Risen 3 is a 3rd person action RPG developed by Piranha Bytes and published by Deep Silver. While Risen 3 has many faults that are visible right off the bat, it is able to redeem itself in some areas.

You start the game off as an unnamed pirate, as you and your sister search for buried treasure on a remote island. However, you are attacked and your soul is taken, starting a quest to reclaim your soul from the underworld. While this might seem like an interesting story, it merely serves as a backdrop for the massive amount of quests available. The game boasts to have over 300 quests and while some of these “quests” are as simple as walk a couple steps and talk to an NPC, its still impressive the amount of quests available. Actual quests relating to the main story are few and far between in the 20+ hours it takes to complete this game, meaning the pacing of the plot is completely off.

That isn’t to say that the game isn’t completely devoid of interesting storytelling. While most quests fall under the trope of “Go there and kill this monster” there are a few that are less traditional such as possessing humans using voodoo dolls that break up the monotony of fetch quests. There are a total of 7 different islands you can travel between that each act as an open world for accepting and completing quests with each island having a unique conflict that you must eventually resolve.

Combat is not one of Risen 3’s stronger points. When you start off the game you only have a sword with the ability to attack, dodge roll and parry. Parrying is almost useless however, as if an enemy attacks twice in a row then the attack will get through meaning rolling around is your best chance at avoiding attacks. Combat can also be made easier if you have an AI partner as you can allow them to agro monsters onto them, meaning you have less attacks to dodge. This inevitably turns combat into constant rolling and waiting for your AI to attack until the enemy leaves itself vulnerable which can get tedious quickly. Other problems with the combat mechanics include not being able to accurately target a foe which means you’ll end up attacking allies by mistake.

Worst of all is that you encounter the same types of enemies on each island, so once you learn their attacks patterns combat turns into a chore rather than something fun. Even boss battles fall to the same tedium of rolling, attacking and repeating. The only redemption combat has is later on in the game when you learn different magic spells like making enemies attack each other or being able to fire projectiles with a reticle which makes combat less trivial. Ship combat is also present in Risen 3 a few times throughout the game, but the camera angle chosen for the boat as well as the enemy AI running away most of the time means that ship combat is nothing worth mentioning.

By far the worst thing about Risen 3 is its constant performance issues. The game consistently dips below 30 FPS even during combat when frames are needed the most. The worst contender for this is when you kill the last enemy with a melee attack it’ll launch into a death animation, but the framerate drops so much during these that it’s hard to watch. Towards the end of the game you have several AI allies fighting alongside you which made the game slow down so much that it eventually crashed and I had to reboot my console. Every time it autosaves the game will come to a complete sudden stop for a couple seconds.
Aside from performance issues, there are many bugs present also. Occasionally enemies and allies will just stand still and do nothing or get stuck in the scenery during combat. At one point I was against a boss that had glitched out and was completely invisible until I restarted the game.

Graphically the game is not the best looking, with textures popping in late and other details rendering in the visible distance as you walk. Whenever I came across a nice view looking across the sea or from on top of a mountain, my only thought wasn’t how nice the scenery was, but how much better it could have been. That’s not to say that Risen 3 doesn’t visit interesting locations. Each island has a unique layout and upon arriving on a new island, the first quest you come across is usually some sort of tour to show you the major locals of the islands which is helpful for understanding new areas. Navigation around islands is pretty straightforward, and you’ll come across fast travel points you can activate which saves you from walking back and forth to different towns. Still, there is one issue I have with getting around and that’s climbing. Occasionally a quest will point you towards a cliff and you’ll have to make your way up with climbing using the triangle button. However it’s hard to tell which ledges are climbable and it often feels like you’re glitching outside of the map when in reality you’re on the right path.

There is little to no immersion in Risen 3 whatsoever. Whenever the game attempts to establish a serious tone it’s ruined by questionable voice acting from the lead protagonist. At one point a sailor asked me to find his lost sword, but moments later when monsters showed up he unsheathed a sword and began attacking. Regardless if you’re a magic user, cutscenes will show you attacking with swords.

Some of the button placement is questionable. Looting enemies after a battle is common practice in an RPG, and you do that in Risen 3 by pressing the X button. Yet to talk to your AI partner is also the X button meaning you’ll attempt to loot an enemy but your AI partner will stand too close and you’ll end up talking to them by mistake. This happens far more times than it should throughout the game. Another aggravating button placement is that O is to skip through dialogue, but it’s also the button to unsheathe your weapon meaning you’ll be skipping through dialogue and accidentally agro whoever you’ve been talking to.

For an RPG, I feel like some of the RPG elements actually get in the way of the game itself. The game encourages you to pick up everything you see as there’s no limit to what you can carry, but picking up certain objects in towns can cause townspeople to attack you. This would be ok if the game marked clearly what items you’re stealing and which you’ve just found, but it doesn’t. Entering some NPC’s houses will cause them to attack you for trespassing while entering other NPC’s houses will grant you quests making it feel unfair when you wander into an area you’re not supposed to be in and you’re suddenly attacked. Risen 3 also features a morality system that gives you plus or minus soul depending on what certain dialogue choices. However, they never specify which conversation options are good and which are bad making it difficult to judge when it’s normal dialogue and when it’s a moral choice option.

That’s not to say that Risen 3 is a completely terrible game. Since quests usually average around 10 minutes to complete, it can be easy to find yourself saying “just one more quest.” You’ll come across some NPC’s that can join your crew allowing you to take them with you when venturing out onto an island. While these crew-members might not vary too much in combat styles, each has a unique personality and you can talk to them while on your ship to learn more about them or ask what they think about the particular island you’re on. One particular ability “Parrot Flight” allows you to turn into a parrot and fly around which makes getting around easier and never stops being fun to use.

About 1/3 into the game you’re able to choose between 3 different clans to join, each with its own unique powers and quests which adds some level of choice and replay value. You get experience every time you kill a monster or finish a quest which you can use to increase different skills on your character. Since experience comes so often you always feel like you’re close to upgrading your next skill. Little pop-ups even tell you when you have enough experience to increase a certain skill which is incredibly useful as you don’t have to check if you’re close constantly. You’ll also come across tutors who will be able to teach you new skills and abilities in exchange for gold. These skills can be things like a new move in combat or making healing items work better and make you feel more powerful. A nice little touch to the tutors is that when you get trained by them they’ll actually have dialogue that teaches you about the skill rather than you paying them gold and your skill is just automatically increased like other games. Funnily enough the music sets the tone better than any of the writing does, adding a sense of mystery and intrigue to each island. The instrumentation is sparse enough so that when songs eventually loop it’s not recognizable.

Overall Risen 3 has an addictive quality when it comes to completing quests and upgrading your character but is ultimately let down by bland melee combat, constant performance issues and poor graphics.