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Risen 3: Titan Lords

By MrJenssen18-08-2014
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Bobfish (editor)
Risen 3: Titan Lords

The Defence

Piranha Bytes
Deep Silver
Action, Adventure, Role Playing
Release Date:
US 12-08-2014
EU 15-08-2014

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.5 GHz
AMD Phenom II x4 3.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470
AMD Radeon HD 5850
4 GB
8 GB

The Case

Gamers have always been split when it comes to the games developed by Piranha Bytes. Some hate them for the bugs, extreme difficulty level, clunky combat and abysmal voicework, while others applaud the atmosphere and the “no handholding” policy. The Gothic series is the epitome of this, and the original Risen followed suit. But with Risen 2: Dark Waters, Piranha Bytes tried to cater to the greater masses, with disappointing results. Have they learned from their mistakes or are they pushing on with new ideas and visions with Risen 3: Titan Lords?

The Trial

If Risen 3’s promotion is to be believed, Piranha Bytes have gone back to the drawing board, looked to what made the Gothic games so successful (relatively speaking) and tried to implement these elements in Risen 3. Well, the reality isn’t so simple. If you played Risen 2, you’ll recognize many things when you first boot up the newly released sequel. For one, Risen 3 is set in the same pirate-themed world, with many of the same islands containing mostly the same assets. Take the Inquisition island Tacarigua, for instance. It’s largely unaltered, geographically speaking. The Inquisition still have their little town near the beach, and further inland you’ll find the sugar plantation. The only real difference is that the evil forces of the underworld have devoured large parts of Tacarigua and all the other islands. The sugar plantation has withered away, and the troops of the inquisition have been driven back to the town or forced to desert in desperation.

Risen 3 sees the departure of the nameless hero of the two previous games, in favor of a new one. We met the side-character Patty in the previous two Risen games, and this time around, we control her brother, son of the famous pirate Steelbeard. After the Gods left the world in Risen and the Titan Wars ravaged the tropical islands in Risen 2, a new threat looms in Risen 3. Except, “looms” might be the wrong word. What we have on our hands here, is a full-scale invasion. The shadow lords from the underworld have already seized good chunks of the landmass, and you’re unlucky enough to cross paths with one of these guys during one of your treasure hunts with your sister. Sucking the soul out of your body, you are buried and left for dead for weeks, until a quirky shaman named Bones resurrects you. Still soulless, you begin your quest to get your soul back before it’s too late, but there is much to do before you can even think of completing your quest.

Damn, I knew I should've bought life insurance.

Damn, I knew I should've bought life insurance.

You start off with your new companion who helps you out in combat by attacking enemies and occasionally healing you when you’re injured. Setting off on a small sloop you’re free to explore pretty much the entire world in whichever order you like. Well, apart from the two large islands packed with hours of quests that have been locked off as DLC. Damn you, Deep Silver! Anyway, you’ll sail the seas - or rather, quick travel between islands using the ship - doing quests, picking up new crewmembers and improving your character along the way. You won’t get far alone, though. Finding yourself a proper ship and forging an alliance with the various factions and characters you meet is the only way to have a chance against the evil titan lords.

Mechanically, Risen 3 plays out like a mix between the best parts of Risen and Risen 2. The combat system is rerolled after the failure of the series’ previous instalment. Enemies once again group up, dodge, flank and play dirty against you in the same spectacular manner that we first encountered in Risen 1. Some changes have been made, though - likely to cater to those with a lack of multitasking skills - with human and humanoid enemies no longer attack you simultaneously when they group up on you. Instead they do a sort of Assassin’s Creed type thing, where one attacks you while the rest circle around you with a dumb look on their faces until their friend lies dead on the ground. Beasts, on the other hand, don’t respect this code of honor. If you pull a mob of five monsters at once, be prepared to do a lot of dodging. Or die trying.

Some players might find it frustrating to have to cope with so many enemies at once, but to me and other Gothic veterans, it’s what makes these games such a joy to play. You either run away, or you accept defeat when it stares you in the face. Though it’s hard to win an encounter like that, the fights against groups of beasts aren’t entirely unwinnable. Especially when you can bring a companion along with you to take some of the heat off. While timing your attacks and parries properly means the difference between life and death, I’d wish that, at least on the higher difficulty settings, humanoid enemies would also attack you all at once rather than just stand there like idiots while their buddies are slain one by one. You’re still bound to the rapiers and muskets from R2 - the medieval-style shields and two-handed weapons of Risen do not make a return - but you still have a few more tools at your disposal this time around.

There are many gorgeous environments. Status quo for Piranha Bytes.

There are many gorgeous environments. Status quo for Piranha Bytes.

For instance, magic has now returned in full force. The voodoo magic of the natives on the isle of Kila is still here from Risen 2, but it is joined by the more traditional crystal magic of the mages on Taranis and the rune magic used by the Demon Hunters on the island of Calador. You’ll have to join one of these three factions, however, to get access to the powerful spells. And in true Piranha Bytes spirit, once you’ve joined one of them, you’re bound to it for the rest of the game. You can still do a good amount of smaller sidequests - in fact you’re practically forced to do a few of them as you’ll need help from some of their characters later on - but the most meaty perks are locked off. Choose wisely.

The game’s levelling system is more akin to that of Risen 2 than other games by the developer. You technically never level up. Instead you earn experience which you can spend directly on upgrading your skills and attributes whenever you want. As you upgrade these, they’ll demand more experience points to be upgraded further. It serves the same purpose as levelling up, but you won’t have to wait until you reach some arbitrary “next level” before you are allowed to allocate X number of points to your skills. Yes, you’re a few thousand XP away from upgrading your Toughness, but you can instead upgrade your Dexterity three full times with the points you have on hand right now. Risen 3’s system successfully rewards players by gradually - and constantly - letting you improve your character in some way or other, rather than in segments.

Risen 3 does bring its share of brand new things to the table as well. Beyond the obvious addition of new locations, quests, characters weapons and the likes, there are a few surprises here and there worth mentioning. The most apparent example is the sea battles. And while it’s a great idea, it doesn’t feel like it’s executed with a whole lot of passion (or skill). The sea battles can best be compared to those of Assassin’s Creed 3. You don’t get to sail the open seas and engage in combat at will. Instead, the battles happen at specific moments as you quick-travel between islands. There are two types of battles. One is where you control your ship similar to AC3 - though wind is of no concern here - and chase after some sea monster to kill with your cannons for experience points. The other is against other ships, where you don’t actually use your ship, but instead engage in melee fights on the deck with your crew. These serve as distractions to spice up the adventure with a bit more variety, but feel pointless in the grand scheme of things. The sea monster fights in particular are extremely boring, as you do nothing but sail around in a ring waiting for the sea monster to appear so you can line up your shot and tear some of its HP away. It just feels like wasted potential.

The sea battles aren't nearly as exciting as they look.

The sea battles aren't nearly as exciting as they look.

Luckily, there aren’t a whole lot of these sea battles, so you won’t really get a chance to get frustrated with them. Hopefully the developer will improve and expand upon this idea rather than just throw it away for their next sequel. I’d love to see something á la Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, for instance. Can you imagine, AC4’s ship mechanics combined with the rewarding exploration through handcrafted environments that Piranha Bytes are experts at? By jove, I wouldn’t leave my house for weeks.

On the technical side of things, you’ll get what you expect. Risen 3 isn’t a technical masterpiece - the texture quality in particular is a bit all over the place - but the artistic approach is stellar. You’ll often find yourself stopping up in the forests, on the beaches or atop the cliffs to snap a few screenshots as the sun rises up from or sets behind the horizon. The lighting and shadow effects in particular deserve praise, and the distinct atmosphere brought out on each island is impeccable. The character models and their animations have gotten a huge bump too - women even look like women now, and there are a lot more of them this time around. And if you came into this game looking for the usual scoop of frustrating Piranha Bytes-style bugs, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Risen 3 is an exceptionally polished game. I only encountered a small handful bugs in my entire playthrough - none of which were game-breaking or even game-changing, and all were easily fixed.

In the sound department, things are once again a bit all over the place. The soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal, while most of the sound effects are at worst acceptable. The voicework was always a point of criticism for the Gothic and Risen games. In part due to bad translation from German, and in part due to the voice actors seeming like they had no clue what situation their character was supposed to be in when they acted out the written lines. Risen 3 is, sadly, no exception. While most of the voicework is palatable, there are a few here and there that just downright suck. And the one for our protagonist might just be the worst of them all. You can see how that can be a problem, when this is the one character that has the most to say throughout the game, and you can’t just escape from yourself now, can you?

Spiders. Why'd it have to be spiders...

Spiders. Why'd it have to be spiders...

A few other niggles still linger in my mind after having defeated the evil Nekroloth, though. For a game that proudly proclaims to return to the “no handholding” policy of yore, Risen 3 contradicts itself on multiple occasions. For one, you have the ability to mark your quests on the map now. While it’s not inherently a bad thing, the game’s marking is on the level of TES IV: Oblivion, where you’ll see a character or quest location that you’re not supposed to know of yet, marked on the map. I once got a quest to follow some guy that acted suspiciously and always snuck out at night, and figure out what he was up to. Cool! He always snuck out at midnight, so I figured I’d wait and then follow right behind him as I saw him walk out the door. Only, I decided to do a few other things in the meantime, and ended up showing up late by a few minutes. He had already gone. But because I had the quest marked, the character’s location was shown on the map. No need to follow him at all. I ran up to where the red cross was marked on the map, and what do you know, there he sat, chanting out of some dodgy book. It cheapened the experience completely, and is something I find offensive as a die-hard fan of Gothic 2.

The game is far too easy. Especially the highest difficulty setting. I mean, sure, you’ll die a lot. But there’s nothing stopping you from just quick-loading back and trying to defeat the same enemy a couple more times. After your second or third attempt, you’re more or less guaranteed to win. Any enemy can be taken out in the very beginning if you’re good enough, and while it’s a positive thing that skilled players are rewarded, it feels like that whole “get beat up and return when you’re stronger”-vibe is gone. And that was one of the most rewarding moments of the old favorites like Gothic 2. The moment when you were finally powerful enough to defeat your first orc? Risen 3 has way too little of that. You’ll never leave an enemy only to return later on when you’re more powerful. Instead, you just load back and try again until you’ve defeated your foe. You could always just make up your own rules on the go, but it’s just not the same.

The Verdict

There is so much more I could say about Risen 3. And though I’ve sounded overly negative at times here, most of the issues are minor things that frustrate because they would elevate the game to near perfection if improved. I love Risen 3 in its current form. Through the 30 or more hours it’ll take you to complete the game, you’ll encounter so many locations, characters and situations that it takes far too much time to talk about in detail. Things like the two loonies with Anatidaephobia, or bouncer at the tavern on Calador who has the same name as the bouncer in Gothic 2. Risen 3 won’t do anything to win you over if you hated the previous instalments of the series. But then again, that really just means this series isn’t for you. Risen 3 is no huge leap forward, but instead focuses on small but considerable improvements and additions to the formula. It’s not perfect, and you might not feel there’s enough new for your liking, but for me it was just enough. I was never bored throughout my adventure, there was always something new to do, someplace new to discover. The seemingly small environments were teeming with enough life that it felt a lot bigger than it might look on a map. It might not be the proper sequel to Gothic 2 we’ve all been waiting for, but it does its job well enough for me to accept it into the collection.

Case Review

  • Gorgeous: A prime example to demonstrate how art trumps tech.
  • Back to The Roots: Risen 3 is a love letter to the fans of old, for the most part.
  • What’s a Level-Up?: The incremental levelling system is refreshing.
  • A Pirate I Wasn’t Meant to be: The sea battles represent a missed opportunity at best.
  • Hardcore plaything: Gothic veterans will have to look long and hard to find anything remotely challenging enough to satisfy them.
  • Shut up!: The voicework is expectedly mediocre, with the protagonist stealing the show in all the wrong ways.
  • DLC Shenanigans: Why in the world would you rip out two of the most enjoyable islands and flog them as DLC?!
Score: 4/5
Risen 3 might not be hard enough for veterans, but it weighs up with charm in spades.


Just like the review’s leading man, I have been a fan of the Gothic series for a long time now, seeing it as a pinnacle of RPG world creation and the “lore vs. combat” balance. Because of that, I was a bit worried about how much objectivity I will be able to maintain while writing this text. But you know what? There was no need to worry – Risen 3 is as much a Gothic game as a modern title can be and more! And mind you, I mean the awesome first two Gothics, not the cute creeps that followed. Everything is here – an open world with unlimited exploration, tons of quests to undertake, characters to meet and secrets to discover. Three distinct factions to join, each with its own armor, rank system and unique content. Finally, there is a long, branched story, split into acts. I would not say it is outstanding in any way, and the culmination is virtually inexistent, but they say the best part of reaching a goal is getting there, eh? That’s not all, no no! Because, you see, the developers went a step further and also selectively incorporated well received elements of the previous Risen games. The combat system along with the character development, to name the most visible. Piracy remains the leading theme, but has been joined with other, more dark fantasy elements. And the characters return. Ladies and gentlemen...Jaffar is back, for a biiig fucking journey!

Of course, a game this complex could not go without some flaws, could it? One of the things that annoyed me the most was the hero that we get to control. It has been some time since I put my hands on a protagonist so shallow, forgettable and meaningless. I mean, sure, the selling point of pretty every protagonist created by Piranha is the fact that they come from nowhere and end up being The Nameless Hero. The problem with Risen 3 is that the hero seems to be important and significant, but we get no real clues regarding his past. He has his own sister around most of the time and no visible signs of memory loss, but still, we learn nothing about him! I cannot understand this approach and it affected the process of immersion for me, big time. Not to mention the voice acting of the hero. It is...bad. Like really, really bad with bad filling and a lot of cheese on top. The game may also feel a bit overwhelming at first, with all the freedom the player gets (as opposed to the steadily unfolding story of Risen 2), which may not appeal to some of the players. Aaaaand...the DLC. Those are a joke, with one of the new areas being the map imported from the previous installment. Damn it, there was even a quest there that was directly imported, and I am not sure whether the giver was actually around as well. Another “bonus content” piece is a set of armor, which turns out to be a simple recolor of another set obtained later in the story. Not cool. Lastly, some cinematic elements of the gameplay (e.g. sea battles) seem way too copy-paste’ish, but luckily they remain few and far between.

Ok then, so what exactly is Risen 3? It is a tough question, but for me, it is three things. First of all, it is an awesome RPG with lots of action, good plot and some memorable moments. Secondly, it is a perfect mix of Gothic and Risen elements, a crowning achievement of Piranha Bytes’ cRPG expertise. And last but not least, it is a worthy warm-up before Witcher 3. In no way as rewarding in terms of story or the protagonist, but still a great fantasy journey.

Score: 4.5/5


Risen 3 - the game to appease the hunger of the old-school RPG addict. There aren’t many of such games these days and the ones that are, are either very flawed by design or by execution. With the last iteration, Risen 2 was both. Picking themselves up from that debacle, Piranha Bytes promised to go “back to the roots”, selectively sorting the features that made Gothic and Risen so popular into their new title. Hearing that, we couldn’t help but put on our pink sunglasses and wait impatient for what sounded like the next best thing ever.

And this time, even though it’s not the best thing since sliced bread, the game delivers. Risen 3 is the best of the Risen series, with a huge open world, great looking environments and hundreds of quests. Straight after finishing the 30ish minute tutorial introducing you to the basics, you jump on your (borrowed) sloop and [fast]travel the seas. It will be up to you to follow the quests markers or travel to unknown lands, tame unseen beasts and discover hidden riches. Be the good guy, the bad guy - the world is yours to plunder.

But this is a German game after all, thus it can’t be perfect. Even though pretty much bugless this time around, the game still suffers for Piranha Bytes infamous bad translational voice-acting plague, stiff animation-alitis and AI retardation. These things will make you constantly roll your eyes but they aren’t enough to pull you out of a masterfully crafted world that’ll get you addicted in a flash.

Score: 4/5

Judges panel

Bis18marck70 Score 4/5
Comments (1)
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Posts: 48

Still couldn't bring myself to finish Risen 2, this might be worth a chance but too many games too little time.