previews\ Mar 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Risen 2: Dark Waters


For some people, everything is better with pirates. It’s hard to disagree, as pirates exemplify a free and easy lifestyle full of adventure. Deep Silver and developer Piranha Bytes are running with this idea in Risen 2: Dark Waters, the sequel to the 2009 original. The first game was well-received on the PC but much less appreciated on the console, and Piranha Bytes has taken note of the complaints leveraged against it. They hope to makes Risen 2: Dark Waters a much better game, and part of this objective includes a brand new pirate motif.

Those just entering the world of Risen need a little overview of the first game's events. The Risen franchise takes place in a version of Earth where titans are rising up across the planet and spreading destruction throughout. Normal human beings cannot see the titans; rather, they view the destruction as natural disasters tearing apart their planet.

But not the whole planet. In the first Risen, the player character defeated a fire god on the tropical Mediterranean island of Faranga. To do this, he had to first defeat the Inquisitor, an antagonist who used a magic gem in his eye to see the titans. The player defeated the Inquisitor and overthrew the fire god, saving Faranga. Unfortunately, it cost the hero an eyeball, and while Faranga is safe, the rest of the world is still plagued by titans.

It’s for that reason the hero is now a brooding and darker man. With long dark hair and an eye patch, he’s resentful that his actions from the first game are neither appreciated nor greatly influential on the state of the world. He’s ready to take on the other titans on more islands, so off to the ships he goes. The thematic shift from traditional fantasy to pirate RPG might seem a little abrupt, but the core story remains the same in the franchise. While the islands are smaller, there are more of them, with locations ranging from safe towns to the pirate hub of Antigua, a former shipping town now converted to a locale most resembling a set piece from Pirates of the Caribbean.

While most of the world is in ruins, a few islands with some coastal towns and cities have withstood the titans' power. Caldera is one such place. Though a port town protected by a magical barrier, Caldera still struggles to survive due to a lack of resources. Here the hero can accept missions and take on opposing pirate factions. Players are tasked with dealing with a multitude of pirate organizations as the hero works his way up the hierarchy.

New technology has also been introduced. No longer will players use bows and arrows, as guns are now the primary ranged weapon. Voodoo dolls were also seen in an accompanying trailer, although it’s not confirmed whether this will be a gameplay tool. Although Dark Waters is a pirate-themed game, don’t expect any ship combat—this is an action-adventure RPG through and through.

Visually, the game has seen some improvements to the environments and the character models, which are now much more dynamic and realistic, and each NPC looks unique. Comparing screenshots from the original with this new game clearly shows Piranha Byte’s dedication to fixing the franchise.

However, the biggest problem with the original Risen was the console port. While the PC original garnered favorable reviews, the 360 port was universally reviled. Piranha Bytes is well aware of this extreme negative response, and they are working hard to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes. The 360, PS3 and PC version are being developed concurrently, which should solve many of the problems that hindered the console port of Risen. Additionally, the game has a specialized interface to better suit console gamers, who before had to struggle with clumsy controls.

While we were guided through a pre-alpha version of Risen 2: Dark Waters, it's easy to see how committed the team is to making Risen a franchise players will want to invest in. The new story definitely comes out of left field, but they have enough here to succinctly link the two games together. If they can make sure the console version stands up to the PC, Risen 2: Dark Waters could really shine when it releases later this year.

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