As a kid I was always up for a good pirate yarn. Of course, the operative word in that sentence is good. So what seemed good to my youthful brain at the time? Well, peg-legged adventure, of course! You know, something featuring tricorn hats, eye patches, buried treasure and a Disneyesque "Yo-ho!" o'er the high seas.
The more realistic pirate life of body lice, rickets, getting hanged from the yardarm and having your guts spilled by a rusty scimitar, well, that kind of thing just never held the same appeal. For obvious reasons.
Which, of course, leads us to Risen 3: Titan Lords. So is this arrgh-filled game a whitewashed rollick where the decks are kept scrubbed and the blades gleaming? Or will blood be dripping from the sails and wretchedness cloak the cabins? Let's hoist the anchor and find out.
What Be Rising Yonder?
This third installment in the Risen series has gamers play as an unnamed swashbuckler with a mischievous glint in his eye and enough deep gravel in his voice to completely resurface the local pirate cove. With his buxom and boisterous sister Patty in tow, he sails his ship to a mysterious island where they hope to seek out an ancient temple and find lost treasure, a bounty last heard of in the whispers of old seafarers in rum-soaked ports.
Now that's as old-fashioned a pirate's tale as you can get! But hold on to your parrots, the South Sea winds change quickly in this virtual world.
While Mr. No Name and his sis are exploring the temple, a sinister and demonic creature steps out of a crystal portal, grabs our hero by the scruff of the neck and sucks out his soul. Yup, before Polly can even ask for another cracker, this dude's a dead pirate ready to be buried in a shallow grave with two coppers over his eyes.
Then again, what's a little death between friends when a skull and crossbones is their emblem of choice? And so three weeks later, a voodoo pirate named Bones brings our gangrenous guy back from the dead and tells him he's working on borrowed time. Only with the help of a powerful mage or two can he hope to retrieve his soul and keep from becoming a brainless minion of the Underworld.
Gathering companions as he goes, this scruffy so-and-so then sets off on a 20- to 30-plus hour series of quests and miniquests. He must deal with three different magic-wielding factions and work to dismantle several of those demonic portals in order to save his soul and the world at large. What that boils down to is a whole lot of island-hopping; some gathering and crafting challenges; a number of twists and turns in a rather confusing demon- and nightmare-packed story; and tons of repetitive, grinding battles with sword slashes and magic blasts.
A Pirate's Life Fit for No One
From the perspective of trying to enjoy a colorful tropical isle retreat, the game's graphics are actually fairly bland. The swordplay mechanics and general camera dynamics are balky and disjointed. And, as we've just been swimming through the shark-filled waters of demons, necromancy and dark voodoo, you already know that the negative content quotient here is pretty high. Along with grizzled ruffians and giant rats, glowing-eyed creatures from hell itself attack in various monstrous forms—ranging from immense crab monsters, to a ghoulish critter with spider-like legs and a skull face, to a large multihorned demon with splayed-open bones.
The monsters' worlds are places of undulating flesh and rank black-smoke sulfur. And whether you're ripping those beasties apart or jamming your sword and crossbow arrow into the soft guts of more human-like foes, the blood spurts and splashes with the force of a bursting water balloon. Cannon balls and pistol shots send bodies tumbling.
Speaking of bodies, there are also provocative female forms to be spotted in this land of rotten-toothed pirates and gore-oozing fiends. Patty's clothes are, well, overpacked, to say the least, and the camera invites us to admire her fleshy curves up close and personal. Female voodoo pirates and farm maids alike wear cleavage-boosting tops. And one netherworld creature—made up of lower-body octopus tentacles and a scaly, naked female torso—leaves little to the imagination.
Swilled rum and other liquors are the chosen balm for sword wounds in this land. And regular exclamations of f- and s-words, along with a variety of base crudities, are a normal part of privateer and voodoo priest parlays.
By the time we reach the end of the freebooter's journey, then, it's easy to see that this is more of the grubby, gut-spilling kind of adventure than anything approaching ahoy-me-hearties, got-a-parrot-on-my-shoulder frolicking fare. X still marks the spot, but there's more tedium and taint then treasure buried there.