Risen 2: Dark Waters Preview (PC)

Progression in Risen 2 doesn’t involve leveling up in the traditional sense. Instead, you’ll gain experience called ‘Glory’ for every challenge that you overcome, whether it’s finishing a quest or killing a wandering beast. Amass enough glory, and you can upgrade one of your talents. Talents include Cunning, which covers things like Lockpicking, Sneaking and Dirty Tricks. Dirty Tricks is by far my favorite place to drop points, as it lets you use a pet parrot as a distraction in combat, as well as sending out a pet monkey to explore tight spaces or steal things for you. Blades covers your skills with edged weaponry. Progressing in the Voodoo tree will let you make voodoo dolls of NPCs to take control of them and use them to complete quests. These are just a sample of the talents available. You can also improve your skills through the items you choose to equip, as many will offer bonuses to specific skills.

Lest you think progression isn’t important, let me tell you something right now. Risen 2 is HARD. I don’t mean that it’s somewhat challenging – I mean that it is a absolute kick in the pants. There’s very little hand-holding here. Risen 2 expects you to pay attention to what NPCs and quest givers are saying and then act on it. You can revisit the dialogue through the menu later, but that’s all the help you’ll get. Don’t expect to see glowing trails on the ground, or exclamation points above people who have a quest. If you’re one of those gamers who likes a lot of explicit direction in your RPGs, you may be disappointed by Risen 2.

As you speak to those NPCs, you’ll notice that there is a lot of voice acting in Risen 2. Sme of it is fairly good, some is not. You’re associating with pirates, so you can expect to hear a lot of that dialect, along with a lot of British accents. From the sections of the game I was able to play, it seems that there is a wide variety of voice actors, although I did hear one or two I thought were reused. The main character’s voice acting is a bit disappointing, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever heard.

One of my favorite features of Risen 2 is how much it encourages exploration. No matter where you go, you hear tales of pirate relics that could be found by an enterprising sailor. As you wander the game’s locales, you’ll find all sorts of plants (used in crafting), hidden chests, and even more goodies. Of course, you’ll also have to deal with all sorts of natives and beasts that want to see you dead. You’re limited to the island or locale that you’re currently in, but in those environs, you’re free to roam wherever you will. It’s a delicious bit of freedom, without dropping players into a huge world that overwhelms them.

All in all, Risen 2 is a promising sequel. It offers up a beautiful world to explore, an interesting progression system, and a ton of challenging gameplay. It’s got some bumps and blemishes, but the build we played was only beta code. We’ll be sure to note in our review if these areas of concern have been addressed. Still, if you liked the original Risen, you should definitely be looking forward to this sequel. If not, you might want to make a little room on your calendar on April 24, when Risen 2 hits Steam and stores. You might also practice up on your pirate-speak, and stay tuned fer more information, yarrrrr.

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