More problematic is the lumpen structure and a back-end which struggles to make sense of the reams of info you gather along the way. There's nothing wrong with an RPG taking its time, of course, provided that a sense of progress and immersion is maintained. Risen fumbles in this regard, opening with a long-winded tutorial session during which gameplay info and features are introduced in a frustratingly slow drip feed.
Experienced RPG fans, who this game is undoubtedly aimed at, may relish the chance to spend hours just to reach the starting line, but it too often feels like Risen is taking advantage of the innate patience and forgiving nature of the genre's fanbase to pad itself out, rather than doing anything purposeful with its languid pace. "It starts to get interesting after 20 hours," isn't much of a recommendation, other than to pander to the masochistic hardcore who feel that hours served in-game is a goal in and of itself. It takes the game into an unwelcome trainspottery creative cul-de-sac, where painstaking devotion to genre ritual is more important than the game itself.
Compounding this are issues that remain regardless of platform. Navigation around the sizeable map is hampered by a rudimentary map, which makes finding quest markers more of a chore than it should be, while the game's oddball levelling system opts for the long-term grind over more inspiring goals. Forcing players to accumulate gold in order to buy and improve new skills is, admittedly, an interesting twist on something that is usually advanced ambiently during play, but in practice it simply lengthens the already interminable opening of the game.
So, sorry Risen apologists, but even when viewed in its best light, Risen simply isn't anything special. Despite being Gothic 4 in all but name, Piranha Bytes has brought little that is new to its creaking formula and the elements that are worthwhile are all but smothered under a design ethos that confuses length for depth.
Ironically, while the PC version inarguably shows up the flaws in the 360 effort all the more, it also fares far worse when compared to its peers. Consoles have relatively few RPGs in this traditional mould, but on the PC the competition is much fiercer and so well-intentioned failures are harder to tolerate. Adequate rather than inspired, Risen doesn't even match up to the polish and narrative depth of The Witcher, now two years old, so releasing it only weeks before BioWare's Dragon Age is bordering on suicidal. Patient gamers looking to tick off genre standards without being troubled by any surprises will no doubt unearth a few truffles of amusement, but in the grand scheme of things Risen barely manages to rise above the herd.