REVIEW | Risen

REVIEW | Risen

Risen review | I’ve never played Risen before, I think I watched at least one youtube video of Risen 2 years ago, and I don’t remember it, but still, I’ve never seen or heard a whole lot about the franchise as a whole. I’ve only discovered more about it with this re-release, and it grabbed my attention, so here I am giving you my opinion on it, and just as a heads up, I’m feeling somewhat conflicted about it.

DeveloperPiranha Bytes
PublisherTHQ Nordic

ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox One | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!

What we Liked!

  • Soundtrack | Have you ever had an instance where you discovered something that feels like an inspiration from something released years after it? This is exactly how I felt about Risen‘s soundtrack. For starters, the main menu theme sounds like Fallout 4‘s main menu theme, except it doesn’t use the same instruments or exact tone, but it does follow the same rhythm. There’s also the fact that the rest of the soundtrack sounds like a less impacting version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s soundtrack, this time it’s not about having the same rhythm, but there’s something about it that just feels like it belongs to it, you know? Maybe it’s because they share the fantasy theme and were released not incredibly far from each other. Regardless, it fits the game pretty well.
  • Decent looks | Although Risen is over 13 years old at this point, I’ve gotta say that it holds up decently enough. The world itself looks and feels interesting to explore, and the creatures/monsters you fight also look pretty nice. It can be pretty dark at times, which made me change my gamma to be able to see better, but I believe that’s a product of how games used to be back then.
  • Story | The story starts pretty interestingly, with the boat you were on being attacked by a giant monster, leaving you as a castaway on the island where the game takes place in. You discover pretty quickly that strange temples emerged from the ground recently there, and strange creatures came out of them. It’s a nice setup for the game, and it does leave you with questions you’ll want to find the answers to. It’s going to take a while for you to get back to that, as you’ll get into subplots and their respective quests before then, which are also interesting, but may not interest everyone as much.
This may look weird, but I believe it has something to do with me bumping up my gamma a bit.

Mixed Feelings

  • Dated | When you start playing Risen you will most likely feel like it’s dated. Some of the controls feel unusual like jumping by pressing the right analog stick or accessing your inventory, map, skills, and journal all with the d-pad. And also, the first cutscene you get, which at the time was supposed to be the most impressive looking one as in other old games, definitely hasn’t aged well, it looks a bit weird and low-quality.
  • You’ll get there eventually | Risen fails to explain a few important things about it, some of them can be found out about without much work, but others might not come as naturally to you. For instance, I had to search around the internet to find out how I could level up my skills, as the only way to do that is with specific NPCs. There’s also the fact that you don’t have a minimap, and the only way for you to locate yourself and your objective is if you have a map of the area, this can be found out not too long into the game so it’s not a huge problem.

What we Disliked

  • Problematic |I’ve had quite a few technical problems while playing Risen, some of them were avoidable, had I known reinstalling the game would fix them before spending quite a few hours playing it. These avoidable ones were freezes that happened in quite a few places in the game, some of them leading into crashes, thankfully, it seems like it was only a matter of having corrupt files. But even after reinstalling the game I still experienced some stuttering and FPS drops, making this less than the ideal experience. Also, before reinstalling it, there was an instance where I teleported to a roof when moving my camera, along a “camera spasm” while standing under a doorway, I don’t think this would’ve been avoided if I reinstalled the game earlier.
  • Minor issues | Apart from the issues I’ve already mentioned, there are some others, some of which will sound like nitpicking, but I thought they were worth mentioning. The first loading that happens when you open the game is pretty long, not the longest I’ve ever seen, but still unpleasant. The loading bar works weirdly, as most of the time it fills up several times before the loading screen finishes, sometimes it fills up only a couple of times though. It took me a while to get used to the camera moving after every single line of dialogue was finished, I thought that this was a weird design choice. There are noticeable reused character models, not a ridiculous amount of them, but enough for anyone to notice it. And finally, subtitles should’ve been bigger by default, they are readable, but it took me a little while to get used to them.

How long to beat the story | 27 – 28 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 40h+
You’ll love this game if you like these | Fable, Elder Scrolls games, and other fantasy RPGs.


Risen feels exactly as you’d expect: a product of its time. While it has an interesting world, soundtrack, and story, its gameplay and human models could have used some kind of rework for a re-release. Maybe a full-blown remake would’ve been a better choice for Risen than just a re-release, but I believe THQ Nordic was testing how much interest the franchise still has nowadays with this version.

Gameplay 🎮

It has some weird controls, but you’ll get the hang of it after a little while, which doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, it will feel a bit clunky at times.

Visuals 🖼️

For the time it was originally released, it doesn’t look bad, but since this is just a re-release, it looks dated by today’s standards.

Sound 🎧

The soundtrack felt like a mix of Fallout 4 and Skyrim, mostly Skyrim, without the same impact though.

Story 📖

It starts strong, and it feels interesting, it does slow down after a little while but it remains pretty good.

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