Risen is what I call a spiritual successor to the Gothic Series, more specifically Gothic 1 which the developers had previously lost the rights to before regaining them shortly after the release of Risen 2. Risen is by all rights an HD version of everything that was good about Gothic. The small map that seems daunting but becomes akin to the back of your hand after a few hours of exploration, tons of dense forestry with ruins to explore, and a relatively interesting story concept of humans banishing the gods and titans rising to take their place for dominance and destroy the humans.
Overall there is nothing that can be said is explicitly bad about Risen, there are some changes/complaints which I'll list but otherwise was nothing worth dismissing this game from being playable. I know there are plenty of people who complained about the 'old-fashionedness' which I can see nothing of in my playthrough.
If you liked any of Gothic, you'll simply fall in love with Risen, the atmosphere is great with everything that I had liked about Gothic. Sadly I felt that the humor was a tad off from the Gothic days were I found every quip to bring a half-smile to my face no matter how corny. In Risen many of the jokes/quips are short one liners that simply don't hit the same mark for some reason, and it's hard to pinpoint why that is.
Unlike Gothic 1, Risen decided to narrow the choices for the player with only including two different camps for the player to choose from with the Volcano Keep vs the Bandit Camp while Gothic had the Old Camp, New Camp, and the Swamp. It oftentimes feels as though Risen was originally going to have three divisions like Gothic but was changed to only have two instead, possibly because of compact the island was and how strange it would be to have three factions vying for control over the island. This was something I felt that Gothic had an issue with as the Old Camp was virtually non-existent until nearly the end of the game, which I think would have been the case if Harbortown was a seperate entity in Risen. My point is that in Gothic 1 both the Swamp and New Camp were interesting and everyone involved seemed to be pleasant which inticed you into a conflict of which faction to join. In Risen you have the Bandit Camp full of absolute dirtbags with the exception of the Smith and one or two other characters or the Volcano Keep where you get walloped until you join their faction unwillingly. Quite frankly I found myself hating both sides and often swindling whoever I could whenever possible.
Portal Stones were an addition to the game not unusual from the Gothic Franchise and while the original Gothic had only three stones; each for a differing capitol, Risen rose above to a grand total of 14 teleport stones. The only issue I have with the stones is that it spawns lizards that hold the stones in a wide variety of places that the player has quite likely already been, resulting in missing stones with no quest map to avail their needs. Furthermore these stones are often too close together and not far enough apart, some regions of the map have no teleport stone to have easy access to the area without running around or inside a mountain. This brings me into the map issue where while the map is densly packed with things to do there are certain regions that are used marginally once, and never set upon again. This is also addressed in my various complaints log where I state that the search is often left undone as the best stuff in the game is generally handed out to the player in plain sight with very few hidden goodies to treasure. The Berserker Sword for example is in one of the five endgame dungeons but can be accessed before even that chapter, as early as chapter 1 and is easily one of THE BEST WEAPONS in the game.
Now various complaints
-Traits or skill trees were worthless for the most part, sword/axe trees were only useful to equip 2h weapons with 1h, which means that attributes give far more weight
-Dexterity items were extremely lacking and it's disappointing that they put only ranged weapons in the grouping which were almost worthless
To me the sword skill should have grown off dexterity with dex having bows and swords - str having axes and crossbows - intel having staves and magic.
-Blacksmithing level 3 was absolutely worthless with many weapons easily outdoing any craftable weapon, only level 2 was worthwhile with Goldsmithing
-Acrobatics, Sneaking, Alchemy, Prospecting, and Gutting Animals were all absolutely mandatory and it seems weird that these were optional choices.
In that note Prospecting became worthless quickly after gaining the amount of gold you need and finding the jewelry you want. I collected well over 99 iron ore and obsidian ore with nothing of worth to create.
Alchemy allows you to create 'additional' permanent stat points but the game fails to explain that you can't level stats with learning points past 100 of any attribute which tricks players into using potions or stat increases before they hit the 100 mark when they could go up to 200 of any attribute. Additional stats in my opinion should have been a seperate variable that adds onto the characters base stats.
-When training skills if a ring is equipped that upgrades the skill you actually pay for the level ABOVE what skill you actually have.
-Odd game mechanics coming into play at the very end of the game forcing the player to press the same switch to open different doors which was never implemented earlier (literally in the last dungeon
-More about the final dungeon; there is an area that doesn't allow the player to use magics because the player could levitate over the gap and get stuck behind an immovable stone door. This was likely done to prevent players from getting stuck since it probably happened A LOT during the beta test of the game. It's extremely silly you can't use magic in only this location and made me fall to my death in areas located AROUND this location making me fall out of levitate for no reason until I got lower in the dungeon and found out why it was happening. Overall it was cheaply done to route the problem they were having instead of quickly designing a quick side path to let players escape, even a small hole could have supplemented with the transform snail spell.
-Often warped up to the top of different buildings when walking INTO the building
-Enemies would warp to a position around the player for some reason, especially annoying if you would get your enemy into a position to combo him easily to only have him warp around your character and combo you instead.
-Combat was rough, and the lockon system often felt off. Sadly this game doesn't do multiple enemy combat very well which there is A LOT of.
-Combat being Rough: Due to the jerkiness of the jump/dodge key which would terrorize combat with you being unalbe to jump back if a pebble or small incline was in your path.
-Sometimes attacks would just phase through enemies can't even explain this one
-Enemies jump back WAY TOO preemptively it gets really annoying and oftentimes you just have to force an enemy into a corner to stop them from jumping back
-No merchant talent which I thought would be insanely useful to increase sale prices, since you will only get 1/20 of the worth of any item you sell.
-Last boss was silly but I think most of the final bosses have always been silly for Piranha Bytes
-Quest Map was a seperate map instead of overlaying the Map UI when clicking on a quest, I have no idea why these two were made independently.
-Lack of 'dungeons' to explore, with final quest throwing 5 dungeons all at once that makes you hate everything about them. Think Oblivion and closing the 8 gates in a row, it just sucks doing it all at once.
-Tons of secret areas but are rarely worth finding them, oftentimes used a spell like levitate to find 40 coins which isn't even worth the cost of the spell.