Risen 2: Dark Waters Preview
For all the subtle idiosyncrasies of Risen 2 though, the game is also quite predictable and generic in many regards. Your character starts off as a blank slate, but from there he can be built up in the usual fantasy world templates - swordfighter, sniper, magician or rogue.
Whichever you choose you'll run through a series of familiar fetch quests and inane tests of worth, looting houses when nobody is looking and running your cutlass through the various wild animals that get in your way. Giant crabs and scary looking monkeys are the main fare for the first few hours.
Combat unfortunately is a simplistic ordeal for the most part, with furious clicking of the left mouse button to swing your sword and the occasional right-click to block ineffectually. Guns and so on come to play a bigger part the further you delve, but the first three hours are spent flailing with your beginner sword and acute awareness of the lack of a decent tutorial.
Click to enlarge
Successful kills and completed quests earn you XP, as you'd expect, though here it's relabelled as 'Glory' and suffering defeats will see you sacrifice it as a penalty. Accrue enough though and you can upgrade your innate characteristics, though most skills such as lockpicking (and crouching) require you to find a trainer who will teach you them first.
With a predictable but solid RPG structure beneath it, the most interesting and unique aspect of Risen 2: Dark Waters becomes its thematic setting - or, to put that in less pretentious speak, 'the fact that it's got pirates in it'. Like the Wild West, pirate games are sadly in short supply. So, while Risen 2 may not delve into the topic with the ferocious and gritty approach we may have hoped for, it still stands out as one of the few decent pirate games we've seen in recent years.
The only worry on that front is the frequent inconsistencies of tone, in fact - most of which manifest when you compare to two main factions in the game. The Inquisition are involved in a huge struggle and present the game as an epic, dramatic tale - 'We can't hold against the Titans! You, our only hope, must brave the Kraken!'
Click to enlarge
The pirates, on the other hand, are portrayed with more whimsy than grit. Failing to bluff your way into their encampment, for example, requires you to find another way past the guards. The solution turns out to be that the fortifications only block one pass - literally around the corner is a huge opening and a pirate who all but welcomes you in without question. Where the Inquisition paint a picture of a world in peril, the pirates suggest a quest you can't fail.
The issue there isn't that either of these tones are badly presented, but that they don't complement each other well and run consistently through all of the game we were able to play. The contrast, like Mordin's song against the desperate backdrop of Mass Effect 2, works mainly when it is the exception, not the rule.
Still, this a small point to fault Risen 2: Dark Waters on, especially considering the sturdy foundation that these tonal conflicts rest on. It's hard to say that Risen 2: Dark Waters is one of the most ambitious games we've seen, nor the most deep and enthralling - but it's equally hard to say that it's look terrible. Really, this is an RPG that looks well constructed and may hold some surprises, even if it is a little rough around the edges.
Risen 2: Dark Waters is being developed by Piranha Bytes and is due for release in Mid-2012, when it will be published by Deep Silver.