I’ve been in a bit of a gaming slump over the summer and into the fall. Nothing has really caught my attention. I drove a Fallout expansion around the block earlier this summer but it just didn’t stick. I made another run at Guild Wars, buying up the last two releases, Factions and Nightfall, killing a couple of weeks grinding away before sputtering to a stop. Korsakovia was an interesting foray into the Half Life 2 universe without the head crabs but again I stalled. Every little thing in the world has kept me from gaming, including an increased social life, back problems, other techie interests and horror of horrors, work. I noticed that the game Risenwas starting to collect posts over at Tap-Repeatedly’s Bollocks forum. I did a little research and realized that I had read about this game somewhere but had forgotten about it. I was in the mood for an RPG so I went down to the local GameStop last week and bought the only copy they had. I’ve been playing it sort of non-stop since .
Risen is the newest release by game developers Piranha Bytes of Gothic fame. I played Gothic 2 obsessively several years back. I liked it so much I picked up the first game in the series, Gothic. I liked it okay though I never finished it. Still, I bought the much maligned Gothic 3 the day it came out and played it for seemingly forever, though I never did quite finish it. So now we have Risen, which is really a Gothic game in everything but name. After the debacle of Gothic 3 Piranha Bytes lost the rights to the name to their original publisher Jowood. Otherwise Risen would no doubt be named Gothic 4. Piranha Bytes have slowly, and seemingly begrudgingly, upgraded the combat interface over the span of the games until finally you can play with a true mouse/keyboard combo like God meant you to.
The game goes like this. Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You are dumped into a hostile world, lost and weak, with a stick as a weapon. You fight off a few horrible critters as you scurry along a path looking for a safe place to hide. You soon come to understand that something terrible has happened and as a result nasty authoritarian types have descended upon this peaceful island, rudely interrupting the local thugs’ protection rackets. There are two main factions, the Inquisitors (the nasty authoritarian types) and the Bandits (the rudely interrupted thugs). The Inquisitors are further split into Mages and Order Warriors. Bandits have no magic, just swords and hideous armor and magic scrolls and live in a crappy swamp. Mages have Big Magic and robes and staves and later Really Big Magic. The Order Warriors have swords and magic and some nice white armor. Inquisitor types also enjoy swanky digs in town and at the Monastery up on the hill. The rest of the countryside is aswarm with things that want to eat you. This is the same basic template of lots of rpgs, but especially of the Gothic series and very especially of Gothic 2 minus the Orcs, which sadly seem nowhere to be found. Maybe Jowood has them all…
I have spent a lot of time merrily leveling up and putting together a basic survival package of skills that include some low level combat, acrobatics for hard to access places, a crossbow for some ranged attacks, and a bit of pickpocketing for cash flow. The character screens are simple, almost crude in appearance. Inventory, like in all the Gothics, is infinite. You can carry everything you find. All of it. You don’t have to throw anything away. Nothing.
Combat is pretty brutal in places and I’m struggling at level 7. I spend lots of time kiting the mini-mobs and often just run around them, noting their location for future reference. I really like the Gothic games, the wonderful open game world and the relatively tight narrative arc compared to such sloppy bags of guts (story-wise) like Oblivion or Fallout 3. I’m still in Chapter 1 but having a great time and I think about the game during the day when I’m not playing it. That, for me, is the truest sign of a good game.