Risen 3: Titan Lords Review - Titanfail

Jim Sterling | 12 Aug 2014 09:00
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The Risen series is just plain weird. Ultimately, it's a selection of roleplaying games that manage to be a laugh while also being not very good at all. From a purely objective standpoint, they're embarrassingly written, terribly balanced, and often quite alienating. Yet, for some reason, I find them enjoyable all the same. Risen 2: Dark Waters was something I had an especial fondness for. It was a total mess, and its attempts at humor were regularly offensive, yet there was something charming about how utterly charmless it was, and something fulfilling in its unintuative and punishingly stodgy combat system.

If Piranha Bytes is good at one thing, it's in balancing just the right amount of trash in a way that somehow provides a damn fun time.

At least, I could say such a thing until Risen 3: Titan Lords reared its head. See, the secret magic to the Risen series is that, despite how "bad" the games objectively are, there's always this sense of genuine heart behind it, this herculean effort to make a largely pleasant experience despite the mountains of criticism one might have of it. I've greatly enjoyed previous Risen adventures because they had fun with themselves, an infectious fun that rubbed off on me in all the right ways. It's this sense of effort, heart, and fun that is sorely missing from Titan Lords, and their disappearance simply betrays how bad Piranha Bytes' games are at their core.

First of all, it's impossible not to notice how much of the game is recycled from Risen 2. We're talking characters, monsters, and entire environments, to the point where one wonders if this is simply just a glorified expansion. Progression, loot, dialogue choices, NPCs, so much material has been lifted from Dark Waters and tossed into Titan Lords with shameless abandon.

The developer claims it's completely revamped the combat, but I simply cannot see it. The "new animations" are certainly not an improvement, as I found when my protagonist constantly tried to sheathe his weapon and land a hit at the same time, swinging awkwardly at thin air with nothing in his hands. Whatever "nuance" Piranha Bytes insists has been thrown in, nothing new translates to the player. Despite the return of magical attacks to the game, nothing here feels fresh in the slightest. It's all slightly tweaked - at best - presentation of stuff we saw two years ago ... stuff that was, itself, pretty friggin' dated back then!

I don't use the term "glorified expansion" lightly when talking about sequels, because I find the accusation gets tossed around a little too freely, but the amount of recycling found in the game is shocking, to say the least.

It looks, feels, and sounds exactly like its predecessor, and when you consider just how much about the predecessor needed fixing - from screwy combat targeting, to graphical glitches, to poor game balancing - there's really no suitable excuse. Absolutely nothing that needed fixing in Dark Waters has been fixed here. It's like they took the exact same game and draped a new story over it.

There's plenty of that, at least. I can't say Titan Lords skimped on the dialogue or quests, and if the nebulous concept of "content" gets you off, then there's absolutely loads of this "content" for you to enjoy. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of quests and subquests is, itself, a major problem. Just trying to work out which quests are part of the story is difficult, due to the amount of them you receive at once, and how the log book screen piles them all on top of each other, some with incredibly vague descriptions of what you're actually supposed to bloody do.

Of course, it's also a pain in the arse to get around the world of Risen, with inconveniently placed fast travel locations, and the need to go from island to island via a separate fast travel system, so accumulating a bunch of world-spanning tasks is a nightmare.

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