In 2009, action RPG Risen hit the scene, proving to be successful enough to warrant two sequels in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In my humble opinion, Deep Silver’s title is seriously underappreciated, and is one of the best role-playing games of its generation. Luckily for me, other fans, and those that are yet to experience this gem, THQ Nordic released the game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch last week.
Naturally, I couldn’t help but dive into the Switch version, which is a straight port of the original title. This is important to know for the new release – you can’t go in expecting modern-day graphics, for instance. Instead, prepare to feel the wave of nostalgia overcome you as you visit a world that boasts an aesthetic from the Xbox 360 era.
With that out of the way, allow me to divulge some information on the story and what you can expect from your time in Faranga, the land in which Risen takes place. The game begins with a nameless character on a ship, where it soon becomes apparent that he’s a stowaway – and yes, this is who you play as for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, a titan shows up to wreak some havoc, sinking the ship.
However, it seems that death isn’t ready to claim you yet, as you wash up on the shore of a mountainous island – Faranga. This is where your tale truly begins, as you must learn who to trust among the natives, navigating an unfamiliar world where multiple factions fight and choosing who to align yourself with.
As important as these decisions may seem, the primary plot of the story remains the same regardless of who you choose to call friend. No matter what, you unwittingly help someone unleash a danger that could very well spell the end of Faranga, meaning those that call it home would perish in a horrid blaze. I don’t want to divulge any more than that, for I’m a firm believer in keeping the juicy plot points a mystery to avoid spoilers.
However, I can safely say that actions have consequences, so do consider your options carefully when decisions arise. To match what I consider to be an interesting narrative with exciting elements, there’s a satisfying combat system that I love just as much now as I did back in 2009.
Like many RPGs that feature melee combat, you can use a range of manoeuvres to get the edge in battle. Should the brute force of your blade not be enough, a well-timed dodge or perfect parry may be what gets you back on top. Furthermore, unlike a lot of games, the positioning of you and your foes makes a huge difference – a swing and a miss can have disastrous effects, though that also applies to your enemy, so make sure you put them on the back foot when you can.
To accommodate your individual combat style, you have a fair bit of freedom courtesy of the range of weapons on offer, such as swords, axes, bows, spells, and more. You can also use experience points to unlock various skills. Not only do these directly affect how you approach battle, but they can help you alter the approach you take to the game as a whole.
For instance, I’m a brute force kinda girl, so I do put a heavy emphasis on how I perform in battle. However, should you prefer to strike from the shadows or take a more pacifist approach to quests, you can achieve this through a range of skills, such as lockpicking. It’s also worth noting that Risen is one of those RPGs that doesn’t force a specific class upon you. Instead, this brutal world allows you to develop the combat method that works for you. This is a feature I greatly appreciate. As an RPG enthusiast, I can always find a class to suit my needs, but complete freedom to build my character up in a way that tailors to me is ideal.
As for how the game looks, it’s a straight-up port from 2009. However, I like this, as it induces a wave of nostalgia that I love to ride, and you know what? The world itself is still stunning in its own way, and exploring Faranga Island feels as amazing as ever. So visually, I still love this majestic island and its mysteries.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the slight screen tearing and frame rate drops that I encounter now and then. This isn’t to the extent that makes me want to put the game down, but I understand that for some, any little issue isn’t ideal. Plus, as a port, you have to prepare yourself for some clunky combat at times. As much as I enjoy it, I can’t deny that modern-day games spoil me in the fluidity of combat, so diving back into Risen can be a learning curve in that regard.
Still, Risen remains one of the best RPGs of its time, and it thrills me to know that it has yet another opportunity to shine and perhaps shake off its underappreciated status, as more people dive in and uncover a true RPG gem that got lost among the popularity and greatness of Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins and Bethesda’s Fallout 3.
Should you be after some other adventures, our lists of the best Switch RPGs and games like The Witcher 3 have some great suggestions.
Risen Switch review
Despite some performance hiccups, Risen on Nintendo Switch is a must-play for RPG fans, be they familiar with the original or not. Featuring a fun, albeit clunky, combat system that gives a great amount of freedom, and a great story in a mysterious land, it’s great to see Risen rise once more