Risen 2: Dark Waters Review (PC)

In a world devastated by Titans, you must go undercover as a pirate to locate a mystical weapon. This weapon will allow you to take on the Titans and save what is left of the world. Along the way, you’ll learn voodoo, sword fight a lot, and consume copious amounts of ale. No, it’s not another weekend pub crawl, it’s Risen 2, the new RPG from Gothic developer Pirahna Bytes.

Risen 2: Dark Waters: PC
Developer: Pirahna Bytes
Publisher: Deep Silver
Released: April 27, 2012
MSRP: $49.99

Risen 2 drops you back into the soggy boots of the Nameless Hero. After the events of the first game, you’re now a member of the Inquisition. A drunken, eyepatch-wearing member of the Inquisition. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, you’re sent off to masquerade as a pirate to locate the aforementioned mystical weapon. You team up with saucy wench Patty (who’s returning from the first game) and set off to locate her pirate captain father, Steelbeard.

Graphically, Risen 2 brings the high seas to life. Islands are covered in foliage, the natives are painted and savage, and the huts are all appropriately thatched. The annoying foliage pop-in I noticed in my preview is gone, and the game runs smoothly even on a mid-range machine.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been any major improvements in character animations. The models are fine, and they look great, but movements are stilted, and the range of animations each character possesses is quite limited. Patty appears to perennially stand with one hand waving vaguely in my direction and the other on her hip, regardless of what we’re talking about. As in the preview version, this is mostly noticable in conversation scenes. Movement and combat animations are much more fluid.

The voice acting that is paired with those animations can be brilliant or annoying. It covers a wide swath in Risen 2. Some of the voices are brilliant, capturing exactly what you’d expect a pirate to sound like. Some of them are immediately forgettable, and some are downright annoying. It’s almost just like real life! Still, I only heard one or two voices that may have been reused, and even that’s just my ear telling me so.

Combat in Risen 2 is a varied affair. Early on, you’ll be limited to swinging and parrying with your sword, but as you advance, you’ll find that there are a number of options available to you. You can pack a flintlock pistol, muskets, cutlasses, épées and more. Based on how you decide to advance your character, you’ll become more skilled at using certain weapons. You can also choose to level up Dirty Tricks, which will allow you perform such honorable manuvers as throwing sand in an opponent’s eyes or kicking him.

The third-person perspective is married to a combat system that is not unlike The Witcher 2. The mouse controls the camera, clicking the left button attacks, while the right mouse button parries. As you add attacks (like the pistol), you can map them to any button you like. My only real complaint about the system is the same one I have had with similar systems: When two enemies are close together, you can have a hard time distinguishing which one you’re targeting.

Thanks to the difficulties presented by combat, and the fact that the enemies you’ll face are, for the most part, much better at it than you, Risen 2 is HARD. I don’t mean ‘Man, that took a while’ hard, either. I mean ‘Quicksave before every fight or you’re going to be sorry’ hard. Enemies will slap you around using moves that you can only hope to attain one day, and they always seem to do a lot more damage than you do. Grab every scrap of food you can find, and hoard rum and grog, as that’s how you heal in combat.

The thing about this unyeilding challenge curve is the great sense of accomplishment you feel when you make even a small amount of progress. It’s a testament to how much fun Risen 2 is that I never felt like walking away from the game, despite all the times I died without a recent save. No apologies are made for the difficulty, either. There’s almost no hand-holding. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to listen to or read quest dialogue, you’re in trouble. There are no glowing trails, exclamation points, or sparkles to help you find your objectives. Listening to what people are telling you and then applying what you learn – that’s how you succeed.

In the face of this difficulty, you’ll need to earn as much experience (called Glory) as you can. Once you’ve earned enough Glory, you can choose how you want to advance your character. You can improve your Blade skills, Firearms ability, Voodoo magic, or even your lying, cheating and stealing (Cunning). I won’t tell you that you have to level Cunning, but your coin purse will thank you for it if you choose to.

One word of warning: If you’re easily offended, know that Risen 2 doesn’t pull many punches. From an early quest where you try to convince Patty that she should be in the kitchen, to some homophobic jokes later in the game, it’s obvious that Pirahna Bytes went for the feel of period accurate dialog. It’s nothing too risque, but be aware that it’s there.

While I enjoyed Risen 2, it’s important to note that it takes a bit to hit its stride. Early levels are a bit slow, and the difficulty can cause some frustration. However, those who stick it out will find a game that offers an awful lot of rewards. Grabbing your own ship and crew to set sail on the high seas is an awesome feeling, and the freedom to create the character you want to play is a great feature. The crushing difficulty was actually a plus to me, as it reminded me of classic RPGs that were much less forgiving than their modern day counterparts.

While it does have some rough patches and arguable design choices, Risen 2 has something far more important: It’s just fun. Once the game starts to get good, it provide hours of excellent entertainment. Sure, the frustrations are there in spots, but the swashbuckling fun it presents out weighs a lot of the small negatives, at least in my book. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you played Risen 2. I know I am.

Pros:

  • Lots of character customization
  • Great graphics
  • Challenging gameplay
  • It’s just fun

Cons:

  • It can be super hard at times
  • Stilted animations
  • Some material could be offensive to some players

Final Score: 80/100

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1 Comment on Risen 2: Dark Waters Review (PC)

PhantomMaelstrom

On May 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm

The jungle theme are great! Awesome graphics too… It’s like pirates in paradise…