Adriaan den Ouden

Risen's mascot, the gnome.

Today we had an opportunity to look at Risen, an upcoming Xbox 360/PC RPG from German developer Piranha Bytes, best known for their Gothic series. So far, the game seems to be shaping up to be an enjoyable action-RPG experience.

For the most part, Risen seems like your average WRPG, but it does have a few elements that make it stand out from the crowd. The game takes place entirely on a single island. Mysterious temples have been rising out of the ground, causing earthquakes and all sorts of mayhem, hence the name of the game. The game begins with the main character being shipwrecked, and the game seems fairly focused on exploration and adventure.

The game has a complicated skill system where the main character learns new skills by having NPCs teach them to him, or interacting in various ways with the world. It's unclear how character progression works in terms of experience and combat, but we did find out that the different factions in the game will have a focus on specific types of skills. The bandits, for example, are strongly associated with acrobatic type skills.

Environments in Risen are quite impressive.

As for the skills themselves, we were able to see several very interesting ones in action. One was a levitation skill in which the main character sits cross-legged as though meditating and floats through the air. Using it to reach higher areas is difficult, as it drains mana quickly trying to go up, but it's terrific for floating down really high cliffs. Another interesting skill set were shapeshifting abilities, of which we saw two. The first was an enormous ape-like creature with no face other than a really large mouth. This form was terrific for tearing apart enemies. The second form was a nautilous, a small creature similar to a hermit crab that could be used to access small areas that were otherwise unreachable.

The game seems to be very open and permissive. Some of the really small, weird details were kind of impressive. For example, you could interact with a fire spit, turning it to help cook a wild boar. We also read a book that increased our wisdom by three. There seem to be lots of small things like that scattered throughout the game.

Risen is currently scheduled for an October release, which, interestingly, was our biggest concern with the game. It looks to be shaping up quite well, but competing with BioWare's Dragon Age is going to be very difficult.

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·October 2009

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