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5 things we learned about Risen despite not speaking German

Writing about video games isn't always as easy as it looks. Sometimes you get distracted, sometimes you want to just play the damned things, and sometimes... well, sometimes you walk into the demo of a German game being given to a bunch of German press folks by a German developer speaking entirely in German. Which we don’t speak.

Most websites would just ignore this shortcoming and try to come up with a regular preview, but we'd rather be honest. With that in mind, we bring you...

5 things we learned about Risen despite not speaking German

1. Other open-world PC RPGs are an obvious inspiration here

During the short demo we saw, the main character walked all over two expansive environments with no walls or paths blocking him in. He even moved seamlessly between indoor and outdoor settings. Piranha Bytes is clearly looking to craft an impressively large world along the same lines as games like Oblivion but with even less loading to get in the way of immersion.

2. Blood-red mechanical monocles are IN this season

The promo art and the trailer for Risen are filled with images of an ominous bald man dressed in bulky armor and wearing some strange pieces of crimson machinery over one of his eyes. Who is he? What does the eyepiece actually do? No clue, but we're tentatively guessing that this dude is a bad guy.

3. A Mediterranean setting should help set it apart from other fantasy RPGs

Of the little info we've been able to gather on Risen's storyline, we know that it begins with the main character shipwrecking on the island the game takes place on. The concept of thrusting the player into a new, totally unexplored world is very similar to the Gothic series, but Piranha Bytes is putting a bit more distance between their previous games by making this setting more exotic. From sandy beaches to villages with houses made of clay and dirt, the locales look more like Greece than the forested regions in the middle of Europe. In fact, even the leafier zones of Risen will resemble swamps and jungles rather than traditional fantasy forests.

4. See an item? Pick it up!

Like other kleptomaniac-friendly RPGs such as Oblivion and Fallout 3, it seems like you can interact with and use practically everything in the world of Risen. Any possibly helpful items -- from ropes to vases to berries -- will be highlighted as you run by. We also noticed anvils, wood piles, and kilns were highlighted, suggesting that the game will have a crafting system of some sort.

5. Combat is still kind of broken

While hardcore RPG lovers have always respected the Gothic series for its intricately-crafted worlds and interesting storylines, the series has always been snubbed by more mainstream gamers due to bugginess and some of the clunkiest combat around. Unfortunately, what we've seen so far in Risen doesn't look like much of an improvement. Combat is in real-time with long wind-ups before the character actually swings his weapon. Because of the time it takes to pull off a swing, it seems to be easy to get trapped between two or three enemies knocking you back and forth between them. In the demo we saw, the solution when facing a large group of baddies was to run away to try and pick one or two apart from the group, but if that's what we end up doing for the whole game, it's going to get tiring incredibly fast.

Being as we grabbed all of this info simply from watching the game being played without hearing the regular PR talk that usually accompanies it, you can take it with a grain of salt. Or maybe it's worth more since our opinion wasn't tainted by the siren call of their charismatic German tongues? However you feel, hopefully we'll get some more info on Risen before its planned release later this year. Guten tag!

Apr 6, 2009