With titles like The Witcher 3, Bloodborne and the Elder Scrolls series dominating the RPG genre, it’s becoming harder for mid-sized developers to gain any traction. Not every game can be neatly categorized as either a multi-million dollar AAA or an off-the-wall indie production. Most titles fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. Styx: Master of Shadows and Bound by Flame are perfect examples of recent games that received little acclaim despite offering solid experiences. The same can be said for most titles created by Piranha Bytes.
Piranha Bytes games may be technically messy and narratively disjointed, but they carry a certain nostalgic allure that makes them enjoyable in spite of these problems. While the Gothic series has received decent critical praise, Risen has gained very few followers since its 2009 release. The first Risen was met with generally favorable scores, but the sequel withered away its potential with questionable design and uninteresting characters.
Last year’s Risen 3: Titan Lords received mixed reviews from media and fans. The PC version provided a surprisingly solid experience, but was a technical mess on consoles. Hoping to reclaim their console fanbase, Piranha Bytes is re-releasing Risen 3 for the next generation with improved graphics and all previously offered DLC. While still a far cry from a great game, Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition on the Playstation 4 is a fun distraction until another Witcher-type behemoth comes along. Just make sure your expectations aren’t set too high.
"While still a far cry from a great game, Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition on the Playstation 4 is a fun distraction until another Witcher-type behemoth comes along."
Piranha Bytes has an odd sense of humor that’s oftentimes overbearingly cliché. Risen 3 bolsters satirical dialogue with coherent storytelling to provide some needed balance. You play a nameless swashbuckling warrior who’s been deprived of his soul by mysterious underworldly shadows. Foul-mouthed quirky characters and the refreshingly self-aware protagonist give the otherwise uninspired narrative more substance and variety.
After being resurrected by a charismatic voodoo doctor, you set out to find answers and rid the world of darkness. While the plot drowns in fantasy RPG banalities, Risen’s diverse and massive world is unexpectedly immersive and a joy to explore. Much like its predecessors, Risen 3 shines in its openness and (almost) endless adventuring. Nearly every character you meet has a quest to offer and each island carries boundless treasures and collectibles.
As far as combat goes, Risen 3 may be more refined than any previous Piranha Bytes release, but it’s still dull and repetitive. Sword attacks have a nice rhythm to them, but they lack weight and accuracy. When surrounded by several enemies, it’s difficult to attack specific opponents without feeling like you’re just swinging around and hoping for the strikes to connect. It gets easier as your character levels up, but enemy encounters never feel satisfying. Blocking is erratic, resulting in constant dodge maneuvers where your character hilariously rolls around the environment. Even so, Risen’s action is still entrancing. The gameplay has that charming nostalgic vibe capable of masking faults.
"Piranha Bytes has an odd sense of humor that’s oftentimes overbearingly cliché. Risen 3 bolsters satirical dialogue with coherent storytelling to provide some needed balance."
Another one of my main issues is the game’s poor quest management. It’s a real pain to track quests because you can track only one objective at a time. Adding the ability to select several missions that take place in the same environment would prevent a lot of backtracking. It’s a simple but fundamental fix that would have made a world of difference.
Presentation has never been the developer’s strength, but Risen 3 is a vast improvement over its rough predecessors. The PS4 version is leaps and bounds beyond its PS3 brethren, and the relatively consistent 60fps makes navigation and combat notably smoother. Spectacular creatures populate islands dense with colorful vegetation. The character models are a huge improvement over the stiff looking atrocities of earlier Risen games, but the animations could still use a bit of work. The voice acting fits in the it’s-so-bad-it’s-good category. Side-characters, like the bizarre voodoo doctor companion, are all the more memorable for their over-the-top performances. Risen 3 clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the hilarious conversations do a wonderful job of reminding players to venture through the world with an open mind.
"The PS4 version is leaps and bounds beyond its PS3 brethren, and the relatively consistent 60fps makes navigation and combat notably smoother."
The Enhanced Edition of Risen 3 doesn’t add much beyond technical polish, but it’s still a much better experience than last year’s console release. If you have a choice, the PC version is still the clear winner. With the recent 64-bit update, Risen 3 on the PC is the true Enhanced Edition, and it can be acquired at a much lower price. But if the Playstation 4 is your only choice, then Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition is definitely worth checking out if you’re thirsting for more open-world adventuring and mindless swashbuckling.
Review by: Tin Salamunic