Risen 2 Dark Waters is a good example of the continual blurring between film and video games. A good story in a film leads the viewer to being sucked in, allowing them to enjoy the experience and it creates pathos with the characters. The same applies to a videogame , except Piranha Bytes decided against putting in the whole gaming side of things into Risen 2, which is such a shame considering the storyline is original enough to be engaging, yet still fails to be, and the gaming aspect has more in common with amateur Street Fighter players than an RPG.
Risen 2 follows straight after the first Risen, oddly enough, with the Nameless Hero now drowning his sorrows in Caldera, the only bastion of humanity left that is now run by the bad guys of the last game, the Inquisition. The rest of the world is being torn apart by Titans, leftovers from the many Gods who used to protect the land and now have left humanity to their own devices. The Nameless Hero goes off on an expedition to find Captain Steelbeard, the head of the pirates in the land on a nearby island, to then find 4 artifacts that will get rid of the Titans for good. Oh and you get very little clue of what the heck is going on, as you meet a character from the last game in the first few minutes without doing a little bit of research yourself or playing the previous game. Mass Effect 2 allowed you to get up to speed even without the first game, a feature solely lacking here. The lack of this turns into something even more stupid when your character spends the whole time killing the Inquisition, your new buddies, in the last game and then decides that killing them is no fun anymore and should join them anyway.
The game bills itself as a Pirate themed RPG which is more or less correct as you do become a pirate within 5 minutes of the game with your character deciding that drinking himself into oblivion isn’t a good idea anymore but risking his life for a bunch of militarised nobodies definitely is. Apologies if it feels like the characters are essentially having words put in their mouths but ,after playing for more than an hour, you will start making up your own conversations or mute your TV. All the characters sound like they were rejected from Fable, and boy did the ones left in Fable grate after awhile, with our pirate protagonist sounding like he is was educated at Eton, went through private school and was then given elocution lessons. Fable managed to make it fit within the mythos of the game; Risen 2 fails horribly.
Another huge bug bear is the direction that Piranha Bytes has taken with the Nameless Hero aspect, something which they have in almost all of their games . It’s obvious that they have had an idea of what the character should look and act like, but the fact that there is no backstory to connect the player with the character, not even a name, and the fact that customising him, no lady pirates here, is nonexistent means that you don’t really care what the character is doing. This may have come down to the budget itself, as it seems that corners were cut in every direction. Popup is absolutely atrocious, character models are below average and, after the first few islands, you will have seen almost all the scenery the game has to offer. One positive that did crop upf, was that the game loads the whole island that you are occupying when you first get there, thus meaning there is only the one loading screen, rather pleasing when compared to Skyrim’s chugathon.
Combat is painfully difficult and unsatisfying. There is very little reaction when you start attacking with your mighty cutlass, with it seeming to just tickle whatever enemy you are attacking. Blocking feels odd, parrying is almost nonexistent and levelling up your combat is a combination of ‘glory’ points and money. Glory points allow you to level up five different areas of your character though the payoff is so small that it feels more arduous than it’s worth. Enemies seem overly stong, its not difficult to be killed by a single monkey whilst your character is swinging his sword the opposite direction. It came to a point where running away and allowing other NPCs to do your dirty work was easier than dying over and over again. Health is difficult to come by and stupidly expensive, meaning that a trip to the nearest bed is the least maddening option of actually progressing further into the depths of the jungle.
Surprisingly for a new age game, political correctness seems to have been thrown out the window with racism and sexism thrown about willy nilly. Its understandable in the terms of the era that it is set in, but sometimes makes the game leave a bad taste in your mouth, as the reasoning for it never seems appropriate. There is no multiplayer either, not something that would be usually missed in an RPG but is here, as it would have provided a welcome distraction to what the rest of this game has to ‘offer’.
All in all, Risen 2: Dark Waters is rubbish. Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim are currently cheaper than this and offer a far more immersive and enjoyable experience, with both games conveying a link to your protagonist, even if they dont have a biography pages long. Risen 2 falls flat on its face as it’s just not fun. Combat is disjointed and requires a huge amount of in game monetary investment to even feel like you are capable of fighting. The pirate storyline is just a very good excuse for the developers to fall into dull and boring stereotypes that have drowned the media since the arrival of Captain Jack Sparrow. With more development time, a bigger budget, and a realisation that game play makes a game, would have done wonders allowing the universe that they created to be far more immersive and impressive than it actually is. Sadly this is not the case and definitely not worth your hard earned time or money.