Risen 3 was one of our lowest-rated games of 2014. Scoring a less than remarkable three out of ten in our review, the German RPG took hits on just about every front, ultimately spoiling what could have been developer Piranha Bytes’ defining chapter in the Risen series.
Instead of allowing Titan Lords to sink graciously into the depths of obscurity, the studio has made an attempt to salvage its flagship. Now, with the poorly received RPG having celebrated its first anniversary, Risen 3 is charting a course for new-gen hardware, namely the PlayStation 4.
Despite our initial skepticism at Deep Silver’s announcement of this new Enhanced Edition, we then thought to ourselves, “Why not?” After all, if one thing became clear when playing the original version on PlayStation 3 it was that Piranha Bytes had a real hard time getting to grips with last-gen console tech. One year later, with new hardware and a raft of feedback to work with, we hoped this would be enough to bring Risen 3 back from beyond the grave. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Nearly everything good about this remaster stems from what was already there twelve months ago. Comparable to an epic role playing series like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, Risen 3 is fairly open-ended in its design, allowing players to explore vast worlds and pursue whatever activities take their fancy. Facilitating this sense of freedom is a cluster of islands that only get bigger the more you explore them, each one harbouring dozens of individually voice NPCs, quest lines, and enemies.
This pick and mix design philosophy is also reflected in the way develop your character. Although generic in appearance and toting an unlikable personality, over the course of your adventures you can influence the way he approaches each task by honing a varied set of skills. Instead of simply gaining experience points and occasionally receiving a slight boost to your core attributes, Risen 3 allows players to sculpt their own personalised playstyle.
Aside from influencing your prowess with swords, pistols, and spells, these skills also unlock new and interesting ways to interact with the world around you. Lockpicking, for instance, will allow you to open chests that harbour better loot while learning the intimidate speech skill means you can bully certain NPCs for personal gain or just for the hell of it.
Visually, the Enhanced Edition is a marked improvement over the original Titan Lords. The power of the PlayStation 4 has been put to good use here, matching the PC version of the game to show more detailed environments and improvements to lighting and textures. Some tricks, such as the camera’s adjusting focus, also help to give Risen 3 a much better look all round. That said, the majority of character models still look slightly awkward with their plain facial features and flat animations.
One thing that hasn’t changed a bit, however, is combat. Frustratingly, Piranha Bytes has elected to preserve Risen 3’s core while remedying the game’s lesser ailments. Put bluntly, the fighting system is a disgrace – a beguiling ballet of blocks and blows that completely saps the enjoyment from an otherwise promising RPG. This is mostly due to the limited number of options players have whenever they run into a combat scenario. With only two attack types and a small pool of secondary abilities, you’ll spend most of your time stationary, index finger firmly clamped on the R2 button to deflect incoming strikes.
This is due to the game’s mindless enemies, rarely leaving an opening as they pelt players with unrelenting ferocity. Against single opponents the combat system is manageable and, dare I say it, occasionally fun. Throw two or three enemies into the mix, however, and it quickly turns into a broken mess. Too often I’d get knocked off down by a single enemy, only for the others to come barreling in with their own devastating combos. Pinned to the ground, all I could do in these common instances was either waste my health items or embrace death.
What’s really frustrating is how nothing has been done nothing to remedy this, despite it being the most complained about feature in the game. Whether out of blindness or sheer disregard for those who felt deeply let down by Risen 3, the last twelve months have been spent beautifying a game instead of bandaging where it suffers most.
With all this in mind, I cannot recommend Titan Lords any more or less than I did this time last year. Sure, it looks great by comparison, yet in leaving the combat mechanics untouched, the developer has allowed them to fester and further damage what could have been a landmark role-playing game.