Review: Risen 3 – Titan Lords Enhanced Edition
Rereleasing last-gen games on the PlayStation 4 is in vogue, for either cynical or purely revenue-maximising reasons. Among the latest of games to hit Sony’s successful home console is Risen 3 – Titan Lords Enhanced Edition, which bundles last year’s PS3 RPG Risen 3 with its full glut of DLC and a graphical overhaul for the Ps4 audience.
Like many instances of last-gen titles reappearing on modern hardware, it’s safe to say that the heft of modern technology is not utilised to its fullest extent in Risen 3 – Enhanced Edition. Textures, trees and landscapes make it plain you’re playing a PS3 port, although the overhaul is not to be dismissed, as we were particularly impressed by the new shimmering ocean effects and generally improved lighting.
For those of you unfamiliar in the finer ways of cult European dark fantasy RPGs (and for those of you who sneer, remember that’s how The Witcher games started), Risen is a franchise developed by Germany’s Piranha Bytes. The series is famous for its divisive combat system, which is less ‘hack and slash’ and more ‘cut and thrust’. Heck, until you master its unique and demanding nuances, it’s likely to be ‘fall down and die a lot’, as enemies are prone to whaling on you without remorse until you learn to parry their advances and time your hits. It’s intricate, a bit wonky, and not for everyone — though series stalwarts will observe keen improvements and a more intuitive feel over Risen 2.
The game puts you in the piratical boots of a gravelly-voiced git who’s initially difficult to like, yet the game is tempered by a variety of both old and new characters that frequently drag the wonky gameplay into flawed-but-loveable territory. We especially love eccentric, hammy Bones the voodoo shaman.
Risen 3 – Enhanced Edition bundles both the previously released apparel and two new islands of adventures — DLC on older consoles — into its expansive and amibitious package. Set across the same archipelago of pirate caper Risen 2, albeit factoring in some mainland locales to boot, there is no doubting that the game has been crafted with love and conviction, if not always the most transparent of design choices or, it seems, the budget to back them. Nevertheless, in an era when even high-budget videogames are riddled with glitches upon release, Risen 3‘s bugs are manageable.
The music is gung-ho fantasy fare, and the more colourful visuals strangely evocative of Fable at times — yet for all its extra content on Ps4, Risen 3 is still a game about choosing your allegiance to defeat the Big Evil Demon Fellows Jumping Out of Giant Angry Skull-Shaped Caves, with all the world-as-we-know-it-is-doomed-unless-the-grumpy-protagonist-saves-us questing you’d expect. Ultimately, it boils down to whether you want to be a vigilant Demon Hunter, a spell-slinging Mage or a voodoo-jack-of-all-trades Pirate, with each choice representing a fun, albeit overpowered by the time of end-game, option.
As a bit of a cult option, requiring patience yet rewarding with a interestingly-crafted world, Risen 3 delivers, albeit clumsily at times. Indeed, a game that doesn’t hold your hand throughout is welcome these days. Nevertheless, the ambition of the developers is tangible in the games zest to please, and in combining pirate and medieval fantasy tropes, even the tired old plot idea of a chosen hero with unique abilities rising to thwart unreleanting evil forces from the abyss can prove a unique adventure.
That said, it’s apparent — in terms of design, if not the unobtrusively transparent story and reintroduction of former characters — that Risen 3 – Enhanced Edition is a game that Piranha Bytes has created for the fans. That there are evidently enough of such to make such a developmental foray worthwhile implies that the franchise has a more keen following than we may otherwise admit, and even in a console market with no shortage of The Witcher and Dragon Age to slake our fantastical gaming thirst, there’s clearly a place for Risen 3 – Titan Lords Enhanced Edition.
The question is… with rerelease fatigue and a glut of high profile titles both high in the minds of the modern gamer, will this quirky, gruff franchise trying so hard for the limelight find a new following?
To our minds, it’s a fine romp, if not groundbreaking. The extra content and revitalised visuals are welcome — unecessary, perhaps, but welcome. There’s no doubt that the PS4 verasion outperforms its last-gen forebear in every way — and similarly, for those who loved Risen 2, this game improves on every aspect.
For others, however, it could prove a hard sell. There’s plenty to love beneath a rough exterior, yet the obtuse combat, strange pacing and low-budget feel may put off some. A rough diamond, then — polished up for the PlayStation 4, and keen to send you on an adventure of demon-slaying, rum-swilling and being a bit of a grumpy hero git.
Version reviewed: PlayStation 4
Available from 21st August