Risen 2: Dark Waters Review
Yo Ho, Yo Ho And A Bottle Of Rum!
Developer: Piranha Bites
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: Action, RPG, Adventure, Hack/Slash
Rating out of 10: 8/10
In Risen 2: Dark Waters, we rejoin our nameless hero several years after the explosive events on Faranga left the world a dark and dangerous place, crawling with Titans and their minions. Drowning his sorrows in grog and rum, we find our hero housed in The Fortress of Crystal in Caldera, a hold of the Inquisition: the last real remnants of organized human civilization.
One stormy night, a distant ship is overturned by the monstrous Kraken and only one survivor is found, the feisty Patty, daughter of the cursed Pirate Steelbeard. The Commandant Carlos of the Inquisition hatches a plan and soon you and Patty are partnered up on a quest to join Steelbeard and his crew and hunt down a mysterious weapon: a weapon rumored to be powerful enough to defeat the Titans.
Risen 2 is a single player, third person RPG set in a fantastical world of Grecian myth, Voodoo and pirates. Unlike many recent RPGs, the player is not given control of their character’s creation or class, but is instead thrust into the world of a nameless hero who seems to need a lot of retraining since his last adventure. While this may deter those with a penchant for customization, the skill and attribute development is in-depth and fully customizable with attributes such as voodoo magic and even monkey training; as well as the possibility of clothing and items upping your skill levels and attributes.
Initially, your character is a simple hack/slash hero with only the ability to button bash his way out of a fight, but through earning gold and glory through various mini-tasks and quests you will soon find yourself able to afford necessary skills such as lock-picking and pick-pocketing and of course more advanced weapon handling and firearms. This character progression can be quite frustrating, however, due to the sheer expense of certain skills. Even simpler moves which we take for granted in most games, such as ‘kick’ can only be used once bought for the extortionate price of 500 gold pieces.
This does bring me on to one of the most pleasurable aspects of Risen 2, however, and that is the challenge. We do not start the game with a patronizing tutorial or all moves being handed to us on a silver tray by a well trained monkey butler, instead we are actually expected to hash this game out ourselves. While this may be a con for many casual gamers, for the hardcore RPG fan it is refreshing to play a game which assumes we know how to handle ourselves. This can lead to a lot of frustrating aspects however; whether trudging through a dark forest trying to find a quest target because of a lack of the overused ‘sparkling trail’ map markers; or having to buff up by killing nearby forest creatures and monsters just so you can afford a necessary quest ability such as lock-picking.
Graphically this game seems a little dated. While the set and atmosphere is beautifully rendered, it holds a quite old school stiffness that we may expect from an older game. The environment is often stagnant and unmoving, while the water ‘lapping’ at the shore is hard and rigid. Character movements are stinted and puppet-like, especially the sassy Patty who often resembles a little tea pot when she talks to you, bobbing around like some surreal marionette. The character designs, on the other hand, are gorgeous. Each character seems to have its own personality; from its physicality to its costume, a lot of love has gone into creating a cast for this game and it does not go unappreciated. There are very few NPCs that cannot be interacted with and so the cast are not wasted, each character having a unique quest or skill to offer you.
While the graphics may seem a little old fashioned, the atmosphere is wonderfully realized. The music compliments the action brilliantly and the sound effects are crisp. The voice acting, while spotted with the occasional welcomed piratical cliche, is well acted with a stellar script (albeit riddled with swearing - but you are a pirate after all). The NPC vocalizations can often loop in an irritating manner however, especially when you leave one area and return only to find the same character beginning the same conversation all over again each and every time.
A wonderful addition to the atmosphere of this game would be the darkness of the night time. Realistically, midnight is dark and I mean DARK. You do not want to go hunting around a tribal ruin at night without a torch, which will obviously hamper your ability to react quickly to attack, a great addition to the realistic difficulty of the game but also the tension.
The world you encounter is semi-open, with a restricted amount of quests and side-line tasks on each island. These can range from the simple ‘fetch’ tasks to the more complex pillaging, fighting and treasure hunting quests. If you choose to wander around on your own, whether it be to buff your glory by hunting some warthogs or traipsing around some mysterious ruins, you will encounter a great many enemies ranging from the small and harmless rat or monkey to the gigantic and terrifying guardian or grave spider. The character creation of the ‘Sunken Ones’ is particularly excellent, reminding us slightly of Davey Jones’ aquatic monstrosities in the Pirate of the Caribbean franchise, with a far more imposing physicality.
One gripe that seemed to stand out most about this game would be the inability to swim. I mean, you’re a pirate and you can’t swim! This seems to be a massive oversight in a game set on islands and ships. However, this doesn’t manage to take away from the gameplay as all areas that you need to access can usually be done so from shallows, caves and rowboats, but this did seem to be a surprising lack in the features of the game.
The text and menus of the game seem difficult to read from the perspective of a console gamer, who may not be sat inches away from the television when playing; and far more suited to a PC. A lot of the features of this game seem to stand out as more PC friendly than console, including the interactions with the environment and camera angles, which seem clunky and slow on a console format.
The load times are quick and seamless with fast waiting periods, saving times and loading times; one thing that can be said for slightly old fashioned looking graphics is it makes for a beautifully fluid, fast game with barely ever any waiting around. One thing that can be said about the saving aspect is that the tip ‘save often’ could never be more relevant. While Risen 2 relies on an autosave feature, these saves can be erratic and will often see you going many steps back before you died or made a mistake on your quest. So take the load screens advice and save often!
For the completionists among us, it may be worth investing in a game guide, as some quests can become inaccessible once you leave an island or make a certain conversation choice; so to get the most out of your gaming always make sure you ask and talk about everything. This may again seem like a con for some more casual ‘fly through’ gamers, but it is playing to the strengths of the hardcore audience once again. Nothing the NPCs say in this game is useless information, it all seems to have a reason, be it for training purposes, hidden treasure, or legendary items. Ask and ye shall receive.
Overall this is a well written RPG with some stand out characters and fun quests. The atmosphere of this monster-ridden fantasy world is exciting and exotic, with the addition of realistic difficulty, script and creatures to set it firmly in the real word. Piranha Bites have taken the classical Caribbean pirates that we are all so familiar with (be it through popular movie franchises or retro point and clicks) and set them in a world that is far more accessible to the fantasy RPGer, one of voodoo, myths and legends. While it may have its graphical flaws with some frustrating gameplay, this is a game you should stick with. You will find that the difficulty of its beginnings make for a valued character with a rewarding and exciting story.
Anastasia is a Freelance Illustrator, Writer and Actress based in Wales, UK.
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