Risen (PC) – A Review

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You start the game surprisingly unimpressive as a stranded nameless guy washed up on a beach, which is where you begin your adventuring career. You'll learn the first steps in combat, get your first items from broken chests and corpses washed ashore and you also get your first quest, to escort a damsel in distress (sounds kind of familiar... Age of Conan?).

During the course of the first Act you'll have to decide for a faction, the Bandits or the Inquisition, (of which you'll be forced to join the second if you do not heed the warnings of the NPCs and head into a group of them right at the beginning) and you'll also get to explore the three most extensive and fun places in the game: The Bandit Encampment, the Volcano Fortress and a Port City.
After that the story wanes a little while you're constantly heading towards the (unfortunately rather disappointing) conclusion and have to crawl through a few dozen dungeons while both killing enemies and solving puzzles.

The first thing I noticed right away, after starting up the game and choosing "New Game" is that the animations are partially really bad and some of the NPC models just look clunky, like they grew up on the wrong side of the Uncanny Valley, far away from their friends when compared to other near-realistic presentations in other games. They could certainly have benefitted from SOME motion capturing and better/high poly character models.

Also it's one of those games where you move about much too slow, there's even a "Haste" spell later on that delivers proper speed for a certain period of time. I wish they had made that the standard running speed (or a sprint based on some kind of stamina) instead of the "jogging" like your char normally does.

Greetings from outer space and hello to the awkward jumping animation
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This all sounds pretty bad you say? But wait, because it really isn't... the game has lots and lots of good parts I'm going to get to shortly.

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From left to right, you waking up on some god-forsaken shore, making friends with the Bandits, sightseeing the Port City on a sunshiny day and having a quick gander about in the Volcano Fortress

Regarding the game-world:


It is one of the things that I enjoyed the most. You can clearly see that it is modeled by hand throughout and somehow you can also feel it. There's nothing that seems off or looks EXACTLY the same as another part of the world (although a lot of places use the same textures and vegetation) and there's landmark elements like a big waterfall flowing down throughout the island or a big raging volcano in the middle of it. There are things to explore everywhere (it's very different from Oblivion or Fallout 3, which both seemed too flat and randomly generated with a few buildings added here and there and lots of empty space) like hard to reach hilltops or areas that are basically cut off from the rest of the island and can only be reached by using spells like Levitation (which sometimes hold ph4t l3wt).

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One part of the mentioned waterfall and an area exclusive to Levitation... psst don't sneeze now.

There are hidden caves throughout the world and hidden corridors or rooms inside nearly every dungeon. Those can only be opened if you pull certain "rings" on the walls (which aren't highlighted btw.) or hit a switch somewhere with your ranged weapon of choice. I had fun exploring every nook and cranny of the entire island. Even the monsters and plants throughout the world are placed with a lot of care. (e.g. you will find wolves in the woods, marshland bodies in the swamps, skeletons near cemeteries and inside old ruins, gnomes inside of caves and around campfires etc.) Important plants for your character development (which add bonuses to your abilities) can always be found in special or hard-to-reach places.

Monsters are also placed with great care, so as to not discourage exploration altogether, but keep you at bay if you want to enter certain areas prematurely. When you enter a cave and an ogre is one-hitting you at full health with his big club, it is kind of clearly implied that you should maybe "come again" later and stay away for now. It just feels a lot better and more alive than those "level scaling" games with random spawn and loot all throughout the game. There's also no constant Respawn, once you're done with a certain area or dungeon you ARE actually done and you get a sense of "accomplishment", aside of a few new monster types being additionally introduced into the game world at the beginning of each new Act (of which there are 4).

Dungeons are usually not the same "get through and kill everything alive"-run of the mill experiences, but offer a little bit of diversity by having to use several spells like Levitation (to get over gorges), Transformation into a Nautilus (to get through Small cracks) and Telekinesis (for Levers and Getting Items from far away and the likes), mainly to disarm traps.
Dungeons are also full of traps, most of them mean Instant Death if you aren't being careful, this is (after the first few encounters with them) a Pro, because it adds a little suspense and will MAKE you be careful when you enter an old ruin or temple while looking around. After having your first few experiences with the Grim Reaper, they can easily be recognized and avoided though.

The NPCs you will meet during your travels are well designed but not exactly remarkable. I can't think of any single one of them that was really memorable after playing through the game and unfortunately there are also lots of simple "Collect" and "Kill" quests to go with that, although you will have done most of those easily if you plan on exploring the world and picking up things anyway.

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Transformed into a nautilus you can get through every little crack

Also some, if not most of the (unique) items you find feel and more importantly look unique, a few more attributes like elemental damage or increased abilities wouldn't have been THAT bad to add though.

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Two swords you are able to forge in the game and the late-game armor

The Combat System:

It isn't too forgiving. Especially during the first few hours of the game you'll probably die (a lot) so make use of the Quicksave function (a lot). I also regularly used friendly NPCs to tank or help me take down some enemies every now and then throughout the first few levels.
If you're bad at the game you might even die as a high-level character to low-level monsters. If you're good at it, adapt and have a bit of patience you can beat monsters meant for Level 23+ with a Level 13 char.

Each "type" of opponent kind of requires a different technique or tactics.
For example you have to block wolves with your shield till they are done attacking (usually 2-3 hits), then get in a few hits and block again. Scorpions hit you with their tail, so when you see it coming you have to step back and to the side to evade and then land your hit while they're "recharging". Other monsters are easily beaten with fast combos or doing lots of charged/power attacks in a chain over and over again from a short distance slightly out of their arms reach.

Long-Range combat like the magic crystals (Magic Missile, Fireball or Ice) or Bows/X-Bows is kind of easier to handle, as you just have to aim and hit and it plays more along the lines of a 3rd person shooter, but you won't be able to use just those exclusively throughout the game.
Also you might want or need to use your surroundings consciously e.g. stay in an archway so the enemies can't come at you from all sides or get with your back next to a rock or a house if the enemies are trying to surround you. It's not the type of combat you can lean back to, and press buttons 1-2-3 for different skills over and over again while you're falling half asleep doing so and might require some trial and error but I like it!

Surprisingly your companions (or the people you get to fight alongside with, during the course of the story it'll even be a small army at one point) do their job pretty well. They don't die too quickly, they (usually) don't run into your sights and are actually helpful for once.

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First two pictures: Wolves trying to circle you and a successful block;
Third picture: You, your companion and your trusty, dependable skeleton Fred fighting against some ugly lizards

The Interface


The Interface isn't overloaded with things like Skill/Quickitem bars, status displays, numbers, radars, quest trackers and the likes. The game expects you to use your brain every now and then, especially during quests. But if you need the exact place of a certain goal you are searching for or a certain NPC for a quest you can always open the Quest-Map and there's markings.

The game also has a few comfort features, not unlike its predecessors, which aren't that commonplace in other games. For example you can pick every single item up and you don't have to deal with an imposed item or weight limit. You can basically carry the whole world around with you. If you want to bother sorting through your inventory and selling items every now and then you can, but you don't really have to and you can concentrate more on the action at hand and the quests instead of micro-managing your inventory (it was one of the first things I tweaked using the console in both Oblivion and Fallout 3, can't stand it myself xD).
The NPCs that you did quests for and exhausted all dialogue choices with, from thereon just give you a short "greeting" so you don't have to talk to every single one of them every time you stop by or every new Act to see if they have something new to say.

A drawback to that system is that dialogue feels like you are just working off all possible dialog choices along a red thread till there's nothing else left to choose from (even in quests where you have to investigate something like a murder or a missing persons case) and so the game lacks a little of the freedom of choice most Bioware RPGs offer. Every now and then your char will even say something completely random and surprising by himself where you may go "WTF" like extorting money from someone out of the blue because he seemingly feels like it.

The comfort function I was looking for and was missing the most at the beginning of the game though was a hotspot-key to highlight items or item text on the screen, even on the very first beach there's a lot of stuff lying around like clams, money, bottles and all that and the only thing you can go by to pick them all up is your very own eyes and running around blindly clicking the left mouse button and hoping you pick up things doing so.

There were also indications of a few system and design choices they built in/made that weren't all that. For example there's barrels with water everywhere that can heal up the player character, but after you reach Level 5 they seem like a waste of time because it takes much too long (almost 10+ sips including animation) and it just goes up incrementally. The barrels become useless very fast. Same thing with food that heals 5-15hp... Might work the very first few levels but after that all you're going to do is sip a health potion (there's enough of those going around) or take a quick nap and rather sell all those other items.

A few of the design choices I was talking about are for example that the "Bandit" faction seems to be the way to go if you want to play more of a warrior character and get the heavy-duty armors early on, which seems weird cause they're all wearing leather. Also it is the only faction you can train your sword-skill over 7 (of 10) points with if you join, while joining the Inquisition and becoming something like a Paladin (or Mage if you volunteered) you're supposed to start using staffs, I still kept my sword anyway. Another thing is that trainers can increase your main abilities like STR or DEX (which increase the total damage you do with the respective weapons and allow you to wear better gear) to 100 points total and no further, but the skill can go up to 200 by using potions and other things like stews or certain food (and by so doing increasing your damage)... You might waste several potions and other +STR items early on in the game and never be able to reach 200 later because of it, and there's not even a small hint about it. It would've been better if the Base from the trainers and the Permanent Bonus from items were flowing into 2 different pools so both courses of action would be possible from the get-go.

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Maps you have to work for, find them or earn them
before they can be displayed for a certain area

The Skill System:

You get "Learning Experience" after each Level Up and have to find a trainer that teaches you the specific skill you want against a few gold coins, instead of just "knowing" Blacksmithing or Sword fighting or whatever out of thin air you are basically being taught over time by several people (there's even useful tips on how you can use your weapon on the new skill level.)
Raising a melee skill always comes along with improvements to how you can attack and always feels satisfying. You get different types of attacks like Power Attacks, you get to do quicker blows, longer combos and a few other things or even get to use Two-Handed weapons as One-Handed (if you reach a certain skill level).

The game doesn't take itself too seriously, for example to distract people you can cast an "Illusion" spell summoning a hot dancer, upon which male NPCs will head right for it and act... distracted. If you pissed off an NPC, and he doesn't want to talk to you anymore, you can use the spell "Tell Joke" (which simulates you telling the best joke in the world) and he's gonna start laughing and talk to you again. Similar to the previous Gothic games there's also random stuff to do like smoking a hookah, cutting wood and all that just for the atmosphere. Or novices of magic rolling up some weed and smoking it in front of you, there's quite a few of those things that create a more "lax" and different atmosphere from those dark, everything is dead serious RPGs.
You also get XP for killing chickens (there's even an Achievement involved) or eating eggs, and eating apples makes you stronger (everyone knows that)!

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A few other things you can do during your travels through the world of Risen:

  • While exploring the world, you can pick up 20 special flowers, with which you can make potions (Alchemy Level 3 as a precondition) that increase your Strength, Dexterity or Life permanently
  • Mine for Ore you can use for crafting later on
  • Hunt animals and (assuming you have found/bought the right tools) skin them for their valuables like pelts, tooths or wings
  • Find buried treasure chests or just hidden treasure/weapons on difficult to reach spots or slopes
  • After Chapter 2 starts you'll be able to find "Teleport"-Stones all over the world for use as a Quick-travel system.

Burying out a treasure chest and teleportation
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If you want to have some fun near the end of the game teleport into the city, transform into an Ash Beast
and go on a rampage or just try out what being a pyromaniac might feel like.

I required about 36 hours for a complete playthrough of the game while exploring everything. It didn't feel too long nor too short, people that aren't THAT much into exploring or side-quests and just want to do the main story might subtract between 7 to 15 hours.
The game was surprisingly bug-free. Throughout the game I only experienced 2 crashes, a somewhat reluctant door, some flying corpses and an NPC ending up dead that was needed for some minor quest.

Overall, if you can deal with the fact that this game doesn't have every "Comfort feature" available out there from a very detailed radar map to it holding your hand every single step of the way and combat doesn't just imply you clicking the same two skills over and over again, but requires a combination of timing, blocking, evading and more to succeed (or you liked Gothic 1+2) this game is certainly worth a look for RPG-starved people trying to pass the time till the release of Dragon Age.
I give it an 8.2/10.

Older stuff:

Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Review
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Age of Conan Impressions - Pro and Con

I thought the game sucked in every way.
The intro does little to draw you into the game, and the starting difficulty is waaaaaaay too much for most people to handle IMO.
The broken combat system (not really broken, but when a monster your level can kill you in 2 hits, but takes 12 hits to kill, I can't call it decent) all but made me give up, and I had to resort to quicksaving DURING fights to stand a chance. The ranged weapons deal virtually no damage and reload too slow to be of any use, and I've played for about 3 hours and have yet to discover a single magic spell.
Also, the idiotic level up system in which you have to pay in both XP AND gold, and find trainers by painstaking asking them about their jobs/hobbies means you'll either have good weapons with crappy skills, or wield crappy weapons with good skill.
Lastly, the fact that your character is pretty much the "prison bitch" for both the Monastery and the Outlaws sealed this games' fate IMO.
How can ANYONE prefer this to Oblivion is beyond me....

I wouldn't give this game more than a 6 or 7. (hey, I agree with gamespot for once!)

PS. I really like the way you inserted pictures in the review, it saves loading times and doesn't make the review seem too long to read. Good job.

Future Hero:
I thought the game sucked in every way.
The intro does little to draw you into the game, and the starting difficulty is waaaaaaay too much for most people to handle IMO.
The broken combat system (not really broken, but when a monster your level can kill you in 2 hits, but takes 12 hits to kill, I can't call it decent) all but made me give up, and I had to resort to quicksaving DURING fights to stand a chance. The ranged weapons deal virtually no damage and reload too slow to be of any use, and I've played for about 3 hours and have yet to discover a single magic spell.
Also, the idiotic level up system in which you have to pay in both XP AND gold, and find trainers by painstaking asking them about their jobs/hobbies means you'll either have good weapons with crappy skills, or wield crappy weapons with good skill.
Lastly, the fact that your character is pretty much the "prison bitch" for both the Monastery and the Outlaws sealed this games' fate IMO.
How can ANYONE prefer this to Oblivion is beyond me....

I wouldn't give this game more than a 6 or 7. (hey, I agree with gamespot for once!)

PS. I really like the way you inserted pictures in the review, it saves loading times and doesn't make the review seem too long to read. Good job.

Same here, the game was ugly, unintuitive, and a chore to play. It takes hours to make any sort of small progress, and even when you do, it's frustrating to still die to the generic wolves in 4-5 hits. A good review, but I still hate this game.

Hmm that's strange, I didn't really have any INHERENT problems with any of the game mechanics and didn't really die all THAT much. Maybe it's because I pretty much grew up with RPGs like Baldur's Gate, Gothic and Fallout where YOU had to adapt to the gaming environment or die and not the other way around.

Basically there's a few things to know right away for example: "You should use a shield against wood-critters otherwise they'll bite you over and over again", You can parry humans and humanoids and swords and stuff in general with your own weapon of choice, but not animals.
Also you should "Try to get the rhythm of each enemy", as said in the example wolves will try to circle you... don't let them, also they always do 2-3 attacks right from the front and are then vulnerable, so hit them. If you expect repeatedly hitting the attack-key to be the ultimate choice it really isn't... Also listen to and use some of the quest NPCs that accompany you throughout the world, they help you in fights and you still get the Exp at the beginning if you do the last blow. Another thing is a better armor and weapons with more "Resistance" and "Damage"

are worth A LOT and you will notice a difference between two armor pieces or a new weapon right away. They make a big difference so try to get that and stick to the main quest HUBs for the start and do not try to wander off into areas meant for a higher level char than you are.
Following some of these basic principles I was able to beat about every single enemy in the game with ~ Level 13-15 mostly using skill and timing alone.

Not following some, if not most of those for example trying to fight wolves and birds without a shield for an extended period of time is like not putting on armor or upgrading your weapon in another RPG and blaming it on the game mechanics that you die because you didn't know it'll protect you / do more damage because "sharp sword is sharp sword" and there seems to be enough people that actually enjoyed it :P.

Or to put it differently like playing Street Fighter 4 and complaining that you don't pwn everyone right away by wildly clicking all buttons on your controller and Online Matches last 5 seconds xD

I disagree.
The combat is simply too hard to learn and about 70% of people will give up on the game because of it. Maybe if you were eased into it and the starting area had easier enemies you wouldn't have to quick save after landing a single blow.
However, even if the combat wasn't broken, the fact that the enemies kill you almost instantly and take so much hits to kill will discourage people from playing.
And ranged weapons are useless since you can't block while shooting and you do so little damage that you might as well forget it.

Finally, you start encountering "critters" far before you can afford a shield, so things like porcupines and small wolves can teabag you with impunity. And the game doesn't tell you that you need a shield (at least as far as I played).
But really, seeing as I thought Gothic 3 was a buggy, unfinished and unplayable game, I'm not surprised.

Broken combat, broken game.
Oblivion is better.

This is a game I considered playing actually, but ultimately I backed away from it in fear that it'd be too much of a chore.

Not saying the game is objectively bad. Just that it really (after some research) didn't sound like my cup of tea.

Sounds a lot like the gothic series (2 was the best) 2 questions
1. how bad is the voice acting
2. How buggy is it Gothic 3 was terrible

Eh, I've had some bugs - if not quite a bit - with this game and I constantly state: "Oh! So you (The computer) can do that, but I somehow can't!" Then again I could be missing something since I played for at least six hours of the game without really upgrading my combat skills. It was later on did I find out that it made it a lot easier for me and I sat there knowing the computer was laughing at me.

One such bug was with a certain character that had his dialogue completely taken out for a bit and then later restored, my character was talking as if nothing odd was going on. I didn't mind it as I enjoyed reading the subtitles rather than having listen to them prattle on. Since some of the - I'll assume it's dubbing - wants to make it easier for Americans to follow by cutting out some of the words that's written in the subtitles.

Yet, for all of its faults I still love the game and it takes me back to Gothic 2, where I had a blast with that game even if I died a lot. But make no mistake, Risen holds you by the hand all right... it just leads you to a cliff so it can push you off. And I'll be damned if I'm not grateful for that.

I found Risen to be a quite enjoyable experience. Sure, the game is a bit rough around the edges in some areas, but I haven't seen any major bugs of any kind. Also, the learning curve is somewhat steep, but also rewarding once you get the hang of it.

Overall, I found it to be a better game than Oblivion, offering a more immersive world, better gameplay mechanics, much more interesting characters and an actual plot. A solid game that would have been a classic if it had slightly higher production values to polish it out a bit more.

Played some more of it today, and another thing that I hadn't noticed is just how easy it is to break the game. You can accidentally get important characters killed, and you can kill your progress if you save after such an event. Your character can "lag" behind in progress, making him to weak to fight monsters necesary for main quests. And since upgrading your skills needs money, too, you can break your character if you muck about too much or spend money on unimportant things.

But really, who cares?

Dragon Age is coming out soon, and Borderlands even sooner. Anyone but the most fanatical Gothic fanboy will forget about this game in a week..

Future Hero:
Broken combat, broken game.
Oblivion is better.

Is that a fact then? xD
I find it generally weird that people on this site seem to think that about the game, including apparently the resident reviewer. I'd guess if that was true and the game was impossible there'd be a little more uproar, or at least some people that bought it would for example complain like on the Steam forums, instead most of them are discussing gameplay aspects and a few technical issues and barely anyone even mentions "how hard" it is: http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=730
Or you'd bet at least a dozen of reviews saying how bad it is but it also got a ~80% on metacritic: http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/risen and 8.7 User score.

jamesworkshop:
Sounds a lot like the gothic series (2 was the best) 2 questions
1. how bad is the voice acting
2. How buggy is it Gothic 3 was terrible

Can't say much about the voice acting, you might get some answers from people that played that version of the game. However it didn't have THAT many bugs at all. It did have some, but then what RPG at release doesn't? Nothing game breaking or anywhere nearly as bad as Gothic 3 when it came out, more like "The Witcher" or "Oblivion" when they did.

Future Hero:
Played some more of it today, and another thing that I hadn't noticed is just how easy it is to break the game. You can accidentally get important characters killed, and you can kill your progress if you save after such an event. Your character can "lag" behind in progress, making him to weak to fight monsters necesary for main quests. And since upgrading your skills needs money, too, you can break your character if you muck about too much or spend money on unimportant things.

It's not breaking the game. You can't kill important characters needed for the main quest.
You can however go around town slaying every single character pertaining to smaller quests and thus not getting or being able to solve them. That doesn't stop you from finishing the game though, it's a choice. It was possible in games like Fallout or Planescape Torment or Bioware's very own Baldur's Gate before and Borderlands isn't really an RPG by any definition of the word from what I've seen.

Actually, if you play for the Monastery, the game actually becomes tolerable.
You explore a city and talk to people, you only have to go through the god-awful combat rarely, and you can even study magic (something that the Outlaws don't teach you, nor tell you in advance that they don't teach).
So, as long as you play the "evil" side, the game is actually good.

Oh, and I just found out how to bypass the crappy melee combat: Crossbow. Sink as much points in it as you can and shoot em' full of bolts.

But still, the combat sucks ass

Future Hero:
But still, the combat sucks ass

It's still better than Oblivion's combat system...

A very in-depth review. Also, the game looks a bit like a mix between Fable 2 and Oblivion (the 'awkward jump animation' rings true for Oblivion, hmm?), both of which I pored days of my time into. Looks good.

Jandau:

Future Hero:
But still, the combat sucks ass

It's still better than Oblivion's combat system...

Ummm, really? I guess it's all opinion but I found Oblivion to be a hell of a lot more intuitive than Risen.

Not a Spy:

Jandau:

Future Hero:
But still, the combat sucks ass

It's still better than Oblivion's combat system...

Ummm, really? I guess it's all opinion but I found Oblivion to be a hell of a lot more intuitive than Risen.

Fair enough, but I found Oblivion's combat system to be very simplistic and bare-bones. You could block and you could hit, and that was about it. Also, the whole thing was a big battle of attrition. In Risen, in adition to the regular combos I also had dodges and counterattacks, as well as a high-risk-high-reward combat philosophy that kept the whole thing exciting and interesting.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say ;)

Oblivion fights were awfully boring. If simple = intuitive than yes it was very intuitive. As for "breaking the gameplay" in oblivion I was walking in stealth AFK for a few hours, got it to max and I could kill every monster in the game by just sitting in stealth and shooting at it.
Fights in Risen were very enjoyable as they were finally hard. And I don't mean fighting wolves as this is simple. I mean fighting an ogre that can one shot you and not letting him to hit you even once by blocking and dodging. But again I'm from the oldschool gaming and I believe that if you don't die every now and then, the game is to easy (I remember fighting dragons or a lich in BG2 -good times). I like games that are punishing to you for being a noob as I like to progress not only through my stats and story, but also through getting some skill in playing the game. I like obstacles. An obstacle means challenge. Challange means fun.

As for bugs. While playing for the order there are 2 game breaking bugs.
1. Solving the murder mystery before finishing basic combat training.
2. Talking to master Ignitus about master Pallas not having a quest for you BEFORE talking to master Pallas.
I made a second mistake and I couldn't become a mage. As I didin't have any recent save before I did this I had to start over and joined the Don.

I really enjoyed the dense and pretty world of Risen and that was one of the better RPGs I recently played.

Risen i basically what Gothic 3 should be - if you liked gothic 1 and 2 you will love Risen. If you have problems with skill based, punishing games, than maybe you should stay away from it (but if Future Hero had problems with killing WOLVES then I think there is a problem with him not the game - I stayed away from those wolves until I got myself a shield- after few tries I figued out how to fight them - and that is the RIGHT learning curve for a monster fight)
I fully agree with 8/10
9/10 if you are a gothic 2 fan and can look past few mistakes.

Future Hero:
Actually, if you play for the Monastery, the game actually becomes tolerable.
You explore a city and talk to people, you only have to go through the god-awful combat rarely, and you can even study magic (something that the Outlaws don't teach you, nor tell you in advance that they don't teach).
So, as long as you play the "evil" side, the game is actually good.

Oh, and I just found out how to bypass the crappy melee combat: Crossbow. Sink as much points in it as you can and shoot em' full of bolts.

But still, the combat sucks ass

Look out you might actually start to like it and get the combat system if you play/try some more. Wouldn't want that happening :P

 

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