Some early impressions and thoughts (a few early spoilers)
I recently started Risen after having it in the backlog pile for some time, been playing for a bit now and so far, really addictive game. True, graphics aren't the best and the controls are a little clunky, but overall seems to be a very rewarding if somewhat tough RPG. I'd say for any other RPG nuts, definitely worth picking up if you get a good price.
The game definitely doesn't hold your hand, and the character is very weak at the beginning. It seems that at the outset, best strategy seems to be to avoid most fights, especially groups of enemies, and get to the town as quickly as you can. For groups of enemies like the moths near the farm you pass on the way there, you can always kite them back to the farm and let the NPCs take care of them. Kiting enemies can result in some funny battles, like when I lured an overpowered ogre near the swamp camp down into the camp. The game's script is hilarious at times, very salty language to put it mildly.
There are several factions you can go with, I've sided with the Don, doing the Harbour Town quests then the camp quests, then went back and forth a bit questing and exploring. The experience you get from the quests in town and stuff you can get from stealing make the normal beast fights a lot easier, but it is still very easy to run into an overpowered enemy or get swarmed by a group (I find it hard to manage the camera when this happens, especially as many enemies dodge very quickly). Combined with the insta-kill traps here in there, makes saving frequently a must, but does keep you on your toes.
I'd say getting the pickpocket, sneak, and lockpicking skills ASAP (first two trainers in town, third in camp) are a priority if you are new to the game. Being a thief makes life a lot easier. Unlike other games, you really need the sneak skill to rob homes, as NPCs will hear you walking otherwise and even if asleep will immediately wake up. Invest in buying skill upgrades on other stuff too.
Also, the jest skill doesn't seem to always work. The loading screen hint seems to make it sound like it fixes any angry person, but I've had a couple that still told me to **** off (literally in one case) even after using the scroll. Because of that, finding I really need to think about my decisions and have extra saves at key points.
There are a lot of things that can instantly kill you, but I think the worst of all is the instant kill glitch from enemies (mainly gnomes). I don't know what sparks it, but it makes one of the easiest enemies in the game the hardest.
I've never had the problem with the jest spell. I've literally attacked a person, used the jest spell, and kept repeating it (for no reason), and it's always worked for me. The only time is doesn't work is if I get hit in the middle of reading the scroll.
Yep, I've run into it with the gnomes too! And a scorpion I think, it wasn't doing too much damage but then suddenly took a 3/4 full health bar down to nothing.
The times I had issues with the jest spell were from dialogue options. One example (luckily I reloaded) was with the smith in the camp, where I at first thought taking the sword when he let me look at it was the only way to get it and get into see the Don that route. After reloading, luckily found that I could buy it off him for 200. But if you piss him off by taking it, a jest spell won't work to get him to sell to you or train you.
It would be nice if the Jest spell worked like that. Sadly, it just prevents others from being mad at you (where they usually attack you). There are a lot of situations in the game where I saved before talking to someone. Many times the option you pick will be undoable, and you will want to pick another option, so it helps to constantly save.
I'm becoming more of a save freak now in this game than in any other, which is saying something. Mainly though because of those stupid gnomes and other insta-kill enemies, seems so cheap that a gnome that I can kill in two hits and which normally won't make a noticeable dent in my health bar has (from what I can tell) a 5-10% chance of one-shotting me. I had to reload four or five times because of a single chieftain that kept doing it, always got a one-shot in when I tried to hit.
So far, the ones that insta-kill are gnomes, scorpions, mantis and cricket enemies. Any others anybody knows of? I can pretty safely say that ogres, boars, wolves, skeletons, ashbeasts, and lizardmen don't do it.
I'm pretty sure that's it for the insta-killers. Once you get far enough in the game, you won't really see many of those enemies, so it becomes much less of a problem. Still, if you aren't prepared ogres & ash beasts can kill you pretty quickly.