Having spent a considerable amount of effort collecting every herb and mushroom I could find, I must confess that I began to question my sanity. The giant vultures, porcupines and killer butterflies that harassed me as I made my way across the island suddenly seemed a little suspicious.
Were they merely hallucinations? Or perhaps, in a twist akin to something out of Lost, the mysterious island was manifesting my fears as deranged mutant fauna. No, I haven't been indulging in herbal remedies while on holiday, but rather I have been indulging in a bit of Risen, the latest offering from Gothic developer, Piranha Bytes.
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Waking up shipwrecked on a tropical beach, you're immediately thrown into a world of jungles, temples, caves and other assorted fantasy locales, tasked with figuring out where the hell you are and where you can find something sharp to stab the various things that want to kill you, eat you, or eat you and then kill you.
As stories go, this isn't far from original, featuring as it does the usual world-threatening ancient evil rising from the depths to, you know, threaten the world, but the tropical nature of the island is something that we don't see often in the genre. And the island is very, very pretty, with dense jungles, active wildlife and beautifully detailed beaches.
Like many of these strange European RPGs, the detail doesn't end with the visuals. There are a wide variety of plants to collect and mix potions with, meats to cook with and booze to consume, and a multitude of non-combat skills to appease fans of the survivalist side of RPGs.
The AI meanwhile, though not boasting the complex behavioural patterns of Oblivion or Fallout 3, shows enough life to trick you into thinking that they're not just brainless lines of scripting, with enemies going as far as to loot your corpse, or eat it, should you balls things up and die.
On that note, the combat is functional and smooth, though not the most complex experience, and weapons feel satisfyingly heavy. All in all, there's little to find fault with here unless you have a grudge against the Gothic series, or the occasionally naff voiceovers inherent to such games. Risen is a solid, engrossing and beautifully presented RPG that's well worth your time and money.
Message in a bottle
- Vibrant visuals
- Solid gameplay
- Detailed world
- Island setting
- Some bad voice acting
- Unoriginal premise