Review: Risen 2 – Dark Waters
Title: Risen 2 – Dark Waters
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Publisher: Deep Silver
Tagline: Hardcore RPG title that mixes in a healthy dose of pirates
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Verdict: Wait for a Sale
When I first got the chance to play the original Risen title, it was not under the best circumstances, as I was playing the game for review on the Xbox 360. The platform itself was not the best location to play a balls to the wall, hardcore RPG title. I wanted to enjoy it on so many levels, but the controls and technical issues left me less than enthused about the title. Thankfully, Risen 2: Dark Waters came out on PC first and it is far more suited to the mouse and keyboard controls allowed on the platform, and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit, although I am at a loss as to why I am enjoying it. It’s cruel and sadistic difficulty stymied me at every turn, and several bugs and quest issues had me infuriated, but I still found myself wanting to come back and take more punishment.
Risen 2 has our nameless hero from the first game coming back into the mix. Time has not been rewarding for our hero as he is down on his luck, drunk and a former shell of his heroic self. But it seems that this is exactly what the Inquisition needs to take on the latest threat to the world as we know it. A vicious Kraken has taken up shop in the gateway out of the islands and is destroying all ships setting sail. There is rumor of a legendary weapon that could kill the Kraken, but it resides with a group of pirates, so what better way is there to infiltrate their motley ranks than to send a disgraced drunken agent undercover. Yes, that is where our nameless hero comes in as you need to join on a pirate crew and set sail to retrieve the mythical weapon to destroy the Kraken.
Story aside, Risen 2 does try to make the core gameplay of this RPG more accessible for players to get into the game, picking up things like waypoints, a better map and more, but it never does any of these tasks well. Getting around the world should be easier with quick travel, but the quick travel points don’t always make sense, and does not work unless you have found a map of the local area on a map, which can take some time to acquire for some areas.
Combat feels far more robust and rich when you invest the time into building up the skills, but gaining those skills can be very time consuming and until then, the game will hit you harder than a dominatrix at an S&M club. Fact is that you will die, a lot. Routinely, I would find myself reloading at least several times in battles, due to being outclassed or outnumbered. Risen 2 fights dirty, which is fitting for a pirate game, but frustrating when you engage one enemy and the other enemies sit back and take ranged potshots at your back. I found myself playing the “lure one enemy” game far too often, drawing out battles for several minutes as I killed one, went back in, lured another out and so on until all the enemies are downed. Sure, as you gain more skills, you do start to gain a footing, but even skills are a drawn out issue.
Gaining skills comes at the expense of gold and finding and instructor to train you in said skill. For instance, the first location you visit will allow you to meet a sword master, who can train you – for a price. And more often than not, that price far exceeds any amount you could afford early on in the game. I mean, a simple skill like riposte, which allows you to parry incoming attacks, costs a large sum of money and even a few hours into the game, I had yet to come near amassing the amount needed to pay the teacher. It does not get any better when you do earn money, because then you have to travel the seas back and forth to get to some teachers where the skill is only taught by one master.
But some of these concepts are par for the course for a hardcore, Eastern European RPG title, and once you do get things going, and you are learning skills and finding the nuances of combat, Risen 2 is an engrossing experience. I felt that I was getting better and could take on the challenges after some time. Even enemies that would use cheap attacks or skills that were beyond my own were slowly becoming manageable, but there is the rub – you need to give Risen 2 a lot of time to breathe. If you want to quickly become a hero of the world, you are in for a lot of pain.
Risen 2 does mix in a new mechanic in the way of Voodoo magic and this system is really fun to play with if you take the time to learn it. With voodoo, you can craft voodoo dolls that allow you to manipulate people, or even take control of them to unlock critical plot points and continue on with the story in a different way. Voodoo felt different than using normal RPG magic, as there was more mysticism behind it.
What did take me back a bit was some of the dialog that is peppered throughout the game towards the indigenous natives found on the islands. I understand that Risen 2 is a period piece, and pirates are not exactly known for their political correctness, but it was a bit unsettling to listen to some call the natives “spearchuckers” or “savages” and an early female companion has to be convinced to work in a kitchen, because it is “women’s work”. Yes, I can understand that this is a period piece and it is coming from a European developer, but it does come off painful every time one of these derogatory insults is made towards a native or a woman. Even homosexuals are not spared and there are a large amount of gay references made in a derogatory manner.
Risen 2 does make some strides with its visuals, moving from the muddy browns and blacks in the first game to a plethora of color in this sequel. Sure, a lot of this comes from the location of the game, as it is set on several tropical islands, but it is a lot more colorful. Sadly, pop in and weird animations are still present in the environment as well as with characters. But when you stand on the edge of a mountain and look out at the splendor of a harbor or a beach, you cannot help but soak in the view.
Unfortunately though, Risen 2 has shipped with the same amount of bugginess found in its predecessor. I had a few quests that could not be completed, because of steps I had taken prior to completion. I can accept that, but the quest would lock up in my active quest list with no way to finish it. I also had animation glitches, including things like getting stuck in doors, having characters float in midair and more. It is one of those things where Risen 2 needed more time for polish and bug testing, but the time was not available.
And yet, with all of its faults in mind, Risen 2: Dark Waters is a lot of fun if you are willing to go past its numerous problems. It is a game that I am sure will be patched several times over on the PC and made into the great experience that it could be. I like the ideas behind combat, the main story and the interactions between your crew and NPCs, but every time you start to enjoy Risen 2, it sucker punches you in the groin and kicks dirt in your face. I think there is a lot to enjoy, but give yourself time to dig in and get the full experience.
- Story is engaging and interesting
- Voodoo makes for an interesting game mechanic
- Combat is rewarding with time
- You can own a parrot and a thieving monkey
Walk the Plank:
- Infuriatingly difficult at times
- Littered with bugs and polish issues
- Several dialog choices are somewhat offensive
Risen 2: Dark Waters earns its M rating with room to spare. With the f-bomb occurring numerous times, metric tons of rum drinking, and questionable ethnic epitaphs blurted out, this game is not for anyone under the age of 17.