GAME NAME: Risen 2: Dark Waters
DEVELOPER(S): Piranha Games
PUBLISHER(S): Deep Silver
RELEASE DATE(S): 27 April 2012
Starting from the assumption that you have at least a passing familiarity with the events of the first game, Risen 2 is a somewhat atypical action-RPG that throws you headlong into a pirate scenario heavily soaked in mythology.
It seems that the pesky Titans are running amok once more and destroying our world in the process. Through a few turns of fate, you are tasked with attempting to bring an end to a particularly nasty Titan-led Kraken that’s threatening exploration of the new world. The secret to the Kraken’s defeat is finding an artifact which will entail you taking on a mission that involves mingling with pirates and other riffraff. The game’s story is, frankly, rather contrived and overly-complex. The pirate setting, however, makes it seem fresh and interesting.
Apparently taking its inspiration from more classical RPGs than, say, Skyrim, the world is open and free to exploration yet its linearity is apparent immediately. The game’s setting is beautiful and vibrant and affords your character the opportunity to earn ‘glory points’; essentially leveling up, accomplished through unearthing secret locales, vanquishing enemies and completing side-quests.
Speaking of quests, there is an abundance, all of which fit into the mold of the pirate theme as well; lots of vulgar trash-talk, chances to intimidate opponents, looking for buried treasure, drinking grog and generally being a swashbuckling anti-hero. However, many of the quests are little more than pointless distractions and fetching tasks, ensuring that the game lacks a sense of progression and relevance. In addition to quests and glory points, you can also earn skills such as lock-picking and picking pockets. Skills can roughly be divided into more “stealthy” or “aggressive” sets.
When it comes to fighting, Risen 2 begins tripping over itself. The controls feel clunky and defeating even weak opponents is more of a burden than it has to be. It becomes more manageable later on – to the point of boredom – after you level-up, but it’s just lipstick on a pig; an attempt to mask the fact that the combat system is unbalanced.
The world is populated with an abundance of NPCs, some of whom follow you around but they have the rather annoying habit of running headlong into danger and crossfire. AI characters are excellent if done properly – one need only look to Alyx in Half-Life 2: Episode One – but when the computer characters have lacklustre intelligence, it becomes an episode in babysitting. The world’s cast are brought to life through some fair voice acting, but all of them will be entirely too verbose for most gamers’ tastes; eventually you’ll reach a point where you wish the characters would just shut up and leave you alone to carry out your quests.
In spite of its many flaws, Risen 2 is a surprisingly fun experience that still manages to reel you in. It certainly won’t be remembered for its clunky combat or overly-indulgent story, but RPG fans will find things to appreciate in it, even if there are better games of its genre in the market. The general lack of polish make it the sort of title that you purchase on sale, though.