The Gothic series had more bugs than a soft-drink spill in a hot summer day. These games had great potential as First/Third-Person RPGs but the quality control problems was what prevented the series from ever becoming Morrowind. And what is worse, the game developer (Piranha Bytes) did not learn from its mistakes: as the series progressed, the problems only got worse.
So notorious had the Gothic series become that the name itself was all but abandoned. Risen is what Gothic III was supposed to be (a Gothic 3.5 if you will) and Gothic IV will actually be named..."ArcaniA: A Gothic Tale"!. Although it was not completely able to escape its pedigree, and it may not be at the cutting edge of developments, Risen is a good game and it is (mostly) fun to play.
You start off a castaway with no history but endless potential. There is some wreckage loot but do not get too greedy: veering off to far into the sea will bring a sea monster upon you.
The progress is slow at the beginning and your character's initial weakness will tax your patience: expect quite a few deaths early on. However, if you weather out the initial steep incline you will be rewarded with a great cRPG that unfolds as you go on.
The graphics are not top drawer but the environments are very tastefully made. And the game designers at least tried to avoid endless repetitions: most environments are original, with a lot of effort put into them.
Like The Witcher, combat can be very engaging (but without the timed-clicking skill requirements). Where RISEN shines is the quality of its quests, the number and gravity of the choices offered and its story. And any true gamer will attest that those are the aspects that matter most for any cRPG game. After all, the greatest cRPG ever, Baldur's Gate, hardly had graphics to phone home about.
I bought this on the strength of its demo and the mostly positive reviews it received at Amazon (downloading and trying out the Demo is always a good idea). I was not disappointed.