Posted by deckard47 on October 2, 2009
Yes, I downloaded and played the Risen demo. And it rocked!
No really. These are the same people who did the Gothic games, so it’s the same mix of incredibly finicky design decisions and gameplay mechanics, coupled with mostly unhelpful design decisions and gameplay mechanics. In other words, it’s Oblivion without the polish. And it is so much better. By which I do not mean that it is a better game. But. Where Oblivion (like its companion, Fallout 3) had boring, soulless level design, boring enemies, and horrid melee combat, Risen has: wretched melee combat, inventive enemies, and an interesting setting. I honestly can’t say that I know much about the leveling system, because even though I leveled once during the (nicely long) demo, I could not apply my leveled points or skills or whatever. Instead, I had stilted conversations with my fellow shipwreck survivor, got my ass kicked by a bunch of gnomes, and beat a bunch of sea vultures to death with a stick. Which was all quite fun, despite the aforementioned controls. Combat-wise, it’s the same kind of junk found in Oblivion: attack, attack, attack. If you level up fighting skills, it looks like you can unlock new kinds of slashes and stabs. Which is actually kind of interesting, because the game offers one thing (in combat) that Oblivion Cruelly left out. It lets you parry (not just block), and dodge in any direction. In fact, combat-wise, it’s a lot like a badly implemented version of Demon’s Souls. Which makes it infinitely better than Oblivion, Two Worlds, and other games in the same genre.
What it really is (so far) is awkward and fun. I’ve never been one for cooking your own meat (really, who wants to do that?), but it’s fun in this game. Part of my attraction to it is the decision to set this (mostly) typical-looking fantasy game on a tropical island. Part of it also comes from the bad (but not Oblivion-boring) voice work. Mostly, it comes from the sense of character that the designers built into parts of the game, a sense of character missing from most “open-world” RPGs like this. The gnomes bounce and gibber: when they assault you, they do so gleefully. The giant ostrich bird guys squawk and fiercely claw you. It’s like someone who designs interesting, characterful monsters (someone who worked on Left 4 Dead or Dead Space, maybe) made these guys. They don’t run at you stiffly and call you dumb names. Apparently it’s “ugly,” but I really like the way it looks (although I’ve been playing Deus Ex 1 and 2, so my opinion may be a bit biased). Anyway, try the demo (linked to by RPS), just in case it might catch your fancy.