It has been a long time since I have been able to immerse myself in an open world fantasy RPG. Between being an adult, tons of other reviews, games that I want to play, and life in general, it simply hasn’t been an option to lose myself in the depths of titles like Kingdoms of Amalur or Dragon’s Dogma. So, when the review for Risen 3: Titan Lords landed on my desk, I was eager to finally have an excuse to go questing and adventuring. What I found, however, was not the glorious escapade that I had been waiting so long for.
“What the Hell?” was literally the question I asked myself after booting up the game’s opening sequence. I couldn’t help it. I was confused. The opening scene begins with a huge battle between a number of pirate ships, similar to the skirmishes found in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but that is where all comparisons end. The stuttery frame rate that feels like a four year old trying to show you a flip book doesn’t go away, and neither do the dated textures, assets and character models. I thought maybe it needed to load, but I gave Risen 3 over 14 hours to load and I was still stuck with a frame rate that nearly made the game unplayable, and graphics that looked like a PS3 launch title. I’m not one to get too heated over frame rates and graphics, but when you are getting into stutters that fall below 10fps (I’m guessing here) in some cases, and get to watch textures stretch onto objects before your eyes, I was amazed that the game even made it to store shelves in this condition.
Graphics-heavy areas like the Mage’s Tower were even more susceptible to choppiness, and anytime there were more than three enemies on the screen, it became a guessing game of what my character was actually going to do in combat. Pair that with the worst combat system that I have encountered in… well, ever, and you have a recipe for some of the most frustratingly unfair battles that I have ever had to deal with in games. Strategy isn’t going to win your way through this one. Brute force doesn’t quite work either. It’s down to luck, dodging a ton, and having a massive supply of health potions– which are various forms of alcohol. I felt like I needed a ‘health potion’ of my own just to get through most of these encounters.
On the other side of the deplorable combat are the prodigious number of quests that one can embark on, some of which are simply fetch quests or other things that will generally keep you away from the combat. I’ll admit, I got quite caught up in helping a woman take care of her vermin problem, proving that someone was planning to poison people, and convincing the island natives that ‘guchos’ aren’t all that bad. It’s hard to say if getting caught up in this was due to my time away from this style of game or whether they were actually engrossing quests, but I’ll give the quests credit for at least managing to hold my interest. As a completionist, I found myself running around doing every little thing that I could for every NPC that would talk to me. Every time that frame rate stuttered, the textures stretched and popped in, or I found myself in combat– so about 99.9% of my time with the game, it made it a pain that I actually wanted to help that guy at the harbor find out who was stealing his goods.
Risen 3 is not a game that will hold your hand at all and many things will be left a mystery until you explore the options yourself. Nobody told me that I could upgrade my long sword into a rune sword. I just happened to be looking through my items and saw that it was able to be upgraded when I accidentally scrolled down. While I appreciate not being overly trained in every aspect of a game, there is a difference between hand-holding and the game actually giving you a clue as to what you can do. Due to accidentally finding the upgrade options for weapons, I was led into seeking out obtaining the blacksmithing skill and collecting the items needed to make the rune sword, which fortunately makes each combat encounter a little bit shorter. I would have had no idea that I could go this direction by the game’s basic instruction.
The voice acting is laughable, as the actors simply sound like they are reading lines with no context. Alongside the extremely last-gen character models and animations, I couldn’t get into the story or world at all, and found myself skipping over much of the voices as soon as I had read the subtitle. What’s sad is that we’ve seen more solid games on the PS3. In fact, we saw more solid games than this on the PS3 five years ago, which is sad for a game that launched on an older console while much of the gaming world is considering moving on to the new generation of games. Take a look at gameplay footage from Dragon Age Origins— a game that released nearly five years ago, and you will see a title with better assets, frame rate, and textures than Risen 3.
The final twist of the knife was a game breaking glitch where an NPC was consistently trying to fight an invisible enemy that was seemingly trapped in a wall and would not progress any further. This meant that that there wasn’t a way to actually join the faction I wanted to join. Sure, I could join up with the mages or the voodoo-centric Kila people instead, but I wanted to be a demon hunter, dammit! I tried everything I could think of to coax the NPC away from the wall, even as far as trying to kill him, but sadly I could not complete the quest line that would allow me to finally be accepted as a demon hunter. The persistent world means that he was and forever will be saved in this state no matter what islands I go to or quests I complete.
Feeling like it came straight off of the PS3 launch, I still curse the wistfully woeful frame rate, graphics, and combat system, but I can’t help but feel like there is something underneath all that grime. As tarnished as Risen 3 is, it still manages to hold a small light of potential, and I continue to play just to see where a lot of polish could have taken it. I can’t pretend that this is in any way a good experience, but if you are itching (and I mean REALLY itching, like ‘fell in a pool of poison ivy and mosquitos’ itching) for any kind of open world fantasy RPG at all, with no qualms about how bad it may be, Risen 3 may just barely manage to tickle that desire for you.
Risen 3: Titan Lords review copy provided by publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.