by Andrew Hallam, reviewed on
Yo Ho! A Pirates Life For Me!
With games like X3, Gothic 3, Risen and Catherine, Deep Silver has put together a rather eclectic catalog of games. Zooming in on Risen's success, it comes as no surprise that they wanted to continue their relationship with developer Piranha Bytes and asked them to work on a sequel to the slightly dark and unforgiving original.
Risen 2: Dark Waters stands out among the fantasy RPG genre by heading away from the traditional fantasy realm and heading more towards semi-realism. In essence, Risen 2 is actually more of a pirate game than it is a fantasy game. For such a young franchise to make a move away from its roots, Deep Silver is really taking a big leap. It looks promising though, and might just end up being like a darker take on the pirate’s life than depicted in say, Sid Meier’s Pirates!.
Do What You Want ‘Cause A Pirate Is Free
A pirates theme pleases practically any audience, unless of course you are on the receiving end of their looting, pillaging and general grog endued antics. In Risen 2, you play as the now broken hero of the first game who has since turned from a hardened military skin head into a dashing rouge down on his luck. Those familiar with the first game will know that the Inquisition are bad news for everyone but themselves. Strangely enough, our unjammed hero starts out as an Inquisition soldier in Risen 2. With the 'help' of an old friend, he gets kicked out of the army and sent on a mission to infiltrate the pirate factions of the tropical region of the Risen world.
Left in the port of Puerto Sacarico with nothing but a pair of trousers, an eye patch and trusty pirate wench Patty, you are left to your own devices to explore the island, one of many that you will encounter in the game. While the main goal is to find Patty’s father, a pirate captain by the name of Steelbeard, the main story seems to open up when they are reunited. As a reward, you are accepted aboard Steelbeard’s ship, ready to loot and pillage your way around the seven seas.
With tropical islands, rampaging savages and slavery abound, the world is vast and pretty much how you would expect the Caribbean to look like during the time old Black Beard was roaming the seas, even if it has a nice fantasy twist. You'll have to deal with a number of factions who either love or hate the pirate lifestyle, and with a slew of fantasy abominations that range from lowly goblins to a giant, four story tall colossus. All is fair when ye be a pirate.
I’ll Call Her The HMS ‘Super Awesome, Better Than Your Ship, Ship’
Risen prided itself for the concept of true player freedom and many of its RPG elements return in Risen 2. From the leveling system to the ability to essentially steal anything that isn’t nailed down, to the ability to slaughter an entire village if you feel like it, it's all there. The combat system returns with a bang too, now with the inclusion of firearms, kicking, dodging, throwing of magical voodoo powers and so on. You will learn most of your skills from NPCs that you meet throughout the game. For example, if you fulfill a quest for the local village prostitute (God only knows what that could be...) she’ll teach you the “Silver Tongue” perk which increases your persuasion skills. Don’t get any funny ideas about hidden jokes in that last sentence...
With the inclusion of various smaller islands instead of the single giant one in the first game, you will need a means to travel between them. That is where your pirate ship comes into the mix. Once you have got the preliminary quest lines out of the way and are off to sail the seas, you are given access to your very own pirate ship. This ship isn’t just for transportation, but also acts as the hub for all your companions and pirate crew that you recruit along the way. Unfortunately there will be no naval combat. Piranha Bytes felt that there are plenty of other games that offer that already and they have dedicated themselves to focusing on the story telling and RPG side of the game.
Risen had a rocky beginning but Risen 2 is already set to be a more than worthy sequel. In the early alpha demo I saw at Gamescom, I was already astounded by the beauty Piranha Bytes squeezed out of every pixel on the screen. To achieve that beauty, the drab, brownish colours of the original have been replaced by a starkly vibrant color palette that really set the game alight. Even more surprising was that the game looked good and played equally well on consoles and PC. For any self respecting pirate or fan of the first Risen, there is much to like here. Risen 2: Dark Waters is shaping up to be a truly fascinating pirate RPG.