The original Risen gave us a solid RPG with great gameplay, a lot of choice and consequence and some great writing. So far, it looks like Risen 2 is delivering more of the same.
Risen 2 is a direct continuation of the story from the first game. After the nameless hero’s adventures on Faranga island are complete he departs with Patty Steelbeard, a pirate who is hunting her father’s treasure, to return to the mainland and try to find a way to defeat the Titans who are bringing destruction to the world.
Right from the start, the wonderful writing staff of Piranha Bytes set out to impress. The game features some wonderful writing. There is a lot of great dialogue with the various NPCs that you encounter. The voice talent does an excellent job and you’ll come across many conversations that feel realistic and organic. Characters deliver lines with the appropriate range of humour, devotion, anger and compassion. Unlike many modern games, it doesn’t have that artificial feel to it where you’re getting canned responses that don’t carry any emphasis. The characters in Risen 2 truly come to life.
And along with the wonderful dialogue comes a wonderful story full of twists and turns. The Titans, ancient beings of great power that the gods used to shape the world, are loose and are destroying the world. The Inquisition, an organization devoted to preserving mankind, sends you, the nameless hero, on a quest to find a magical weapon capable of defeating the Titans. Along the way, you will learn much about the world that you’re in, as well as the various groups and factions that hold power.
As with Risen and the Gothic series, the game offers a choice of working with various factions. Each has their own ideals and goals, and each will be able to help you on your journey. But who to trust is something you have to decide yourself. There’s always more than one side to every story, and you have to figure out which path you should take.
The combat system has had a bit of an overhaul since the previous game. The blocking mechanic has been removed and replaced with a parry system. Combat requires quite a bit of practice and timing to get the hang of, but once you’re used to it, battles become quite involved. Along with your main weapon you also have access to various support items with which you can perform dirty tricks. These can range from throwing a coconut to stun your enemy to shooting him in the face with a pistol.
Magic has been reworked as well. The classic “high fantasy” style of magic isn’t used, but rather a new voodoo system, which is more in sync with the pirate setting of the game. Instead of running around blasting enemies, magic plays a subtler role this time around, as you can make voodoo dolls of various characters to control their actions or weaken them. There are also sceptres, which will make your life easier. Much like dirty tricks, they are tied to a cool-down and provide various functions, from causing fear in your enemies to improving your chance of stealing to stopping time.
A new addition to the series is companions. While in Risen it was possible to get temporary allies who would fight alongside you for a time, they were usually tied to quests or specific events. For the most part Risen had you running solo. This time around you will build a crew who will follow you. Each character has their own talents and story, and you will have to choose which to bring with you for various situations. These characters have all been given rich backgrounds and a good deal of personality.
Character development is similar to Risen, however there are some core changes. As before, your character starts pretty much untrained in all fields. As you play through the game, defeat enemies and complete quests, you will receive Glory, which functions as improvement points. Raising skills will cost you Glory, and the price goes up with the level of the skill. Once skills are at certain levels you can seek out trainers around the world to help you learn new abilities and techniques, from better sword skills to pick pocketing to voodoo magic. How you spend your points is up to you, and it seems that as before many types of character build are viable. This allows the player to choose their preferred method of play, as well as opening up a lot of replay value as various situations will have many possible solutions based on just how you’ve designed your character.
Game controls are fairly straightforward. You can use the standard WASD controls as with most modern games. You directly control your character while companions will follow you and react based on their own AI scripts. Some will charge headlong into combat alongside you while others prefer more of a support role. Left click is pretty much the main button you’ll use for just about everything. If there’s something on the ground clicking will pick it up, if there’s someone in front of you clicking will talk start up a conversation. You will also have access to quick keys for various items and abilities that can be placed in a hot-bar.
Graphically the game is quite good. While it is not the most cutting edge of graphical quality, the game has a very distinct art style and is definitely an improvement over the original. There is a lot more detail in the scenery and characters definitely come across as more lifelike.
Overall, Risen 2: Dark Waters is shaping up to be a high quality RPG, and definitely one to keep an eye on. While the combat does require some player skill, the majority of the game is dependant on the character you play. The skills and abilities you’ve chosen will shape your path through the game. If you’re looking for a great RPG with excellent storytelling, lots of choice and consequence, and a lot of fun factor, Risen 2 is for you.