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Why Risen might be one of the best RPGs you haven’t played

Here’s why Risen might be one of the best RPGs you probably haven’t played yet. By the same developers as the popular Gothic games, Risen is similar to that franchise in many ways, but it executed certain things way better than its predecessors. It was released in 2009. There are no spoilers in this article.

Let’s consider various aspects of Risen and discuss why it might be one of the best RPGs you probably haven’t played.

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The combat

Why Risen might be one of the Best RPGs you Haven’t Played

First and foremost, I want to talk about the combat of Risen. It’s a very interesting system that may not be comparable to hack ‘n slash games by today’s standards, but it still offers a great level of depth.

There are three classes, so to speak: one where you can use one-handed weapons and shields, one in which you use two-handed heavy weapons, and a mage class where you utilize a staff and other magic. But you are not limited to one of these classes at any given moment. Instead, you can plan and customize your character freely.

My character is one that wields a one-handed sword and a shield. It’s a balance between power and defence, and there’s a variety of moves to execute. Without learning more about the respective weapon skills and investing points in them, you cannot effectively progress your character, obviously.

For example, when you gain levels in the respective skill regarding one-handed swordplay, the number of attacks you can combine into a combo increases. That doesn’t end there, either. There are a lot of mechanics like parrying and counterattacking that you can obtain with new levels.

Because this game is quite old, some things about the combat can be frustrating. Many players complain about the stiffness and clunkiness of dodging. While it is a very useful skill that actually feels great to pull off, it pales in comparison to dodging in games like, say, Dark Souls. But still, circling around enemies and landing hits can be incredibly satisfying.

Now, let me explain to you my favourite aspects of combat. Patience and focus are keys to mastering it, as simply clicking your mouse buttons in hopes of quickly landing hits is not ideal. By perfectly timing each attack just after the previous one, the speed of the combo increases significantly. This will give you an edge in combat, and I love how it rewards patient, precise players.

Every combat encounter can be gruelling, and it’s very important to block enemy attacks with your weapon or your shield effectively. Because you won’t have access to countering at the beginning of the game, you must block enemy attacks and wait for the perfect moment to strike.

Overall, the combat system of this game takes a long time to master, and it’s incredibly deep.


Why Risen might be one of the Best RPGs you Haven’t Played

One more thing that really captivated me was the relatively unique progression system. When you gain levels in general by completing quests and killing enemies, you don’t get perk/skill points as in many other RPGs. Instead, you must speak to people that are proficient in various skills and pay them to teach you.

It makes a lot of sense and is very immersive. Because money is hard to come by and as a wise spender always thinks far ahead, it’s reasonable to only invest in skills regarding weapons/abilities you really need.

Role-playing elements

In the unforgiving and hostile island in which the game is set in, you will find many interesting characters with unique personalities. Dialogue choices really matter in this game and have the same impact as, say, the likes of The Witcher games.

But in certain ways, it’s much more punishing. If you don’t choose your words carefully, characters will stop talking with you altogether. In order to befriend them again, you must unlock a certain item. I will not spoil any further.

Befriending characters by doing jobs for them makes them trust you more and reveal more things. And you have to speak with certain people to understand some of the more reticent people in the world.

Other than the dialogue choices, there are many other instances where even harmless things could completely alter the game’s narrative. For example, wandering into an area where a certain group’s members reside, you automatically have to join them, whether you like it or not.

The world and the lore

Let me briefly explain some of this game’s lore. After humanity banished the Gods from the Earth, a race of vicious beasts known as the Titans were unleashed. Now, the world faced threatening creatures that came out of ruins that had risen from the ground, too.

At first, these creatures and the titans are mysterious, and humanity faced perdition at the hands of them, to some degree. But an order known as the Inquisition attempts to repel the Titan threat. In the introductory cutscene of the game, you can see an Inquisitor named Mendoza attempting to combat a Titan who walks towards the ship where the main character hid.

But Mendoza failed, and he retreated to the mainland by teleporting. The ship the main character was in crashes, and a woman named Sara and the main character get washed up to the shores of the island of Faranga.

From here, you are free to explore the island at your discretion and uncover what goes on in this great odd world as you see fit.

In general, Risen has common RPG tropes. But they are all made quite interesting with the game’s own renditions of such tropes. The lore is interesting, and the island of Faranga is incredibly beautiful and mysterious, and it’s begging to be explored.

Featuring lush forests and hideous swamps hiding all manner of unique creatures that have never before been seen in other games, and towns and settlements that house colourful characters and groups, this is a perfect setting for an RPG.


Risen focuses a lot on immersion. There are no quest markers. You have to explore the island by yourself and gather information.

At the beginning of the game, you have nothing. In order to learn about the land, you had to collect maps. In the beginning, you will get a paper map that only shows a part of the island. With exploration and progression, you will uncover more detailed maps.

While thirst and hunger options are not in this game, it’s important to hunt and cook meals in order to heal yourself outside of combat. There are survival aspects in this game but it’s never forced, and it just kind of blends into the overall gameplay. Many mechanics of the game are believable and immersive, making for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Some say that Risen and the Gothic games feel like Dark Souls games that were released before they were. While the two franchises are exceedingly different, it’s reasonable to feel like that because both of them offer unique, challenging and immersive experiences that are second to none.


This article only summarised the most basic reasons why Risen might be one of the best RPGs you probably haven’t played. By playing this game, you’ll only uncover more intriguing and appealing traits. I highly recommend Risen to every RPG fan.

Risen is available on PC via Steam, PS3, PS4, PS5, and Xbox consoles.