Bjorn Pankratz on Risen 2: Dark Waters

Bjorn Pankratz on Risen 2: Dark Waters


We sit down with Björn Pankratz, Project Director/Game Designer at Piranha Bytes to talk about Risen 2: Dark Waters. This single-player fantasy-themed action role-playing game is scheduled for release in April.

Hooked Gamers: Hi, thanks for participating in our interview. Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what your job is on the team?

Bjorn Pankratz on Risen 2: Dark Waters
Björn Pankratz: My name is Björn Pankratz, I've been working for Piranha Bytes since the original Gothic game, and my fields are game design, story, and project management.

Hooked Gamers: Being the studio responsible for the successful Gothic series, it must have been difficult to let go of Gothic and breathe life into another series. Risen did quite well with both critics and gamers alike. Have you been able to make peace with the idea that you’re no longer in control of Gothic’s fate?

Björn Pankratz: We saw it as a chance to tell another story after Gothic. As you can see in Risen, we remained true to our principles, and we have not switched genres so far. However, a new story allows us to freely tell a new tale without having to keep the background of stories in mind that have already been told. Of course we're thrilled that both series have been so well received by the fans.

Hooked Gamers: Many fans saw Risen as the true sequel in the Gothic franchise which must have been a heart-warming experience. How do you feel about what you achieved with Risen, and do you feel as at home in the Risen universe as you did in Gothic’s?

Björn Pankratz: Both game series have their own appeal. As we have always created games we would love to play ourselves, we naturally feel at home in both universes. The fact that many players out there feel the same strengthens our belief in our way of developing games.

Hooked Gamers: One of the major drawbacks of Risen was its awkward combat system (not a strength of the Gothic games either). The automated target selection felt like it was in the way more often than not, often causing you to attack different enemies than intended. How does combat work in Dark Waters, has this been improved?”

Björn Pankratz: The combat system has been totally reworked for Risen 2. As we have added muskets and pistols and completely changed the magic system, combat will be very different. For example, muskets are two-handed ranged weapons, and pistols can be used left-handed while wielding a cutlass in your right hand.

Hooked Gamers: Graphically, Dark Waters appears to move away from Risen, offering a more colorful world. We wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘cartoony’ but it’s infinitely brighter than its dark predecessor. What inspired this change?

Björn Pankratz: The story of Risen 2 is about pirates, set on several tropical islands in the South Seas where there are strange and colorful characters on board the ships featured in Risen 2. The light conditions and vegetation are in keeping with this setting. Also, unlike Risen, the game will feature much longer sections taking place on the surface. There will still be the usual darker and more sinister places though.

Hooked Gamers: An oft-heard comment on Risen was that it was a very old fashioned RPG, which was not necessarily a complaint. Still, we’re sure many fans are eager to learn what advancements Dark Waters will bring. What would you say is the biggest innovation you have made?

Björn Pankratz: There are a lot of new elements in Risen 2, but as our fans are used to a rather classic fantasy setting, the biggest innovation is probably the fact that this is a pirate RPG. In this connection, firearms and voodoo are another change, as are the many cutscenes we added to support our storyline.

Hooked Gamers: And is that also the biggest change period, or... ?

Björn Pankratz: You never know...

Hooked Gamers: Gothic games and Risen alike, Piranha Bytes really knows how to call up a fantastic atmosphere that is able to draw the player into the game and immerse it into its storyline. How do you do it; what’s your secret?

Björn Pankratz: We were all role-players to begin with, and spent a lot of our spare time playing pen and paper RPGs. Finally we made our hobby our profession, and our company is still quite small with approximately 25 people. Consequently, our work atmosphere is rather informal and everyone gets a chance to put a piece of themselves into our work. Maybe the games reflect that?

Hooked Gamers: It is our tradition to give developers a chance to say something about the game that they are desperate to get out. Is there anything burning on your lips?

Björn Pankratz: If you feel like exploring the high seas with a bunch of cut-throats and embarking on a legendary treasure hunt full of dangers, monsters, and adventures, then Risen 2 is right for you. And a bottle of rum. Cheers!