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No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3

Game Review | August 24, 2014 1:46 pm
Risen 3 is the third game in a line of low profile Euro-RPGs. Not to be all hipster, but unless you're a fan of the genre, you probably haven't heard of it. If you have heard of it, I doubt it was anything impressive. I actually had 2 employees at 2 different GameStops tell me that it wasn't released yet when I was driving around looking for it (the day after it came out). Turned out that they just didn't have it. It wasn't a big enough name for Target, Walmart or Best Buy to have in stock around here, so luckily the last Gamestop I went to (made it there 2 minutes before they closed!) was diligent and found me a copy.

The Risen series is made by the German developer Piranha Bytes, which employs a whopping 20 people. They are the developers behind the Gothic series as well, but not the really shallow and bland Gothic 4, that released on the 360 in 2010. If you've played any of the Risen games, you'll know what to expect going into Risen 3. It's a deep RPG experience full of characters, and choices that actually affect the game and the quests you encounter. It's also... made by a studio of 20 people. And that shows at times. As such, it's an incredibly hard game to assign a score to, because you can't really expect the same output from a studio like Piranha Bytes as you can from Bethesda, who has hundreds of people working on every aspect of their games. But you can hope that what is eventually released from said small studio is polished and clean, and a game that they would be proud to have their names on.

So... with that said, time for the review.


But first, a quiz... which of these screenshots is from Risen in 2009, and which is from Risen 3 in 2014? Can't tell? Yeah, it's tough.

The first thing you notice when you start up Risen 3 is that the graphics and art continues the tradition of being garbage. I can't really sugar coat that in any way. The ground looks like it's covered in multicolored vomit, and it's ridiculously hard to discern where items are on the ground. The water (which actually has waves, wheee!) is completely clear and gives the impression that you're swimming in clear gelatin. I don't know why, but this bothered me. Character models look basically the same as the first two games, although there have been some minimal improvements. While the backgrounds are pretty during movie sequences, the character models are terrible, they are all wrinkled and bloated looking, and it looks like their eyes are blacked out and their teeth are rotted and missing. Maybe that was intentional, like a "yo ho ho, we're dirty pirate scumbags," aesthetic, but if that was the case, referring to it in some way during the dialogue would have been the way to go. Meanwhile, it was very common for pieces of the game to not load at all as the environment loaded up, leading to many floating torsos or staircases into oblivion. Sometimes there was nothing but a blue screen.


Ummm... we were talking and this happened. Time to lay off the rum.


Sometimes people's heads floated in your field of vision, giving you a grotesque look at the inside of their bodies. Sometimes walls didn't load until you walked into them, and then you were stuck in them and had to teleport to be able to move. The jungle area was so overloaded with poorly done bushes that it was tough to see where you were supposed to walk along the walkways up in the trees, and it was easy to just walk off, and end up crumpled on the ground in a dead heap. I could go on and on, but I feel like I'm nitpicking at this point, when the larger issue has been pointed out.


Chattery teeth...


The bottom line is, I have skewered games for graphics when they were light years better than this. Not just the fact that they look comparable to PS2 or original xbox graphics, but the fact that as bad as they are, they still are riddled with glitches. The only games that this game looks better than are the 2 other Risens, and maybe the first Two Worlds. Possibly Divinity 2. See a pattern here?

So graphics aside (because no one really plays this genre to be amazed by graphics, and because often graphics are just the price developers pay to make a game this big), let's discuss the plot. Well, I'm not sure, but maybe this is the area where finishing the 2nd game would have helped me. In the first two Risens, you play as an unnamed, silent hero whose interests often align with the pirate Steelbeard and his daughter Patty (haha, I know, right? Patty... Ugh). A lot of the dialogue between Patty and the hero in the first 2 games is basically trying to get into her pirate breeches, and being shot down. In the third game, it seems like more of the same, as you begin play as your nondescript white guy protagonist. The banter seems flirty and light as you and Patty begin to explore an island. Except- weirdly- she keeps referring to you as "dearest brother." Wait, what?? Did you figure out at the end of the second part of the trilogy that you're brother and sister? Serious Star Wars déjà vu. Then your character and Patty start talking about Steelbeard and calling him father. What is this shit? Apparently, for some unknown reason, the hero of the first two games was abandoned and you now play as a new character. No idea if this was explained at the end of Risen 2 or not, but it is not even touched upon in this one. You just play as a lookalike for the previous main character, which actually begs the question- why?

If Piranha Bytes was going to bring in a new character for the third installment, why make him look the same as the first guy? Since he's basically a generic character, why not do some kind of customization, or even just allow players to choose from multiple character options? This is a huge missed opportunity for the developers, as they have been accused of misogyny in the past (none of their games have had a playable female character, although I will say that even with Patty's breasts on display, she's still a very strong female character who doesn't like to be sexualized) and even just giving the option to play as Patty's never before mentioned sister would have gone a long way towards helping their image.

But I digress- on to the plot. It's not the worst part of the game. Your soul is stripped from you but you're brought back from the dead and sent on a quest to recover your humanity and save the southern seas from a pirate army threat (and yes, you read that right, pirate stuff takes up over 1/2 of this "back to medieval" game). It isn't the most original premise, but it's written decently, and the dialogue can be downright witty and enjoyable in parts. There is liberal use of the f word in the strangest places, which I'm sophomoric enough to get a kick out of still, and strangely, the word tits is used a noticeable amount (and not always when referring to the female anatomy). It entertains me in the same way the made up slang in Adventure Time is entertaining- a combination of not taking itself too seriously and the amusement from something that seems so completely out of place.


Yup, no pirates here!


There are many characters who join your crew throughout the game, and each has partner quests to do as you progress. They help to develop the characters a little, and add personality to the game. It's a nice touch, as the other characters are mostly interesting, and the quests help you level your character as well.

The biggest problem with Risen 3 is the gameplay. Aside from the great addition (finally) of a really helpful map, it's a mess. The controls were mapped poorly, and it's hard to get used to what each button did. Even after over 30 hours of playing it, I still found myself putting my weapon away when I meant to block. Instead of mapping items to the d-pad and the X-Y-B-A buttons, everything was mapped to the d-pad, with half the items on diagonals. It made it tough to select the correct items or magic on the fly, especially when the game lagged- which it did anytime there were more than 2 enemies on the screen... and often when there were no enemies at all. Walking in the game in certain areas was like watching a YouTube video on a bad connection with no buffer. Step step step PAUSE. Step step step PAUSE. The mini games are actually easy to master and fairly fun (my 11 year old kicked my butt at the drinking game on his first try), but that's the only part of the game that doesn't feel like slogging through garbage. It's so irritating, because at some point you actually get used to the jerky lag and just accept it, but the controls never get less cumbersome.

Thanks to the controls, the combat is clunky and even unwieldy. Although the enemies strike with quick precision, often knocking you back and interrupting your attack, you make huge flourishy sword strikes, and rarely interrupt or knock an enemy down. During combat, enemies can easily block, and transition straight into an attack, leaving you wide open as you are mostly likely in the middle of a heavy attack charge in an attempt to break their guard. Most of combat will boil down to memorizing their attack pattern and just blocking until they get through it. When you're surrounded by enemies, you may find yourself unable to get a hit off so blocking while your NPC partner attacks becomes how you spend most of your time.

Again, I could go on and on, but it just boils down to botched execution. While the combat in Risen 1 was clunky to the point of being off-putting, the combat in Risen 3 is- if anything- worse. And it really shows when you're fighting the two major bosses who spawn endless enemies to fight with them and have a time based self healing system. Rather than continue harping on it, allow me to present a brief combat video.




Also, if it isn't clear from the video, the controller is mapped so that one handed play is truly impossible. You can move or you can fight, but you can't do both with one hand. Not exactly an issue except if you want to record a video, haha. Donations are being taken for the "Get Kat a Capture Card" charity. :p


NO WONDER combat is so bad!!! You haven't got a brain!!!


The sound is fine, I don't know- it's not a phenomenal soundtrack but it's not awful either. It has its moments, but it's mostly just not memorable at all. One thing that IS memorable is the terribad voice acting for most of the cast. Just about everyone you come across is either a bad actor (looking at you, Jar-Jar Gnome!) or, in the case of the player hero, completely miscast. It's jarring at best, and grating most of the time. Special mention needs to go out for the character who brought you back to life, Bones. Oh, Bones, I didn't know what to expect a white guy who looked like a cross between one of the native tribes-people in the game and Floki from Vikings to sound like, but the first time you opened your mouth and shouted at the top of your lungs with a very formal English accent, I know THAT wasn't it. Especially when contrasted with our soft spoken hero. I dropped him as soon as I got another follower to choose, and never looked back!

The game clocks in at around 30 hours, if you nab most of the side quests, probably 40 if you get them all. It's a meaty game, and it's full of quests. It may seem bogged down with quests to some people, but for people who love these kinds of games, the quests are what we're here for. Talking to people, exploring, reading books- all of these activities will give you quests. I missed a lot of bedtime cutoffs while I was playing because I was just going to "finish this one quest," and ended up starting another first and branching off. I loved it. There are so many choices, faction options, morality decisions, etc... it really hit the mark in an area that other games have tried and failed to do well. The minute I finished the game I restarted it, because I wanted to keep playing (and there's no new game plus option- *grumble grumble*) The world is really darn big, and thanks to the new "parrot magic" addition, flying around exploring is really fun. These are the parts of the game that I want to keep in my memory and these are the parts of the game that I wish I was reviewing, but unfortunately the rest of the game was along for the ride.

TL;DR- While I want to cut Piranha Bytes some slack for being such a small developer, there's only so much leeway that you can give and still be rating it objectively. This is a really fun game with a lot of great ideas and additions, but it's totally eclipsed by developer missteps and bad decisions. If you can't make a game that can handle more than 3 enemies at a time, never ending enemies spawning in a boss fight is probably a bad idea. Many parts of this game were glitched, which worked both for me and against me during my play through. The controls are poorly mapped, and clunky, and the decent script is overshadowed by the fact that the voice acting is a joke for most of the cast. Most disappointing, the pirate theme dominates most of the game, and there's a return to voodoo, aka the weakest part of the second game.

Graphics- 4/10
Plot- 5/10
Gameplay- 1/10
Audio- 3/10
Length/Replay Value- 9/10
Total Score- 4.5


Kat's genre score- 8/10. Since these ERPG games are basically my favorite things in the world, after cinnamon toast and cheese wontons, it seemed fitting that I give it a score that would apply to other people like me (there's gotta be some). This is a very solid entry to the genre, and easily outshines every other game like it for 360 except for one- the Witcher 2. The depth of the plot, the sheer size of the world, the number of side quests, and the entertaining characters you play alongside make it definitely #2 on my list. Considering the size of the developer, it's an impressive game, and although I am deeply disappointed that this isn't going to be more of a mainstream hit, it's a definite must play for fans of the genre.

Finally, a note about achievements: they are mostly obtainable in a single play through, although the ones that are not will require a large amount of time to mop up. The first playthrough should net you close to 800 points, though.
Rating: 4.5 of 10
Keywords: None

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Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Great review, Kat.

This article has confirmed my suspicion (and several warnings from other members) that I should stay clear of this game.



Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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I've never enjoyed the risen series, but the story kind of sounds like kingdoms of amalur lol.


great review btw
Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Another awesome review, Kat.

...I think.

Honestly, I started reading and all I got was "Patty.... in her pants.... breasts on display... tits" and then I had to go do something in the restroom for 3 minutes.

But after I clean up I am going to copy the review to a Word doc so I can get rid of all those distracting sexy words and see what you actually had to say about the game.
Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Man that step step PAUSE thing would drive me bonkers. Did you have the game installed? is there anyway possible that it was somehow your fault and/or something you did?

Because I really wanted this game to be their breakout hit. And I wanted it to be good enough to take me away from Bound by Flame when I'm not Diablo'ing.
Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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You would rate this higher then Fable, Divinity 2 or Kingdoms of Amalur? Really? When the three biggest problems with your game are the graphics, gameplay and story you are not off to a good start.
Re: Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Quote by Vermillion Haze:


You would rate this higher then Fable, Divinity 2 or Kingdoms of Amalur? Really? When the three biggest problems with your game are the graphics, gameplay and story you are not off to a good start.



I didn't say anything about fable or KoA in the review. Obviously, they are rated higher than this game. I've actually written a review for KoA for this site. They aren't in the same genre as Risen so they aren't included in the genre specific rating.

As far as Divinity 2, it has all the same issues as Risen 3, but it's smaller, not as deep, and has the godawful dragon parts. So yeah, it's ranked below this.

Meta- I played most of it uninstalled. I did install it and it didn't fix it. And I've read other people talk about the jerkiness. It isn't everywhere, just certain towns, and you get kind of used to it. But unless I just got a faulty disc I don't think it's my fault lol.
Re: Re: Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Quote by Kat:



Quote by Vermillion Haze:


You would rate this higher then Fable, Divinity 2 or Kingdoms of Amalur? Really? When the three biggest problems with your game are the graphics, gameplay and story you are not off to a good start.



I didn't say anything about fable or KoA in the review. Obviously, they are rated higher than this game. I've actually written a review for KoA for this site. They aren't in the same genre as Risen so they aren't included in the genre specific rating.

As far as Divinity 2, it has all the same issues as Risen 3, but it's smaller, not as deep, and has the godawful dragon parts. So yeah, it's ranked below this.

Meta- I played most of it uninstalled. I did install it and it didn't fix it. And I've read other people talk about the jerkiness. It isn't everywhere, just certain towns, and you get kind of used to it. But unless I just got a faulty disc I don't think it's my fault lol.



I'm a bit confused about the genre. "Euro friendly rpg?" Wouldn't Two Worlds 2 also be included then? It looked and played far better then this did IMO. I will say it's much better then the first two games which were completely unplayable. Which is a shame since the older Gothic games were great.
Re: Re: Re: Re: No More Pirates: Kat Reviews Risen 3
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Quote by Vermillion Haze:



Quote by Kat:




I didn't say anything about fable or KoA in the review. Obviously, they are rated higher than this game. I've actually written a review for KoA for this site. They aren't in the same genre as Risen so they aren't included in the genre specific rating.

As far as Divinity 2, it has all the same issues as Risen 3, but it's smaller, not as deep, and has the godawful dragon parts. So yeah, it's ranked below this.

Meta- I played most of it uninstalled. I did install it and it didn't fix it. And I've read other people talk about the jerkiness. It isn't everywhere, just certain towns, and you get kind of used to it. But unless I just got a faulty disc I don't think it's my fault lol.



I'm a bit confused about the genre. "Euro friendly rpg?" Wouldn't Two Worlds 2 also be included then? It looked and played far better then this did IMO. I will say it's much better then the first two games which were completely unplayable. Which is a shame since the older Gothic games were great.



Just euro rpg. I use it to refer to the open world RPGs made in small Eastern European companies. Risen, Gothic, two worlds, divinity etc.

And no. Two worlds 2 was shit. Two worlds 1 was a far better game. It may have been technically better than risen 3 (and yes, I did give it a better review score- I think like- 5.5 vs 4.5) but it was soulless and bland. And the multiplayer was a waste of resources that could have been spent improving the sp. Ugh I hated two worlds 2. It made me so mad.

And while the first 2 games were disappointing, I wouldn't say unplayable. Well- actually I'd probably describe risen 2 that way.
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This user introduced himself or herself in the Introduce Yourself forum.

Googler
Googler

This user used the Xbox America search bar.

Gamercard Lover
Gamercard Lover

This user has posted one of his or her official Xbox America gamercards on another website.

Speaking of Two Worlds 2, I still have to go back and maybe finish some more of it. Like Kat said, it's not very good.
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Resist.