Platform: PC, Xbox 360
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 10/05/09
EU 10/02/09

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I think I could get used to living here.
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Be your own blacksmith.
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Will you be my neighbor?
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If your nostrils were this big, you'd obsessively pick your nose too.
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
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Dennis Rubinshteyn

On August 5th, publisher Deep Silver put together a press event in New York to showcase upcoming titles on various platforms. One of the titles showed was Risen, an Action RPG from German developer Piranha Bytes (Gothic series) for the Xbox 360 and PC. We at RPGFan took a look at the up-and-coming action RPG, and it left some impressions.

Long ago, there was a strange cataclysm that caused all the gods to be wiped out. Sometime afterwards, ancient temples began to pop up in a volcanic island that caused the creatures to go wild, and the volcano frequently began to tremor. A group called the Inquisitors took interest in these series of events and set sail to investigate the island. Before the ship reaches its destination, a storm destroys the ship. You play a nameless protagonist who is a survivor of that shipwreck, and you find yourself caught between three factions: bandits, mages, and the Inquisitors stationed there. Your actions on this island will determine its fate along with the people inhabiting it.

The visuals are solid, pushing the limits of their respective platforms. The entire game has a strong, organic look and the island is large with lots of things for the players to see. On top of that, transitions from place to place are seamless so there are no loading times to interfere with the scenery. Not satisfied with just high-quality visuals, the developers added extra things for the sake of immersion. Fine touches such as leaves rustling in the wind or clouds shifting to change the weather makes the game feel more lifelike.

Kai Rosenkranz serves as audio director for the game, using a lot of ambient tunes and serene melodies to set the tone for the game. There isn't much music present in the game, but the songs played tend to be easygoing, using instruments such as flutes and guitars to fit with the tropical setting. In addition, the game contains full voice acting with lots of dialogue on top of it. The cast includes Andy Serkis and John Rhys-Davies, both of Lord of the Rings fame (Gollum and Gimli, respectively). Neither actor is a stranger to gaming; Serkis worked on the PS3 title Heavenly Sword, and Rhys-Davies has credits going as far back as Sierra's Quest For Glory IV.

As far as Action RPGs go, the combat is straightforward. You can choose from a variety of different weapons to hack and slash your way through foes; you also have an array of magic to choose from. Aside from your typical fire and ice spells, you can have a plethora of more interesting spells such as levitation, telekinesis, shape shifting, pet summoning and even persuasion abilities to crack better jokes. To make it easier, there are shortcut keys to utilize your various abilities and items on the fly.

The customization aspect also slightly differs from various other Western RPGs. Rather than a character generator to pre-determine your build, your character evolves based on the actions taken. Each weapon and magic type have their own magic class and you get more proficient depending on what you use most throughout the game. Aside from combat, your hero can take up a craft such as smithing or alchemy to create useful items for the journey. You learn a craft by finding a master of the profession you want, and then getting the right materials to create whatever you like. The more devoted you are to one craft, the higher level you get in that same craft. In other words, it's a pretty straightforward leveling system.

To ensure replay value for the game, each faction has their own series of quests and their own story paths to follow. The quest themselves are the usual item-fetching, target-slaying objectives that RPG fans are used to, but the game rewards you well. Joining a faction early on does not set things in stone. Faction NPCs can capture you, force you to join their side or, later on, you can choose to be with another faction if you so desire. Despite factions playing a major role in the game, you don't even have to choose any of them, and can forge your own path.

Risen has good aesthetics and solid gameplay that is also easy to get into. Deep Silver boasts that the game will have up to 60+ hours of gameplay, and that is for the main story alone. Risen shows promise and we at RPGFan will give you the final verdict after its release, which is currently set for the first week of October.


© 2009 Deep Silver, Piranha Bytes. All rights reserved.

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