When I reviewed the original release of Piranha Bytes’ action RPG last August I had relatively mixed feelings about the whole thing, after all, there did appear to be a game worth playing buried beneath the myriad technical issues that smothered it like a fine layer of earth, suffocating the experience into an asphyxiating whole. But, now that the developer has seen fit to re-release the game, taking it across to the PS4 and aiming to make use of the console’s superior capabilities, has it managed to make Risen 3: Titan Lords the RPG that it should have been in the first place? Well, in a word, no.
Re-releases are becoming all too common these days, though some developers do it right, whilst others do not. We’ve just seen the original Gears of War make the transition across to the Xbox One thanks to The Coalition, enhanced in more ways than simple superficial ones, though having said that, the updated visuals are still quite impressive. And so it was, with whispers of improvements to its overall visual fidelity that the first news of this Enhanced Edition first reached our eager ears, with claims that the graphics that would outstrip the original PC release on its highest settings. Well, having now had the opportunity to spend some time with this latest version, I think it’s fair to say that the PC release clearly wasn’t up to much either.
Obviously, this PS4 version runs in native 1080p and has a draw distance that far outstrips the original, and yet, the old problems of texture drop in and pop up still rear their ugly heads, but they are not the only problems that still remain. The original release that I reviewed had a frame rate that constantly plummeted south of its targeted 30fps, occasionally dropping down to single figures (and sometimes even lower!), grinding the game to a complete halt, and it wasn’t as if the game was pushing the hardware at all, as is the case again. The PS4 should be able run this without breaking a sweat, yet the framerate once again is more than a tad choppy, Piranha Bytes were given an opportunity with this release to polish up the original and show the games industry what they were capable of, yet once again they fell well short of the mark. It’s particularly saddening as each of the islands that comprise the world of Risen 3 are so distinguishable from one another, so unique, with each playing home to a vast array of vegetation, wildlife and identifiable landmarks, that it really should have been something truly special. But alas, this was not to be.
Outside of visual enhancements and the inclusion of an additional two islands previously made available as DLC, the game remains unchanged, which will be sad news indeed for those who prefer their RPGs to have combat systems that can’t best be described as mediocre. As I stated in my last review of this, combat begins as a real chore to say the very least, with the skill-less and nameless pirate being both underpowered and woefully inaccurate with his attempted strikes. Thankfully though, over time this does change as the player earns and distributes their Glory, which replaces the more traditional XP system. By utilising this means of levelling, players can target smaller and more focused improvements to their character, boosting skills in particular areas to increase the characters adeptness at swordplay, gunplay or the wielding of magic. This seems to break down the overall experience into smaller, bite sized chunks that makes the game feel like less of a slog, though not by too much, thanks to its one trick pony of a combat system.
It’s worth pointing out that the combat system in general is largely passable, but only when it becomes apparent early on that rolling out of the way of harm is the key to survival, and because the game allows for an AI companion to enter into battle with you. However, there are times when this is not the case, and there are even boss battles that are restricted to a one on one confrontations too, one of which constantly spams smaller minions into the arena to generally just grind on the already tested patience of the player until they either surpass the challenge or switch their console off. Which will probably be the latter in most cases.
In fact, there are also missions available on one of the islands that see the player forced to fly solo, and attempt to use stealth as they alone infiltrate a goblin camp to steal back a series of items taken from a race of gnomes. These vile creatures insist for some silly reason that you shouldn’t fight their oppressors as it will sully their totems and destroy the village (or something along those lines), so players will attempt to sneak in as the game advises, only to quickly realise that this isn’t even possible, and that they are in fact just better running in, grabbing the item and running back out again. Here, Piranha Bytes had the opportunity to mix up the gameplay a little, but once again, they failed, sadly, leaving Risen 3: Titan Lords as little more than a wasted opportunity.
It’s baffling to think that now we’re here - over one year after the release of the original, which is ample time for the creation of this port - Piranha Bytes did little more than give the visuals a very slight polish when it had surely been made abundantly clear to them that the game was plagued by far more problematic, almost game breaking issues. This re-release represented an opportunity for them to put things right and yet, they did not seize the chance, instead, gracing the PS4 with a sub-par action RPG that, regardless of what price they sell it at, will hardly be in demand in the face of competition from far more accomplished and polished products such as Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3. George Bernard Shaw once said that “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time”, and quite evidently, Piranha Bytes did not listen.