Risen 2: Dark Waters|
Risen 2: Dark Waters is a new RPG game from Piranha Bytes, a German development studio famous for their Gothic RPG series, famed for its story and characters. However, a few years ago, Piranha Bytes ran into some issues, and they temporarily lost the rights to the Gothic IP. However, they werenít about to let a little thing like that stop them from developing more RPGs. In 2009, they started a new IP, Risen, set on the island of Faranga. It followed the adventures of a nameless protagonist who saved the island from one of the Titans, ancient beings of incredible power that have the power to destroy the world.
As it turns out, other Titans were unleashed upon the world, and Risen 2 begins several years later. Newcomers to the series need not worry about the game being inaccessible if you havenít played the first one. Enough seems to have changed that familiarity with the first game is a bonus, not a necessity to understand anything thatís happening. The Titans have destroyed much of human civilization and its survivors are now at their most desperate. As for the hero of the first game, heís now a broken man whoís turned to alcohol for escape. The story begins in Caldera, a port town and one of the few remaining safe havens for human life.
Unfortunately, even in a place like Caldera, monsters make life difficult. More specifically, sea monsters are ravaging ships that are bringing vital supplies. Fortunately, thereís a secret weapon that can be used to solve that little problem. The bad news is, though, it lies in the hands of pirates. Some of these pirates have sided with the monsters, while others have turned against them. Itís up to the nameless hero to save the day. His job is to infiltrate the pirates, gain their trust, and do whatever it takes to take down the force behind these sea monsters, the Titan Mara; however, as pirates donít trust the Inquisition (which the protagonist happens to be a member of), heíll have to do all of this without their help or any official support. Itís a tall order, but heís killed worse. Of course, this is only the beginning...
To defeat Mara and save the day, youíll have to figure out a general approach to take to the world. The character advancement in this game is a bit different than what you might be used to. Instead of levels, you can spend your gold and glory (experience points with a fancy name) to level up your skills. These are Blades, Firearms, Toughness, Cunning, and Voodoo. You can earn glory by performing quests and killing enemies, but gold is extremely limited. Itís important to figure out what general path you want to take and stick with it. You canít expect to master everything.
Combat is, unfortunately, one of the gameís downsides. Enemies tend to either be extremely slow and easy to kill, or death on two legs. Expect to die frequently. The animations when fighting other human opponents are nice, but I never got a real swashbuckling piratey feel from the swordplay. You can raise your skill in blades, but aside from dying less often, it doesnít change very much in how it feels. Pirate swordplay is usually something that should be acrobatic and dashing, but here, swordplay is often slow and clunky.
The other characters in the game arenít very visually interesting either. Many of the models are surprisingly low-spec, even on the highest settings, and the animations tend to either be too stiff or too wildly exaggerated. The voice acting in general is decent, with a few characters rising sharply above the rest, but in general, there are few stand-out performances. The environmental effects, however, are excellent. Water looks good, and the sunlight is fantastic. When the weather turns for the dark and stormy, thatís when some of the gameís best atmosphere can be found. The ambient sound and the music also work fantastically for bringing the tropical environments to life. As night turns to day, trees sway, and weather patterns change, you canít help but admire the world around you.
Thereís been a lot said recently on the role of player choice in games, and Risen 2, for its flaws so far, delivers on its promise. Many of the quests have a wide direction of solutions to complete them. You can go into a situation with swords swinging, talk to other NPCs to gather information and think your way through a problem, sneak around, or take any number of other approaches to getting what you want. This is especially welcoming considering that youíll be doing plenty of side quests to get enough gold to become competent enough to handle the main quest.
The game is ultimately a rewarding experience, but there are a lot of rough patches to pass to really enjoy it. The combat is difficult, and in order to get a lot of basic sword-fighting moves that most games would give you off the bat, you need to train them, which means you have to gather up a lot of gold and glory. Starting off weak and working your way up to becoming a capable character does, however, have a certain appeal to it, and if you can stick past the gameís rough opening hours, thereís a lot of fun to be had here. The quests are relatively open-ended, and the NPCs really work to bring the world to life. Listening to NPCs talk to each other and really convey what itís like to live in this world is a joy, and the environment really helps to sell the tropical experience to you.
Risen 2 isnít a game that you can just casually jump into and expect to power through. Itís an experience that asks for dedication, but your effort pays off. While you can never totally forgot about all of the gameís issues, thereís enough good in the game that makes it worth pushing through. It isnít an experience for everyone, but if you consider yourself capable of taking on the challenge and donít mind overlooking its technical flaws and some perplexing user interface decisions, Risen 2 is a rewarding experience with plenty of piratey fun.