Recently, I decided to get back into Risen, and took the path to the bandit camp rather than becoming a mage. It’s really difficult to say which experience is better when all things are considered. For the mage path, I remember feeling as though I were really in a school learning to cast spells, make potions and write scrolls. It truly was an academic experience. The path of the fighter/rogue, however, has its own ups and downs. On the positive side, the combat system in Risen is much like one would experience in a game like Age of Conan, wherein all combat is decided by skill and timing. With that said, however, even while the system requires the player to learn all of the various monster tactics it does tend to get very frustrating as there is never really any indication of determining whether an enemy is too strong. Because of this, there are several occasions when the game must be reloaded due to having adventured too far into dangerous territory.
One aspect of the game that is universally excellent is the world in which it is set. Although the entire game story takes place on a single island, the island itself is huge, fully explorable, and seamless. There are dozens upon dozens of caves, hidden groves and secret passages to explore. What’s more is the magic system in Risen lends itself to creative interpretation, and sets itself aside from other games in the genre. Rather than focus on the traditional fireball and icebolts that are all too common, Risen puts emphasis on those magics which bend the laws of physics. Levitation, polymorph, and telekinesis all become invaluable tools to further the exploration effort. For example, one can levitate across perilous chasms, or use telekinesis to manipulate a distant lever.
The spelunking in Risen is top-notch. But so is the role-playing. The voice acting and script are prime examples of what other games in the genre should strive to achieve. Humour, sarcasm, perspective, and morality all come into play with the myriad of people one will meet on the journey.
Finally, the game world is simply breathtaking. I have been set aback on multiple occasions by vistas that stand testament to the wonders and beauty of real life nature.
Risen is a hidden gem. A must-play for any dungeon-crawler-at-heart.