Sunday, February 14, 2010


Risen is the title of an amazing very Gothic-like game by the originators of the Gothic series: Piranha Bytes.

A note of explanation: Piranha Bytes developed the critically-acclaimed but barely-noticed Gothic, the critically-acclaimed Gothic II, which developed a cult following, and the disastrous Gothic III, which was rushed out the door with too many bugs because of deadlines set by their publisher JoWood.  this resulted in their being fired from Gothic development while JoWood retained the Gothic IP.

I've been a fan since Gothic II, and have gone back and played through Gothic I.

Risen is Piranha Bytes' version of a Gothic game, only this time with British and Scottish actors providing the English voices. Also notable is the combat, which they may have finally gotten right. Combat in Gothic I was fairly difficult, Gothic II combat was outright impossible, Gothic III's combat was just button-mashing, until the fan patches were applied.

Risen combat skill consists of 10 levels. Each level allows you to perform a special maneuver, from counter parries to interrupt a foe's attack to a charge attack to break through your foe's defenses. You can knock a blade out of the way, throwing your opponent off-balance to deliver another couple well-timed strikes, and you can block with your blade or shield (much easier with a shield).   You can also "charge" your attacks, taking more time to make your attack but doing more damage if you connect.

This is the kind of combat I like to see in games, where the player (and not the character as much) is king.  Can you connect and duck behind your shield before you hit?  Can you knock your foe off-balance and deliver a quick strike while he recovers?  Will your foe parry and be able to dispatch you when you are vulnerable?  Can you keep up with a foe who dances out of the way and strikes to a side unprotected?

Fantastic stuff, and contains elements I haven't even seen in the much-vaunted Riddle of Steel.  I know I'm going to try putting it into a pen n' paper...

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the heck out of this game.  If you like challenging combat, engaging quests and freedom to explore, this is your game.  If you enjoy lackadaisical combat, hand-holding, and a smaller sandbox to play in, then this won't be your cup of tea at all. 

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