Risen 2: Dark Waters Preview (PC)

Role-playing games are one of my favorite things to play, so when a preview build of Risen 2: Dark Waters showed up at the door, I quickly distracted the rest of the staff with another Mass Effect 3 trailer and made off with it. Having played the original, I was looking forward to seeing how Pirahna Bytes, the developer of the Gothic RPG series, had improved on it.

At the beginning of the first game, your character (who remains nameless) survives a shipwreck and washes up on the shore of Faranga, a mythical Mediterranean island. A whole lot of third-person adventuring later, you’ve banished a Fire Titan and saved Faranga. However, there were still four Titans left to deal with.

As Risen 2 begins, you’ve fallen from that a bit, as you’ve turned to drinking and wearing an eyepatch that covers the Inquisitor monocle you obtained by defeating Inquisitor Mendoza at the end of Risen. Patty returns from the first game, and the two of you decide to team up to find her infamous pirate father, Steelbeard. So, how do you catch a pirate? You become a pirate!

All of this pirate-chasing goodness takes place in a nicely detailed world. Graphically, Risen 2 looks quite good. I was particularly impressed with the lighting in the early morning and late in the day. Sunlight filtering through trees, shadows stretching out, and the darkness of an early twilight are all rendered very well in the game’s engine. There is a strange bit of pop-in with foliage. As you approach it, it seems to swell or contract, almost as if it’s changing from a 2D backdrop to 3D. It’s not game-breaking, but it was disconcerting when I first observed it.

What isn’t rendered as well are the characters. Both player characters and NPCs look OK, but their animations and movements look a bit stilted, and many times you’ll see that characters who are speaking don’t seem to be moving their mouths at all. This mostly occurred in cutscenes, as the movement and combat animations of the main character seem much more fluid.

Speaking of combat, Risen 2 offers up a widely varied combat experience. Early in the game, you’re basically limited to swinging a sword and parrying. As you advance, you’ll find a flintlock pistol to add to your arsenal, as well as muskets, cutlasses, and more. Depending on how you choose to advance your character, you can also learn to kick chracters, toss dirt in their face, and a host of other options. It’s a neat system that allows you to focus on exactly what it is you want your character to be able to do, without wasting points upgrading skills you have no interest in using.

The control system for combat takes a little getting used to. It’s reminiscent of the scheme employed in The Witcher 2, which makes sense, given that both of them are third-person action titles. You’ll control the camera with your mouse, using the left button for attacking and the right button for parrying. As you add attacks, you’ll be able to remap any or all of these to other buttons on the keyboard. It’s an OK system, but I did find that when two enemies are close together, you’ll sometimes accidentally target the wrong one.

Continue to Page 2 to learn about progression, voodoo, and what we thought!

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