These days, when you play through a role-playing adventure, you’re playing as some spectacular spellcaster that can really dish out major damage, or a sword-carrying hero who has to form the ultimate battle party to save the world and what not. With Risen 2: Dark Waters, you’re cast into a world of pirates, and we don’t mean the fanciful Disney-sponsored Pirates of the Caribbean kind. Your hero is a bit of an unlikable scoundrel, not afraid to get drunk or talk salty to other folks. Yet he’s the one you have to take control of when it comes to completing quests and, eventually, finding the dreaded Gregorius Steelbeard, a much feared pirate.
Those of you who played through the frustrating but (to some end) rewarding original Risen may recognize Commandante Carlos, the Harbour Town garrison) as he makes a return here. However, Pirahna Bytes has tried to implement some new ideas into this game, making it feel more like a fulfilling adventure than the first. It does succeed, but only to a certain point. And that point comes to whether or not you can really get into how the game plays. This is not a game for the impatient or easily lost.
The first thing you’ll notice is that your choices within the game actually do make a difference to events that unfold. While that’s becoming more common in games such as these, Risen 2 makes it click to a point where it can actually affect your character and what they have to face later in the game. That’s not to say they lose any physical performance or anything, but those seeking a fulfilling experience of “molding their destiny” may want to take note here. But be warned – no decision comes easy here, and sometimes the hard choice is the more valuable one.
Risen 2’s world does have some depth to it, as it will take you hours to explore and find all the mini-missions that you can complete to collect additional loot and weapons. And the way you can plant these on your hero and change them up does provide something to do well after you finally track down Steelbeard. Unfortunately, the mini-map is frustrating to follow at times, as objectives aren’t so easily marked. As a result, you may do a lot more wandering around than you planned on. Like I said, definitely not a game for those seeking a simple route.
Now, whether you will accept Risen 2’s digital blueprint really depends on one thing – if you can withstand its combat. Pirahna Bytes was trying to go for a little something different than the usual action standard, while still throwing in the hack-and-slash that we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, it’s a missed effort, as half the time, the combat feels like it drags on. Even in your first fight on the beach with questionable sea creatures, you’ll find yourself taking longer to do damage, and even then, there’s hardly any ultimate reward waiting after you do so, save for the glory that you can use to power up your character. Some adventure lovers won’t mind this, but mainstream gamers may prefer something with more to it – like, say, The Witcher 2.
As for the game’s conversion from PC to console…well, it’s not the kindest of conversions. The PC game was about average in its appearance, even with some interesting environments and character designs. The console versions, unfortunately, are even more lacking, with screen tear problems, slight frame rate issues and a camera that continuously needs adjusting, lest you get stuck behind a wall. Some of the character textures remain intact, but, really, this game gets ugly at times.
It doesn’t sound much better, either. Most of Risen 2’s dialogue is terrible, coming from characters who don’t quite sound convincing in their roles. The music fares a bit better, sounding like it fits right in with the pirate world, and the clanging of swords is bound to be appreciated by some.
Risen 2’s pirate world is a little hard to take, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete failure. Like the original game, it helps to have a certain tolerance level to take it all in, and those who endure might find the rewards they’re looking for as they explore and collect aplenty. If you’re not up for an endurance trial, however, we humbly suggest the far superior The Witcher 2 instead.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]