down of potions and such. You’re also able to hotkey items and magic to a combination of the left trigger and the d-pad for quick access, though this doesn’t have the benefit of pausing the game, often leaving you attacked by enemies and choking on your potions.

Combine the problematic menus with frustrating combat that can feel unfair due to its issues, visuals that are more or less like a relic from fifteen years ago and result in your initial island exploits on Faranga feeling distinctly unappealing. But get past all that and spend just a little time on the island, as chatting with the locals and gaining knowledge of your surroundings is a fascinating prospect and after doing so, some people will forget about such design deficiencies, which doesn’t, of course, make such shoddy work acceptable, but it does soften the blow somewhat. Partnered with all the levelling up and loot collecting, Risen is an absorbing and substantial game, but, due to its problems, is also little more than an average one. Sadly, such issues conceal what so easily could have been an excellent adventure that could have “risen” to the majestic levels of Oblivion.