Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: Arisen!

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.


11 Responses to “Impressions: Arisen!”

  1. Saw your last Tweet about this. I think you’re probably the only person playing Risen, bro. You play all the schlocky CRPGs though, so somebody’s gotta do it. One day maybe I’ll write a research paper on them and I’ll play this and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, but for now I’m just gonna have to read your thoughts on em. I bought Two Worlds when it dipped down to $10, but I haven’t done so with Dark Messiah yet just because I don’t have the time. I mean, Demon’s Souls comes out tomorrow for us non-reviewer types… so that’ll fill my need for hack-and-slash for a good long while. Are you going to roll a new character to play with all of your buddies that couldn’t get the game until tomorrow? I’d love to kick your black soul ass trying to gank me to come back to life! Or, you know, we could be goodie-twoshoes and help each other out 😛 I imagine I’m going to plow through it way too fast for all the other game blogger types to keep up, just because hack-and-slash is one of the genres that I can always play on hard without needing much help (though I still need to finish NG2, I’ve been avoiding it after it red-ringed my 360 a year ago).

    Then in a week Uncharted 2 comes out, and maybe we can play co-ops together! I’ll play your girlfrent and try not to steal your favorite ammo! I assume it has online co-op; I’ll be pissed if it’s only offline, since like no other PS3 games have offline co-op. I haven’t tried the MP yet, and I don’t know whether to be excited about it. I hate 3rd-person death matches.

    Oh, right, back to the RPG thing–one of the three big-ass case studies in my thesis is going to be Morrowind! I have to write like 15 pages on each (the other two are Far Cry 2 and Left 4 Dead), so I should be able to dig something juicy out of it. I’ve never tried to write about a CRPG before, so I’ll probably send bits of it to you to check out and critique.

    • deckard47 said

      I could definitely re-roll for Demon’s Souls. Although you have to get a certain gem to hop into others’ games. Which I have not done yet. I’ll look it up. Hopefully it isn’t too complicated? I’m sure you’ll get through it faster than me, I got killed by the giant knight 3 times in a row and quit (a week ago). I’ll be back, but it just takes so much time out of the day to do it.

      Um, Uncharted 2’s co-op is online, so we’ll have to hit that shit up. Multiplayer is difficult, for me. I’m always getting killed. Still, at it’s core, it’s the SP gameplay, which I’m inordinately fond of. So maybe I’ll warm to it?

      What are you writing about Morrowind? It’s the one I didn’t play that much, it drove my computer to distraction. That was before Bethesda settled into their present path, which I don’t really like. How much have you played of it?

      • Hmmm, I played the crap out of it on the 360. Bought the PC version and an enhanced 360 version later, but never got that far into em. For some reason, open-world games don’t actually have replay value for me. I play them, rise to the top of every organization with one character, and never come back. Morrowind was different, making you choose between the fighter’s and thief’s guild (toward the upper echelons) and picking one of three Dunmer Great Houses.

        I think the main plot of it is the best I’ve ever encountered in a game, but I missed a lot of other PC greats that might topple it for me. Probably sank over 100 hours into it, which is a lot for me.

      • Blah, not on the 360–on the original XBOX I mean. In both the first and second sentences. There’s no 360 update, unfortunately 😦

    • deckard47 said

      Oh, and I play all of those schlocky RPGs in the vain hope that one of them will scratch that deep RPG/story itch. They never do, except when they do (Mass Effect, The Witcher). Most of the time, I know I’ll be “pleasantly” distracted for a time, but in the end, I’ll lose enthusiasm. It’s better than the way Halo makes me feel though (sorry).

    • deckard47 said

      Well, I would play it for 30 minute bursts (after 30 minutes, every load time took 2 minutes. It was strange and impossible to tolerate). I never got into the story. Due to my peculiar, obsessive nature, I spent all of my time picking locks and mixing potions, not following quests. It’s how I play these games, and why finishing them takes forever, even for me.

      Oh, and will you be getting Borderlands? Important question.

      • Yeah, but I’m getting it for the 360 and you’re getting it for the PC. I’m bummed about that.

        That said, I’m building a PC sometime before Christmas. Gotta take money out of my IRA. Chocking it up to educational expenses, mainly getting it so I can do level design.

    • deckard47 said

      Well, that will be excellent. I thought I’d be getting it for 360, but then my brother’s laptop broke, and his new laptop will just barely be able to run Borderlands, so we figured… Why not? I wish they’d implement cross-platform play, even though it will never happen. I promise I’ll play on my PC with a huge handicap to make up for mouse play? Even though I suck at most games anyway? If only.

  2. Oh, also, regarding your other tweets:

    1) Should I buy the PoP Epilogue? I bought a cheapy copy of it and have been thinking about finishing off the experience.

    2) Grad school is awesome, but you should avoid anything called “New Media” or “Art X.” Look for stuff called “digital media” or “computational media” or “media, communication, and culture.” Anything claiming to be “new” is just a trumped-up graphic design program looking to churn out advertisers skilled in Flash.

    • deckard47 said

      Maybe? The writing is the same (which may be a good thing for you? I like the way the game does dialogue and story, but some people loathed it), the puzzles and acrobatics (and combat) are all a bit tougher than what you played in the original. The combat is annoying, but the acrobatics are long and breathless in a good way: when you’re on your 10th wall-run/plate/slippery ramp combo, you know that failure will result in Elika bumping you back a long way. It’s really fun.

      I know. I spent forever complaining about it to my brother. I’m mostly leaning toward the “media, communication, and culture” listings right now, desperately hoping that one of the UCs has one (as a Cal resident, they would charge me slightly less).

      But really, I’m not sure if I want to go back to school, and get a degree, in the hopes that the classes would be good/worthwhile (ditto for the degree). School makes me… complacent. And it does so in a way that I feel (perhaps wrongly) is directly harmful to my career and creative desires. But I think it would be great to study these things in an academic context, all the same.

  3. Ooh I hadn’t seen that you started a new editing gig. Does Sleeper Hit provide you with advance copies? And is that listing for another editor still available?

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