Your donations keep RPGWatch running!

Risen Preview

by Joost "Myrthos" Mans, 2009-08-28

At Gamescom I was given a presentation of Risen by Mike Hoge and other Piranha Bytes developers who showed me that Risen starts with you waking up on the shores of an island after your ship was destroyed by a magical storm. Around you there are corpses of your fellow travelers and wreckage from the ship. You haven't got a clue where you are but that is about to change.


As a good adventurer you examine the dead and steal whatever they have on them. There is, however, one woman that is not dead and is only unconscious. She is the tutorial and will serve as a guide through the beginning of the game. She will tell you stuff like you'll need to find a weapon between the remains of the ship on the beach, that you need to eat and how to do that and the direction you'll most likely have to go. If you follow her directions you'll go through the tutorial to learn the game basics, but as it is a big free world you don't have to. You are free to go wherever you want at any time you like. There are some main story points in the game you'll have to pass to advance the game but for the rest, there are no restrictions.


Background story

The game takes place on a volcanic island where recently some of the ancient temples have risen from the ground. These temples, that have turned into ruins over time, were once occupied by warriors and are now unleashing monsters on the island. Why this is happening becomes clear once the story unfolds. The island has three factions - one of them being the Inquisition that came to investigate what is going on. The Inquisition found out that there is an entrance to the core of the volcano, which they can't open, so they investigate the ruins for clues on how to get there. Because there is much gold in the ruins as well, there is also a bandits faction that doesn't obey the law of the Inquisition and tries to enrich itself by stealing the gold from the ruins. In the process of doing so, some of the keys the Inquisition needs to enter the volcano end up in the hands of the bandit - so you have the Inquisition who is trying to get all the artifacts from the ruins, the bandits who are trying to get all the gold and there are the mages who form the third faction.

At a certain point in the game you will also end up inside the volcano, where you'll have to unlock the secrets in it. You will also have to unlock the secrets in other dungeons that are scattered over the island, which contain (in addition to the monsters) several puzzles and traps you need to solve.



As said before you can go wherever you want on the island - with one exception. The Inquisitor has passed a law that only his troops are allowed to enter the island - anyone else is brought to the harbor city or the volcanic fortress. If the troops of the Inquisition find you wandering on the island, they will arrest you and throw you into the volcanic fortress as their prisoner. You will then have to join the Inquisition whether you like it or not and you'll continue the game using a completely different storyline. This storyline will join the main plot afterwards. If you're not caught, you can go to the bandit camp and join them (if you know where to find them), however, once you've joined the Inquisition you cannot join the bandits anymore and cannot talk to them either. As it is an open game you can choose to combat the Inquisitors if you encounter them, however, it is improbable that you will defeat them because they are very strong - but if you think you are up to it you're free to do so.

You cannot get off the island. You can go into the ocean but if you go too far a sea monster will appear, it will grab you and throw you back on the beach. Fortunately it won't kill you as they figured that was too much of a penalty.


Lift me up

In Risen you can climb up on ledges, roofs and rocks. Unfortunately you cannot swim, but to compensate something new has been implemented: the ability of levitation via a spell that allows you to float. Using the levitation skill will consume energy, which is limited, so you'll have to take that into account while using it. Fortunately you are prevented from falling into areas where it makes no sense for you to be, so if you run out of energy you will not end up in a place you can't get away from anymore.

Some of the areas can only be reached via levitation and there are also some riddles in dungeons for which you have to fly in order to solve them. Normally only a mage can levitate but other characters can use scrolls for this. To do that, you have to find the right rune giving this ability that can be used endlessly by mages but not by others. If you are not a mage, you should learn the Write scroll skill to copy this rune into a number of levitation scrolls that will destroy after each use. These scrolls are expensive to make so there is only a limited amount of usage for this ability if you are not a mage.



Risen has a variety of teachers you can use to improve your skills, although only teachers matching your class can offer any training. There are teachers for a large variety of things like (incomplete list): combat (sword fighting, axe fighting, staff fighting, archery, crossbow), crafting (alchemy, smithing, ore prospecting), crystal magic (fireball, magic projectiles, frost), thievery (open locks, pickpocket, sneak) and rune magic. For example, the smithing skill teaches you to repair your sword but also allows you to forge your own jewelry by combining different gems, each with their own abilities, into one new unique item.

You can carry this new item and as much other stuff you like into your inventory. There is no limit to what you can store in it which could easily clutter your inventory, so to make the inventory workable they have divided it into categories that are auto sorted.


There are no skills to avoid a fight but there are some fights you can avoid by acting in a different manner. An example was given where you needed to talk to a prisoner in the jail at the harbor town. One possibility is to knock the guard over to take his key, the second is to learn the pickpocket skill and steal the key and the third is to do a related quest that will eventually bring you inside the jail. There are different possibilities to most of the problems you want to solve but the biggest problem you have to solve is which faction you will join; Inquisition, Bandits or Mages, because each of the factions has a different way to go through the main story line.


Actions and consequences

As mentioned before, Risen is an open world where you can talk to anyone - but also attack anyone you want - even the friendly people. You can attack a guard, but he will call other guards who will join the fight. If you run away, they will stop chasing you after some time while calling you a coward. If you return within a short time - like 30 seconds - the guard starts attacking you again; if you come back in 5 minutes or so he won't attack again. But if you want to talk to him you'll find out he doesn't want to speak to you anymore. It stays like that unless you have a Joke spell. If you cast this spell on the guard you previously attacked he will laugh at your joke and becomes friendly again. To balance this they've made the 'Joke' spells a rare item and very expensive to buy.

There are also consequences to just wandering into people's houses to steal their stuff. I was shown an example in the bandits camp where the hero entered one of the houses. The owner of that house did not know him very well and didn't trust him either and went after the hero into the house to tell him to leave. Of course, as this is an example he didn't, so the bandit became hostile and attacked the hero meanwhile calling his friends to join the fight. They defeated the hero, took some gold and things were forgotten again.



Wrapping up

When asked what in Risen is better compared to the previous Gothics the answer was exploration. They've put much detail into the game and almost everything has been created by hand: every item, chest, contents of that chest, monster, plant, tree etc. There is more emphasis on exploring in the game, like levitating, puzzles, a telekinesis spell with which you can pull levers from a distance or collect items with and a spell that transforms you into a small creature so you can go through small holes.

Risen is not the next Gothic game - it is a new game that carries over much of the good things present in Gothic and adds new things on top of that. Still, from what was presented to me I believe Gothic fans will feel at home as will many other RPG fans. The world is very lively and with all the handcrafted items it looks very good. There is a lot to do - indeed there seems something new to discover around every corner. With some 350 quests and 40-50 hours of gameplay if you try to do most of them, Risen will offer enough to fill your gaming needs. It sure is high on my games-to-play list.

Piranha Bytes finished working on the game some weeks ago and handed it over to the QA department of Deep Silver. In the meantime they are working on their next project of which they did not want to reveal anything.

Box Art

Information about


Developer: Piranha Bytes

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Action-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released: 2009-10-02
· Publisher: Deep Silver

· Homepage
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released: 2009-10-02
· Publisher: Deep Silver

North America
· Platform: Xbox 360
· Released: 2010-02-23
· Publisher: Deep Silver

More information

Other articles