The first (maybe only?) city in Risen doesn’t change much. Yeah, it’s a lot bigger than the Don’s camp, filled with more people and more things to do, but for the most part it’s more of the same. I’m still performing tasks for whichever factions I choose to ally myself, performing fetch-quests and proving myself in duels.
What the city does offer, I’m beginning to realize, is a strong sense of atmosphere, different from what I experienced in the wilderness or the Don’s camp. Harbour Town has its own sense of culture and culture clash since the occupation by the Inquisition. The value of my experience in Harbour Town can’t be adequately measured by the things I am doing or any matter of technical presentation. Like before, and like I am now realizing it will be for the remainder of the game, I can only shine a positive light on the game through how it makes me feel, as opposed to what it simply does.
Harbour Town is a place of grey, somewhat ironically in stark contrast to the black and white world of the Don’s camp. There, things were easy. I was dealing with outlaws and thieves; that much I knew upfront.
My biggest problem was Brogar, who was more a power-mad tyrant than anything else. Everyone hated him, for very good and clear reasons that he himself made no effort to hide. There were distinct “good guys” and “bad guys” (relative to the situation, mind you).
In Harbour Town this is not the case. I’m here on orders from the Don, helping the Don’s men who remain in the city. Previously, I had no doubt that I was better off working with criminals than the brainwashing, fascist, zealous Inquisition. Harbour Town is making me think more than I care to.
After bribing my way into the city, I’m almost immediately approached by one of the Don’s inside men (his name escapes me at the moment, but it’s probably something Spanish, as with seemingly all outlaws in the game). He asks me to shake down a local shopkeeper for protection money, insisting that the shopkeeper is a cheat, manipulating the local farmers out of their hard-earned goods and selling it back to them at ridiculous prices. I guess that’s the danger of a completely insular, cyclical economy. After talking with the local farmers, this certainly does seem to be the case.
I’m not too fond of beating on a simple merchant for extortion money, but the cause seems just. “I suppose the ends do justify the means,” I reason. So I challenge the merchant’s bodyguard to a “friendly” duel, ensuring he’s too beat up to do his job. Then I provoke the merchant, beat him to the ground, and get the Don’s money. Feeling bad, I try to explain to the merchant that I’m really just doing my job, and he agrees to “let bygones be bygones” and sells me some new armor (which comes with SHOES).
Well, honor among thieves, I guess? I return the money to the Don’s man who insists the whole situation is just a necessary way to make sure everyone is paying their “fair share.” I question where that money will actually go–back to the farmers or to the massive pile of gold in the Don’s temple. Yeah, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt…
But I’m just doing my job. Unfortunately, my next encounter with one of the Don’s men is a similar, but much more complex situation. He and his workers have been stealing artefacts from the Inquisition’s warehouse. But his workers are holding out on him and keeping the artefacts for themselves. The workers, meanwhile, insist that they’re only holding the artefacts until they get paid for stealing them.
There’s no way for me to tell who’s telling the truth. For all I know, both are. I can pay the workers for the artefacts, which will cost me a lot more than I’ll make for recovering them or I can “persuade” them another way. This is for the Don — my boss. This is also, I tell myself, for the “greater good” of fighting the Inquisition.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? Should I be fighting the Inquisition? I’ve heard a lot of talk about their “brainwashing.” I assumed that their novices would all be mumbling zombies. Quite contrary, however, I find that the Inquisition’s “brainwashed” conscripts are not only lucid and articulate, but friendly and helpful.
I hold off on the decision to recover the artefacts from the workers. Like Hamlet, I just need more time to decide (and then everybody dies…well, hopefully not).
I go to the tavern and meet its owner, a kind young lady who, like all other young ladies in the game, is impossibly-built and dressed like a pornstar. Well, I guess it’s just one of those games. She seems to be in a fairly straightforward pickle: she’s looking for her father so the two of them can escape the city and the Inquisition.
Ah, a nice change from the moral grey I’m currently avoiding. She says the only person who has info on her father is a pirate captain who’s in lock-up on the pier. That’s cool; I can justify sneaking into a jail cell to meet secretly with a prisoner if it means helping out this girl and her old man.
The guard at the cell is willing to not notice me enter if he’s conveniently pre-occupied. He’s been standing guard for days and is in need of some, uh, “companionship.” So, I’m merrily off to the local brothel.
The brothel, unsurprisingly, is filled with women identical to Sara, my companion from the shipwreck. Actually, looking around, I notice that most of the city’s female population consist of these impossibly-proportioned clones. It’s kind of a shame. The first person I notice as I enter the brothel is one of its customers, a man called Erickson, sitting at the bar. Because I talk to him and because he’s a dick, he starts a fight with me, which I win.
Combat, even against humans, is beginning to become more routine. Their grease-footed maneuvers are becoming irritating. Furthermore, I’ve learned how to counterattack, but the technique is useless. In the time it takes for my character to ready a counterattack, my enemy basically gets a free hit. So I’m sticking with the same tactics I’ve been using since starting the game, despite the game insisting it should be more advanced by now. That’s also a shame.
Erickson is down for the count. Our fight carried us into the neighboring room, where there’s a lovely young lady of the night enjoying a nice bath (settle down, she’s dressed and crudely polygonal). She gives me a quest to beat up Erickson and then immediately rewards me for having just done so. Okay, so by beating this guy I completed a quest that I didn’t even know existed. Groovy.
The ability to work on quests you might not have is welcome, but it would be nice if the dialogue with the quest-givers somehow reflected that. Similarly, talking to Erickson allows me to bring up a “key,” which he gives me. I’ve stumbled onto another quest. It turns out, the pirate captain could have told me about the key, then I could have gotten it from Erickson. I accidentally skipped a step. Confusing, yes, but undeniably convenient.
It’s at this point that the tedium is beginning to wear on me. Back and forth, back and forth, do this, do that, do this…maybe I shouldn’t have abandoned that sketchy fun with ethics from before.
Eventually, I make my way into the cell to speak with the pirate. As I mentioned, I bring up the key, which apparently opens the door to a shack, which belongs to the tavern girl’s father, who is himself a nasty pirate. Oy. You know what? It’s been a long day. But I have shoes now and that’s the important thing.