If you ask most gamers to think back to ‘that one game’, the one that captures their imagination to this day, that they can play again and a gain – and do replay every year without fail, they will quickly come up with one. Perhaps not their first, nor their favorite, it is a game that holds a very special place in their heart for some reason or other.
So I consider myself fortunate that I immediately have two games that spring to mind. Star Wars Jedi Knight 2 and Gothic 2. It is interesting that despite gaming for over 30 years now, my ‘touchstone’ games are both from this decade. As with most things, we always hope that new games will recapture that same feeling – but neither Jedi Academy nor Gothic 3 lived up to their predecessors, and I particularly remember the community disappointment over Dungeon Lords, a game that promised to deliver an experience that the developer claimed was ‘born out of inspiration from classic RPG’s and modern classics such as the Jedi Knight and Gothic games’.
So it was with some trepidation that I invested a significant hope in the new release from Gothic developer Piranha Bytes called ‘Risen’. While I will be providing a full review in the coming weeks, Risen is a huge game that will take me dozens of hours to finish – and likely more due to my ‘completist’ mentality and need to replay as all three main class types, so I wanted to give some initial thoughts. Read on to find out more.
The basics of Risen will be familiar to fans of the Gothic series: nameless male hero, stranded and powerless to start, finds himself suddenly thrust into not only local and regional conflicts but also significant far-reaching turmoil. The game is a third person semi-open world concept similar to the earlier Gothic games, and while there isn’t a structured class choice you make fro the outset, choices you make will determine which ‘faction’ you join and that will in turn impact the final character class. Regardless of choices, every character needs some sort of melee and ranged weapon skills.
Let’s look at a few details.
Terrible Product Launch!
Marketing 101 pretty much says that if a prospective customer can’t get their hands on your product they will buy something else. Risen launched October 2nd worldwide, and I had pre-ordered the game several months ago, yet my pre-order still hasn’t arrived. Instead I missed out on the $40 retail price as well as the 10% pre-order discount for the digital version from Steam and paid the full $50 to get my Steam version on October 2nd when it was clear I wouldn’t have my retail copy that weekend.
Gothic 3 was a very nice looking game, using a custom engine but much of the same ‘middleware’ for making trees and other objects that other open world games use. But the performance was horrendous and the compromises needed to optimize the game were just that – compromises. So I was thrilled that Risen looks better than Gothic 3 while also performing better on the same system!
Kai Rosenkranz is one of my favorite game composers, and I mark the music that plays as I wander Khorinis in Gothic 2 amongst my all-time favorites. KaiRo, as he is called, doesn’t plow into the pomp and bombast he delivered for Gothic 3 very often this time, sticking with a smaller bunch of low-frequency drone and percussion instruments to complement his melodic choices. The result is a more intimate feel, but still a great soundtrack that is classic KaiRo!
From the moment I was wandering the world and found that I could use the Q & E keys to turn and leave the mouse alone for a good chunk of the time, I felt like I had gone home to the classic feel of Gothic 2. The names and enemies have all been changed, of course, but the there is definitely the same feel – but in a good way. Combat has been optimized and works much better than in Gothic 3. There are choices and consequences and you can actually make other characters mad at you to the point where they won’t deal with you anymore!
While I have done loads of reviews and previews through the years, I’ve never really don first impressions of a game. Yet as soon as I started playing Risen I wanted to climb to the roof and shout about this wonderful experience. There are a few minor issues I’ve seen so far, and I’m sure there will be more before I finish – but I’ll talk about that in the review.
For now, if you are a fan of open-world style games such as the Gothic games of Oblivion (or Morrowind), head on over to a digital download site such as Steam and grab the demo of Risen and check it out for yourself. You could also head to GoodOldGames to check out Gothic 1 & 2 if you missed those classics!