Article first published as PlayStation 3 Review: ‘Risen 3: Titan Lords’ on Blogcritics.
The closest analogy to Piranha Bytes’ Risen roleplaying game series are Sam Raimi’s "Evil Dead" films. The movies were low budget, campy affairs that appealed to a fairly small demographic. The same can be said of all of Piranha Bytes RPGs, the "Gothic" series included. If you only play games from largest publishers, the newly released "Risen 3: Titan Lords" probably won’t spend very long your PlayStation. Fifteen minutes into the game, I was cursing myself for volunteering to review this title. A few hours later, I finally started having some fun with "Risen 3," and eventually, I had a hard time putting the controller down.
Starting the game, I hated absolutely everything about "Risen 3." My list of complaints was pretty long. The visuals are dated, with muddy textures, limited animations, and the character models leave a lot to be desired. You are also stuck with a single character, whose appearance doesn’t match the gravelly pirate voice he speaks with. Despite all of the visual shortcuts the game seems to take, the PlayStation 3 still has trouble keeping up. The framerate is often bad, particularly when starting the game or when "Risen 3’s" autosave kicks in. Speaking of the disc access, the load times are long, and inexplicably, when starting the game, the menu defaults to “New Game,” instead of “Continue.”
Eventually, I started to get the joke, but that doesn’t mean everyone will. As I said before, the character customization options in "Risen 3" are pretty limited, particularly in the beginning of the game. As a matter of fact, the game plays more like a broken, pirate themed action/adventure game, than an RPG for the first hour or so. Your hero can perform a standard attack and charged attack with a sword, as well as jump and climb. He can also fire a gun, or throw knives with his off hand. Unfortunately, the inefficiency of the attack animation was so bad I used up all of the bullets for my gun pretty quickly.
The beginning section of "Risen 3," is also pretty linear, but looking back, it serves well as an in-context tutorial. Once all of that silliness is over, the real game gets underway. Actually, the silliness never really ends. Basically, the hero dies, and even though a witch doctor revives him, he is still missing his soul. He is also missing his ship and crew. What’s a pirate without a boat? Despite a tutorial level, combat with a sword will always be a chore. "Risen 3" will let you game the system a bit. You are allowed a companion, and that companion is necessary to keep you alive and when they’re not up to the task, you can lure enemies towards other NPCs, who will help you fight too.
While "Risen 3" is pretty combat heavy, the meat of the game is questing, and there are seriously a lot of quests. Each of the game’s handful of distinct islands offers a mountain of intertwined missions that will have you island hopping and fast travelling, once you are thankfully able. You will eventually choose an alliance with one of three distinct guilds, each offering unique skills, armories and quests. Crystal magic has also returned, allowing you to wield elements such as lightning, fire and ice, or make use of additional magical skills to aid you in exploration. If you can overlook "Risen 3’s" warts, there is a good amount of content.
The narrative that binds "Risen 3: Titan Lords" together, isn’t terribly original or compelling, but once you embrace the cheesiness of it all, it can be a good amount of fun. It’s a pretty short list of teams that can pull off a serious pirate themed RPG, and Piranha Bytes knows that isn’t them. Who knows, maybe Bioware could. Regardless, it’s no small feat that "Risen 3: Titan Lords" works at all. With all of the handicaps it endures, the fact that there’s such a deep and fun RPG in there is remarkable. There’s no denying there are serious flaws, some so bad that most won’t give "Risen 3" a shot, but if a pirate-themed, Euro-RPG is your thing, this is your game.