Rising from the Depths.
I’ll admit, after playing the original Risen, I wasn’t thinking we would ever see a sequel. Though I enjoyed it, Risen had a very niche feel to it. It was an open-world RPG, but it was difficult, left a lot up to the player and advancing your skills was costly. The visuals were also far behind most games on the Xbox 360, at the time. Still, it had a knack for sucking me into hours-long play sessions and after getting to play a good chunk of Risen 2: Dark Waters I can tell you that its sequel has some of the same magnetic properties.
Risen 2: Dark Waters picks up soon after the events of the first game but, aside from being lost for the first twenty minutes or so, new players will be able to pick up the narrative pretty quickly. Though there are a lot or references to the first game, this is a distinct story that focuses mainly on becoming a pirate and who doesn’t love pirates? In fact, most of the locations, characters and sub-plots involve pirates in some manner so this is a much more focused setting than most fantasy RPGs.
Piranha Bytes have obviously been hard at work on the visuals in the two years since Risen. Though the character models sometimes look dated and clumsy the world looks great, though you may not notice it right away. Where some games have worlds that look like a number of set pieces placed around an area, Risen 2 looks like the artists spent a lot of time on making a field of grass look like a field of grass, rather than covering it with exaggerated plants and rocks.
The combat system hasn’t evolved much and is still quite difficult. Blocking is key in sword fighting and additional skills like kicking or riposting must be learned from trainers for large chunks of gold. This isn’t the type of game where you can just hammer the attack button and expect to come out on top. Taking on one wild boar may not be too hard, but wandering into a group of three wild boars can leave you lying in the dirt if you’re not careful. You also won’t be able to stock up on healing potions, like some games, and rely on them to save you in battle. Drinking rum or grog will heal you instantly but these drinks are costly and sometimes hard to come by. Provisions are plentiful, however eating only heals you slowly over time.
I found the menus and map much nicer and cleaner in Risen 2 which is a good thing because you will often be relying on your map reading skills to find your way around. There is no mini-map, only your compass, and quest givers will often give manual directions like, “go past the waterfall then turn north”. Finding your way there is your responsibility. In an age where we’re used to being spoon fed quest locations, and running from one map marker to the next, this may not appeal to some people but I found it quite refreshing. If you forget the directions somebody told you, you can always go into your logbook to review each conversation, organized by quest.
Exploring the islands of Risen 2 is part of what keeps you hooked on this game. there are often a number of paths to take and there are always hidden alcoves, caves and inlets that may be hiding some pirate treasure. The difficulty of the game and the depth of the roleplaying may turn away some who aren’t hardcore RPG fans but those who get into it, will likely get deep into it.
In the preview build that I played there were already number of improvements over the first game and I’m looking forward to playing the full version of Risen 2: Dark Waters on April 24th. Stay tuned for more.