Frustration, enjoyment, confusion and disappointment. These are the range of emotions I went through as I marched my way through Risen 3: Titan Lords. I never had the opportunity to play the first two games, but they have the reputation of not being well received by the general public. However, I went into Risen 3 with an open mind, hoping to see if the game may actually be the diamond in the rough and send the franchise in the right direction. Is there room for improvement? Can the third game in this franchise make a huge leap of improvements like The Witcher 2, Two Worlds 2 and Gothic 2 did for their respective franchises? Does the saying, “third time is the charm” apply to Risen 3?
Unfortunately no, but Risen 3 was ever so close to being a really good game. I have managed to find quite a bit of enjoyment as I made my way through, and eventually beat, Risen 3, but it was marred by numerous problems. The problems that arose during my playthrough showed that Risen 3 had tons of potential, with a lot of creative ideas, but unfortunately they were poorly implemented or squandered opportunities. For every great idea or feature in the game, there was an issue or problem that accompanied it. Risen 3‘s plot was decent, but the dialogue throughout the game as the plot plays out is kind of vague or sometimes all over the place. The graphics are really nice, but there are numerous lighting effect and random frame rate issues. The game play is the biggest mixed bag, because it’s where the game showcased so much potential.
Risen 3 continues to use the pirate and Titan Lord theme that the previous game, Risen 2: Dark Waters, introduced. The militaristic Inquisition also makes a return, but don’t really contribute anything to the plot aside from just being there. Our story begins with our Hero and his sister landing on an Island, searching for buried treasure. After a brief tutorial, you confront a demon, die, get resurrected and start your quest to regain your soul. That is the best part about the game’s main plot. The rest of the plot involves a pretty cliched “preventing demons from destroying the world” scenario and also seems to borrow heavily from the plot of the third Pirates of the Caribbean film. Thankfully, Risen 3‘s plot is more engaging than the boring popcorn flick it borrows from.
The dialogue and pacing of the plot, however, have much to be desired at times. For the most part, the people who act as plot devices do their part quite adequately, providing you with the details you need to to move through the game. The conversations, on the other hand, are diluted with lots of pointless swearing, pointless conversation pieces that lead nowhere and sometimes spoken words that don’t match the subtitles. The pacing of Risen 3 isn’t helped by the fact that you are practically given half of your major quests the moment you are resurrected, giving you a sense of false urgency. Aside from the main plot, the side quests and interactions with the various islanders you encounter do provide a nice bit of depth and structure for maintaining the game’s Pirate/Caribbean setting.
Risen 3 is a very pretty game, with some sharp detailed visuals and magnificent looking terrain. The islands that you explore are perfect representations of what you should expect from a Caribbean styled world. Each island or shoreline is densely populated with tons of flora that help to capture the tropical feel of the Caribbean. There are numerous ancient structures that look decrepit and neglected, various wildlife that populate the game and bustling towns full of all kinds of personalities. The visuals are incredibly top notch, with wonderful coloring and sharp, pristine detail. Even the bleached white look of the conquered areas of the island that are populated by demons look great, as it gives off an eerie, unholy feeling. There’s also a really well implemented time shifting mechanic between night and day.
Overall, the graphical style of Risen 3 is great, with a small exception to some random frame rate drops and odd lighting. The frame rate seems to only drop when there are gushing rivers or waterfalls nearby. The lighting seems to be all over the place, and leaves me scratching my head. I’ve ventured all over the islands and have found caves that have no signs of a light source suddenly brighten. I’ve walked across an open jungle plain and would see a wall of light in front of me. I’ve also encountered caves, under passages and buildings that were brighter than the night sky with a full glowing moon out. None of these hurt my game play experience at all, but they all seem like random occurrences that probably should have been ironed out.
Playing and interacting in the world of Risen 3 is pretty simple for the most part. The control scheme is pretty easy to get the hang of, and your character does respond well most of the time. By most of the time, I am referring to moments when I would press a button and my character would not respond or the action would be delayed. This mostly happens when trying to use the dash button, which is allocated to the left trigger, and sometimes to the guarding/parry button on the opposite side. Sometimes there is a delay when the action takes place, and this can be very devastating in combat when you miss what you think is a well timed parry. There are also times when I would try casting a spell from the quick menu D-pad. Sometimes I would try to activate a spell and the action would not take place.
Aside from the control issues I have had some problems with the land based combat as well. The animation is way to elaborate, fancy and slow for a game centered around swashbuckling pirates. Beasts, undead beings and other monstrosities have a consistent tendency to interrupt your attacks in the early to mid parts of the game. This was one of the first things I found particularly frustrating about the game. After some leveling up and learning two essential skills from particular trainers, the combat becomes incredibly easy. You could potentially just mash the A Button (or its equivalent) on your controller and you would win most encounters without taking damage. The other issue I have with the combat is the horrible auto targeting system. I have found this to be a complete detriment to fighting monsters, especially when NPC guards or escorts are around. My character would just randomly break off my attacks and lay a hit or two on my allies or nearby neutral animals like ducks.
Other combat issues that arise are the numerous and confusing AI behaviors I come across. Have you ever seen a Crocodile back dash from an incoming attack? I’ve come across huge numbers of monsters where they would all bombard me with attacks from all sides, and then there are times where they just surround you and attack one at a time. The AI problems aren’t limited to just enemies, but are also done by your traveling companion and NPC escorts. I’ve seen my AI partner unwilling to go up a simple set of stairs, but have no problem following me by jumping over jagged rocky terrain.
Outside of this, there are a couple of shining moments of the land based combat. The combat is very twitch based when you come across the stronger guys that force you to either perform a perfect parry or dodge. Stronger enemies later in the game are able to absorb some of your weaker attacks and follow up with their own, forcing you to not mash the attack button. The other shining moment is that you heal yourself by drinking booze. That is correct; rum, cheap liquor and grog are all apparently viable sources of healing yourself in the middle of heated combat. Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud.
There is one final gripe I have with the land combat and that’s the boss battles. There aren’t a lot of them and they are just flat out cheap and devoid of any fun or satisfaction upon victory. The tactics tactics used by the bosses pretty much involve having an endless horde of minions rush you down during the entire battle. Strategy and use of spells are just a waste, as the only viable tactic is to roll around dodging the minions and landing whatever hits you can on the boss until their life is depleted. There will be tons of cheap, frustrating deaths, and when the battle is over there is nothing more than a feeling of irritation.
Outside of combat, the huge remote islands to explore give you lots to do. There’s tons of people to interact, with for either training your skills, trading, or getting quests. There is always something to do. To make it easier, there are way point portals scattered about, but to use them, the game forces you to search for teleporter stones. There are three guild factions, but you can only join one for the sake of the game’s plot. Upon joining the guild, you are given access to learning their class specific spells or abilities, and a bigger ship to travel between the islands.
The other element of gameplay in Risen 3 is the ship combat that only appears a small number of times during the course of the game. This is the part of the game that made me frustrated beyond belief. I said at the beginning that Risen 3 had potential to be a great game but the developers squandered it. The ship combat against the sea monsters is easily the best part of the game, and I wish there was more of that. The ship responds perfectly to your commands, is very easy to maneuver and the wave motion physics are amazing. I also wished they made the game feel like it was truly open world by letting you control the ship on the open sea instead of just selecting a destination on a map. There are also a couple of pirate ship confrontations in the game. Unfortunately, there is no ship to ship maneuvering, just a brief cut-scene, and then you are fighting your enemy sword to sword. No ship to ship combat is another missed opportunity I would’ve loved to have seen. Why make a pirate game if there’s no ship combat? Assassin’s Creed 4 did it, and proved it can be incredibly fun.
Outside of that I did like the other little bits of the game. I like the leveling system, which is very balanced and allows you to create a very unique character to match whatever play style you want. There is a decent crafting and alchemy system in place, and plenty of items for you to create whatever concoctions you want. The game is incredibly lengthy as well, clocking in at about 15-20 hours if you concentrate on the main quest alone. Add in the numerous side quests, and you can add an extra 10-15 hours to you game time. Unfortunately, you would have to do all of that before you beat the game, because this is a one and done deal. Once you beat the game, you can’t continue your journey like you can in Two Worlds 2, Fable 2, or any Elder Scrolls games. Also, Risen 3 commits a cardinal sin by having a horrible, cliched ending, which left me utterly disappointed after an obnoxious and trying final boss battle.
One thing keeps coming back when I think of my experience with Risen 3. So much potential. The combat is up and down, the graphics are nice and appealing, the plot is decent, and the game play is somewhere in the middle. I really enjoyed the ship combat, which was the briefest of segments in the game, and wished the developers had expanded on that. I also wish that the boss battles felt more epic instead of infuriatingly exhausting from playing repetitiously. The multitude of stuff you can do on the side is nice and adds a little to whatever enjoyment you can muster. Overall, I did manage to find some kind of enjoyment during my experience up until I beat the game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Risen 3: Titan Lords is a game that, frankly, will not be the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about action adventures games. It had so much potential to be a really good game that could easily make people forget about the shortcomings of the first two in the franchise, but the developers dropped the ball. The combat and controls are somewhat iffy, I enjoyed the game’s graphics and the plot was a decent one, even if it borrowed from Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Risen 3‘s setting and locations look and feel like proper Caribbean pirate settings, with lots of personality to go around. The game is a decent length before factoring in all the sides quests you can go out and perform. In my honest opinion, I really can’t see myself recommending Risen 3; however, you won’t regret the purchase if you are looking for a decent lengthy Action Adventure game to play.