Review – Risen (PS4)
Time passes at such an unfortunate speed. I was still in the early years of high school when Risen originally launched on Xbox 360 in 2009/2010 (depending on where you lived). I was probably going home from school every day to play 8+ hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, before sleeping not enough to go to school again the next day. Risen was a game I would see in the rental place where I lived, and while the cover looked interesting, it took a long time for me to finally decide it was time to play it. Honestly, I was probably out of high school and only bought it because the disk tray on my Xbox 360 stopped working so I needed to resort to buying whatever I could find on sale digitally.
The interesting thing about the re-release of Risen is that it was originally Xbox and PC only, meaning Nintendo and PlayStation gamers will now have a chance to experience the game for the first time. In an even more strange turn of events, PlayStation had previously gotten the two sequels out of Risen, while this is the first time it has been available on a Nintendo console. Risen is an action adventure RPG that The Elder Scrolls fans should like, and honestly it feels similar to a MMO in the way characters are built.
Once dropped into the world, it is easy to think of it as an open world game. It is in a lot of ways, considering you’ll be able to explore pretty much whatever you want. That said, a lot of paths will lead to death until you upgrade your equipment and abilities, meaning only the most aggressive players will be able to venture far right off the bat. This actually helps make the world feel organic. Of course, as you venture further away from villages, there are stronger creatures. They’ll look to avoid people with weapons that make fire appear out of their hands.
As this is more of a re-release than a remaster itself, it’s not hard to understand why Risen still looks like an Xbox 360 game. That’s essentially because that’s what it is. Thankfully, it still runs pretty smoothly, all things considered. While my main playtime has been on the PlayStation 4, I will also say that the Xbox Series X version runs incredibly well, to no surprise. Also, the Nintendo Switch version runs significantly better than I would have expected, meaning it’s actually a pretty decent pickup on there, if that’s your preferred platform. Imagine a slightly smoother Oblivion in a lot of ways. It’s a good change of pace from the numerous versions of Skyrim that are currently available.
A lot of the original music and voice lines are still intact, as long time fans may remember them, albeit with slightly improved quality. That said, the original sound effects aren’t always a great thing. Enemies like the Grave Moths have the worst and most repetitive screeching noise when you enter combat with them, and they continue to do it constantly until they’re dead. On the note of the enemies though, the combat is still about as stiff as well. Keeping track of your enemies can be a little bit of hassle and I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you managed to die in the opening section while trying to get the hang of how blocking and attacking works.
You also need to be careful of attacking NPCs. A boar had decided to chase me to one of the first few NPCs you meet named Jan. He decided to kill the boar, and the game decided it should refocus the attack (that I was already in the middle of executing) on the NPC instead of the boar. He knocked me out (may have been better he just killed me), and stole my gold and weapon. Not just any weapon, but the weapon I just finished a quest getting… the very one that he had just given me. At least after beating me senseless and stealing everything I had, he was nice enough to help me. His help was essentially the advice of, “don’t accidentally end up in a cult”. Because who doesn’t accidentally end up in a cult?
Everything in Risen is incredibly aggressive. From the people you meet, to the enemies you come across. This might be the hardest hurdle to get over for a lot of people, since the smallest mistake can see you being attacked by a mob of people, or just not noticing a random enemy off the path could lead to three to four of them surrounding you. As I said already, the combat is not exactly the most fluent, so it can become quite difficult to take on so many enemies at once, and while running is a possibility, they will likely chase you to the ends of the earth.
The long and short of it is that Risen is a fun action adventure RPG. It is very rough around the edges, not to the extent of some other games in the genre that came out around the same time (looking at you, Two Worlds), but it has charm. If you’re a fan of Oblivion, or Skyrim, and want to see another game that has a similar style, this might be a good pickup.
Risen 2: Dark Waters is still available for digital download meaning you can easily get lost in this world for a time, but hours upon hours if you found yourself enjoying it. I don’t personally find this re-release to be a massive improvement over the original, as little to nothing in it has been actually revamped, but it’s still great to see the game get a release on more consoles than just the Xbox, or even just a way to experience the start of the series if you maybe played the sequel on PS3.
Risen isn’t a very pretty game. It’s quite bland in colour, but it does get the job done. At least you can tell what’s what for the most part.
It’s not the easiest game to play in 2023. The controls haven’t exactly been improved in the decade since release, but for purists, the original quality is still there.
The original voice lines and music are still in the game. The voice acting is far from perfect, but it has its charm.
Fun Factor: 8.5
As old and dated as Risen can feel at times, it’s still a fun world to get lost in. It actually sparked me to want to pick up Risen 2: Dark Waters while it was on sale, so good job on making me buy more games.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Risen (the re-release) is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Originally released for PC and Xbox 360.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Risen was provided by the publisher.