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Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) artwork

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) review

"Tarnished, but ultimately worthwhile booty."

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) image

Throughout my playthrough of Risen 3: Titan Lords, I asked myself if it was okay to dig an obviously flawed game.

Is it acceptable to find a visually bland title beautiful? Risen 3's multiple islands offer colorful jungle environments composed of endless green, broken by dabs of red and orange tropical plants. Most isles also sport massive crags for you to climb, so you can catch breathtaking glimpses of their surrounding vistas. That's the best way to spy picturesque horizons and isolated beaches, accentuated by crisp blue waters. One stage even has a ship graveyard that's decked out with both haunting and magnificent details.

At the same time, Risen 3 struggles to keep up with its contemporaries, visually. Its human character models and textures belie an early generation release rather than a late PS3/Xbox 360 era title. On top of that, numerous NPCs bear eerily similar facial features. It's as if developer Piranha Bytes hired a small troupe of actors to play hundreds of roles. You especially notice this on the island Taranis, where the Guardian faction's members showcase the same egg-shaped head and facial topography, but with different facial hair. Granted, a lot of developers utilize this technique, but it's more conspicuous here than in other titles.

However, exploration and survival are more the Risen franchise's strong suit than graphics. You begin the campaign with next to nothing and no skills, so your first order of business is to scour multiple regions. You roam the rain forests and marshes looking for weaklings to pick off, temples to loot and houses to rob. Over time you accumulate an impressive collection of junk to sell at an item shop, from bird feathers to precious gems. Though most of your loot is of dubious value, it adds up when you're hocking it. Next thing you know, you've got enough funds to improve your swordplay and musket handling, thereby allowing you to venture farther out and deal with tougher enemies.

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) image

You'll need all the combat training you can get, too. Risen 3's early phases teem with undead creatures (called "shadows") that sail under Captain Crow's ghostly flag. You can't cross an island without running afoul of skeletons and hellhounds. Even if you steer clear of the shadows, you still have to contend with alligators, enormous monitor lizards, a few varieties of giant spider, predatory cats and vicious primates. When you begin the adventure, the protagonist utilizes a series of slow, needlessly flashy combos that are inadequate for felling all but the most pathetic opponents. Rigorous training provides you with the faster attacks, additional combination strikes, added damage ratings and ripostes needed to drop your prey and maintain a healthy wallet.

But the true Risen 3 experience lies beyond mere fighting. As a pirate, you'll need more than gunpowder and blades to complete the game's laundry list of side quests. For instance, finely tuned speech allows you to sweet talk NPCs into forking over handsomer rewards, or to trick guards into letting you slip by them. Shadier trainers teach you to pick locks and pockets, so you can swipe a legendary item from a mage's locked chest or steal a key for a storage room door. And your combined powers assist you in more than mere crime. Before you know it, you're teaming up with a rebellious shadow in a quest for redemption, or helping gnomes reclaim their real estate from interloping goblins and their king. You're reuniting with Venturo from Risen 2 to rescue his men from vicious soul eaters. Risen 3 succeeds at offering worthwhile distractions that bolster its adventurous experience.

Somehow, Risen 3's main quest line pales in comparison to its side quests. The game builds up major conflicts and desperate struggles, only to lead you to one anticlimax after another. You engage in naval battles against rival sailors, with the promise of an epic showdown at the end. Instead, you manhandle a few goons before moving on to a boss encounter against their leader. After a typical scuffle with the big bad menace, the game segues to a view of the villain dead at your feet while everyone around you pumps their fists. The campaign resumes and the lavishly dressed up, yet technically ordinary fight begins to pass from your memory.

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) image

Later on, a serpentine monster rises from the depths and Risen 3 places you in direct control of your ship. You sail around the inner seas, waiting for the beast to show its ugly face so you can launch a cannonball down its throat. It emerges to your left and you fire the cannons on that side, blasting its scaled hide multiple times. Eventually, the creature keels over during a triumphant cutscene and you move on. Later, the game tosses two more sea monsters your way, and the wars against them are identical to the first. Your strategy remains unchanged, though you now have to account for projectiles. Rather than adding excitement to the experience, sea monster battles leave you pining for a greater variety of beasts to tackle.

Never mind the faction you join or the paths you choose. Risen 3's storyline takes you to exotic places and pits you against horrible villains, but the cast fails to mature in any way. Patty returns in this installment and is just as ornery as ever. However, you'd think losing her father and parting ways with the previous games' protagonist would change her. If not that, then Risen 3 could have presented events that shape her into a more likable character and not just a nagging loudmouth.

Risen 3: Titan Lords (PC) image

Story events that could transform your crew into more interesting human beings remain lost at sea, however. During one outing, you fall through a temple floor and plummet into a colossal network of corridors that serve as an ancient spider's nest. Meanwhile, your cohort shows no concern for your sudden departure. When you return to your ship, there is no "Oh my god, brother, don't do that again" from Patty. This event could have been an opportunity to strengthen the bond between Patty and the hero, but instead it represents another missed opportunity.

Yet I ultimately enjoyed my time with Risen 3. The final phases send you off to recruit factions from the previous tales, in the hopes of assembling a fleet strong enough to tangle with Crow. Many of those groups hate each other, but you need to convince them to take up arms under a unified banner. Your best missions, though, send you into a pit to subdue a titan using magical shackles, partner you with Calador's bravest warriors to take down a Shadow Lord and lead you to a corrupt island to rescue three major supporting characters. There's no denying that Risen 3: Titan Lords is quite the odyssey and well worth taking for fans of the sort of adventure that Piranha Bytes has earned its reputation for providing. It's just a shame that such terrific content comes with so many missed opportunities.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (March 18, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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