In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.
Risen (2009) – Xbox 360
The early feedback on Risen has veered between good and bad from the critics, with many citing the many similarities to Fable. If truth be told, this does resemble the Fable games but thankfully there is enough on offer here to make Risen stand well on its own.
The story begins at sea aboard a doomed vessel with the most prominent character being the Inquisitor, who disappears into thin air shortly before a sea monster attacks and sinks the ship. The game’s protagonist – a nameless hero – wakes on the shores of the island of Faranga with the only other survivor from the wreckage being Sara. As our hero explores Faranga he finds that the island is divided between rival groups – followers of the Inquisition and outlaws under the leadership of Don Esteban who found sanctuary in murky swampland. Caught in the middle of these warring parties are simple farmers and settlers in search of a peaceful life. Recently, a series of mysterious events have rocked the island – persistent storms, temples rising from the ground and from within their confines a horde of vicious monsters that have run amok across Faranga.
You will be faced with important decisions as you explore the island. The main choice is deciding between allegiance to Don Esteban’s liberal minded gang, or the intimidating and strict Inquisition. A plethora of quests allow you to raise your prestige amongst your chosen peers and enhance your character’s experience. These verge between such simple tasks as following individuals to new locations, fighting hordes of troublesome creatures or restoring order in dysfunctional communities. Conversations also enhance experience, the best advice being to obtain as much information as you can to help your progress.
Risen’s extensive menus can be tricky to navigate when you first play but they offer some useful information. Your inventory – including everything from the island’s flora and fauna to the loot you plunder from treasure chests and carcasses is listed together or in sub menus dependent on what type of item you are looking for. Many of the items enhance your character but others can be sold or traded for gold and better weapons, armour and other tools. The choices are seemingly endless. Quests are also detailed in the menu with maps pinpointing where you need to be if you ever get lost. The most vital option and one that gives Risen a lot of plaudits is the ability to save whenever you please.
The problems with Risen are the slow loading times and combat system. Whenever your character is killed you can be waiting at least 30 seconds before the game reloads. Helpful advice is offered during this period but it can be testing to the patience if, like me, you are prone to being killed a lot. Combat is difficult to master in the beginning. Not only is timing of the essence but you must be facing your enemy precisely to land successful blows rather than swatting flies. Some enemies have a tendency to side step your advances forcing you to quickly change the camera angle to continue the exchange. Fighting one opponent at a time is the best way forward but at times this won’t be possible and you will have group attacks to contend with where one enemy will keep you occupied while the others land blows against your unguarded side. It’s a tough learning curve and you are likely to be killed many times before you have mastered it. Thankfully, the generous save option does help assuage much potential frustration.
Risen is a very accessible RPG that boasts a rich and varied landscape, a myriad of interesting characters, an intriguing story and plenty of quests. Its accessibility meets the requirements of gamers that want to play for hours at a time and would also suit those who only have time to dip in for a brief spell. Comparisons to Fable are inevitable but if you can judge Risen on its own merits there is a memorable RPG to be unearthed along with the clandestine temples of Faranga.
Final Score: 84%
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