Risen 3: Titan Lords Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 2 years ago
The Risen franchise has always been a bit hit-and-miss with gamers. There are some who absolutely adore Risen and Risen 2: Dark Waters, and yet their “rough around the edges” feel have completely repelled others. RPG’s thrive when players are given a vast, open and beautiful world with plenty to do, but if that’s bland and boring, then the game will simply fall flat. Piranha Bytes have promised to go back to the roots in their latest foray into their series, Risen 3: Titan Lords, but how much have they delivered on that promise? Is this a swashbuckling adventure worth spending your time in? Or should it be washed away, never to be heard from again?

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While not the most engaging story out there, Risen 3 presents us with a tale that has you seeking out your own spirit which has been taken from you by one of the Shadow Lords of the underworld. The evil shadows have brought chaos to the surrounding lands and all factions are doing what they can to stop the threat. After a relatively short tutorial quest, the real story begins and you are given free rein to do as you please. An important aspect of any RPG is an exciting and varied world, and Risen 3 delivers that fairly well. Previous instalments were not all that great in the graphics department, and while the actual look of the game isn’t everything, it certainly helps to create a good first impression. A number of islands are ripe for exploration once you gain control of your first ship and each has its own unique look to it. Whether you are meandering through the bright jungles of Kila or hiking up to the dark Citadel of Calador, the locations are varied enough to keep you interested. Although the graphics are probably below average at this stage of the Xbox 360’s lifespan, there were still moments of admiration when adventuring through the world. The game looks particularly good when roaming around the jungle/beach environments in the daytime and the sea effects look relatively realistic.

Every RPG lover revels in a good quest and Risen 3 delivers them in bucket loads. As soon as you set foot on whatever island you pick first, you will more than likely find someone awaiting your arrival with a task to complete. Almost every person you talk to in the game has a quest of some sort for you to take on so you’re never short of things to do. You may be on course with completing a long questline when you come across a secret area with an NPC in a spot of bother. This shows that the world is alive with people and not an empty plot of land. There were a few times when conversing with someone brought up a piece of dialogue about a forgotten quest, though, so there is a fine line between giving you a lot to do and bombarding you with too many random objectives. Risen 3 does manage to steer just clear of that, thankfully, and while the world isn’t as big as the likes of The Elder Scrolls, it’s brimming with monsters and rewards.

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Factions return to the franchise and you are given the choice as to which one to pick in your battle with the shadows in the ravaged land. The Demon Hunters, Guardians and Voodoo Pirates all offer different benefits if you decide to side with them, but obviously you can’t go in too deep with every single one. The premise of Risen 3 is that depending on which faction you pick, the outcome of quests will be different and the idea of choice is paramount to the experience. This reviewer went with the Demon Hunters because it’s hard to resist the title of someone who slaughters demons. Upon entering other faction areas like the Guardians' headquarters, they will acknowledge your identity as being that of another faction so conversation will alter because of that. However, the overall questing doesn’t seem affected all that much and you’ll still be able to perform similar tasks for them apart from becoming a high rank in that faction.

As with other Risen games, Risen 3 has chosen to go with more tactical gameplay rather than the “all guns blazing” type. Whether you are slashing your sword or casting powerful spells at your foes, you will need to think about how to approach each monster. When the game begins, it will teach you the basics with fighting and how to parry/dodge. Mastering these techniques is the key to success in Risen 3. Unless you are overleveled, death will come swiftly if you slash your sword without thinking. Dodging an enemy attack and staggering it will be needed due to how minimal your health is. Succumbing to multiple hits at once will kill you so you must be on your toes. Dodging seems to be the best method of doing this, though, as an enemy can easily penetrate your guard after a second or third hit which is rather frustrating.

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Thankfully, a companion is able to accompany you wherever you go and they are an absolute godsend. Throughout your adventure, you will acquire crew members for your ship and can take one of them with you at any given time. While battling with shadow minions or other nasties, your crew mate will also slash away and hopefully stop you from getting slaughtered. The first companion, Bones, is extremely useful as he heals you in times of need (which is sorely needed in a Risen game).

Alongside the lacklustre graphics, the approach to gameplay is off-putting as patience is needed to overcome obstacles. However, as you gain more skills and better weapons, it is a lot more manageable than the hard first hours would indicate. Of course, magic is also an option and you can assign different spell scrolls to your character. To become a fully fortified mage, though, you'll need to make your way through a fair amount of quests and sword battles.

What works well in Risen 3 is the Glory system. Instead of gaining XP and leveling up like many RPG’s of today, you will gain “glory” every time you complete a quest or kill a monster. This glory is then used to increase all of your skills. With each level gained of a particular skill, even more glory is needed to get to the next level. Like many modern RPGs, you are then never tied down to a particular playstyle or class; you can choose to go down a specific path and increase the power of your spells or swords, or even dabble in a bit of both. It helps to add a bit of diversity but, if you want to become a master swordsman, you will have to sacrifice points in the Magic stat to be able to do this. Nonetheless, it's a good system and every creature killed and quest completed is useful as all glory is precious. It can be irritating when doing something so under your level that it gives no reward, but everything in Risen 3 helps you to get more powerful in some form, so it’s good that quests abound in the Southern Seas.

Skill Instructors also make a return this time around. On your travels, you'll find many, many people who are willing to teach you a thing or two if you have the gold for it. It's almost overwhelming how many things there are to learn, but you can easily pick and choose what you want. There are useful perks to purchase like increasing your toughness to last longer in battle but I found myself glossing over the majority of the others and keeping my gold for more important things.

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Since Risen 3 follows a similar route to the other games, the achievements do as well. Many feel that the list looks like a "copy and paste" job from Risen 2. There are plenty of achievements to complete various quests that are scattered around the world, as well as ones that encourage exploration. Overall, you will need to get a lot out of the game to acquire all achievements. Additionally, there are two pre-order DLC's which add two achievements to boost the list up to fifty-two. Multiple playthroughs and manipulating saves are probably required due to the need to raise all of your skills to the max and join each faction. So if you aren't a fan of replaying or grinding, you may have a tough time completing the list.

Although Risen 3 doesn't have to perform with high-end graphics, it still isn't a technical marvel. Buildings and landscapes regularly fade into review in peculiar ways and the framerate drops whenever the game auto-saves. Thankfully, these aren't game-breaking and shouldn't spoil your experience too much. However, the game did decide to crash right at the very start without any way of getting out of it other than dashboarding. One particular cave also caused the framerate to drop severely, to the extent that the game couldn't swiftly respond to button presses. The only fix was to move out of the affected area until the framerate returned to normal. These glitches were only one-time occurrences, though.

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When taking a step back and looking at Risen 3, it's not a bad game. There are plenty of quests to do and an interesting leveling system. However, it isn't quite up to par with games on this side of the Xbox 360's lifespan. The combat may frustrate some and its presentation is slightly dated. For those who were fans of the other Risen games, there's no reason not to enjoy this instalment. While there are a number of features to mix up the series, as well as fun pirate action with a ship, it may be hard to impress people new to the series, unless you are a huge fan of RPG's. Make no mistake, it's a valiant effort at creating another fantasy adventure, but if you're waiting for a fantastic RPG to spend your hard-earned money on, it will probably be best to wait for another month or two.
3 / 5
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 13 hours sailing the seas, vanquishing monsters and completing many quests, while obtaining 17 of the game's 52 achievements. A copy was provided courtesy of the publisher.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.