Risen 2: Dark Waters Review
publisher: Deep Silver
developer: Piranha Bytes
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 27, 12
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Piranha Bytes always makes sure that they stick to what they do best. We completely respect when developers do that. Most of what these guys have done amounts to some truly splendid and memorable gaming experiences, not the least of which are: Gothic, Gothic 2 and Risen. Unlike these three excellent titles, Gothic 3 was a bit of a disappointment (more than anything else, I remember it being incomplete). Seriously, I remember it being one the buggiest games I've ever played.
On the other hand, Gothic and Gothic 2 are games I remember fondly. Gothic 2, for example, truly perfected the free-roam RPG formula. Next to The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, Gothic 2 is in the library of my personal favorites. Not only were you given the freedom to explore to your heart's content, but you were also able to develop your character any way you wanted to, in terms of combat, magic, general abilities, conversation skills etc. Its unique approach to gameplay was always the game's strongest point, although, at the same time, it proved to be the game's one weakness. Generally, the combat was always a debatable aspect of the Gothic-style gameplay. In Risen it worked pretty well, but it didn't stray too much from the familiar formula. For as long as I can remember, players would either praise the combat or condemn it. Risen 2 had a chance to learn from those mistakes.
Can I touch your hat?
Geez, he looks crabby.
In Risen 2: Dark Waters you are a Nameless Hero, once again. That's a recognizable recipe for Piranha Bytes' games. You are the same guy from Risen 1. Following the events of Risen, the hero has decided to side with the Inquisition, because they are basically all that's left of organized humanity. However, unlike its predecessor, Risen 2 doesn't pit the human race against orcs. It also does away with the series' traditional medieval fantasy theme, making way for a more, shall we say, pirate-flavored setting (Mmmmm! Salty! - Ed. Vince).
This game is all about pirates and doing all sorts of pirate things, including treasure hunts, commanding your own ship, getting into swordfights, chasing women and, naturally, making a range of smart-ass comments about everything. In relation to equipment, you can expect a lot of sabers, rapiers, epees, pirate pistols, pirate hats, eye patches, rum, grog and voodoo dolls. Indeed, voodoo magic is something that replaces classic fantasy-themed spells we've seen in previous title from Piranha Bytes. Increasing your 'Voodoo' means that eventually you can create a voodoo doll replica of an NPC you're not too fond of. It's an interesting twist on magic. Mind you, I have to say that the developers didn't do a lot to make you think like you really need 'Voodoo' in order to enjoy the game as much as you did in Risen or in Gothic when you used traditional magic skills. The issue is closely related to combat, so I'll try and explain.
Recalling any game from Piranha Bytes, makes me recall the combat and how it has always been a controversial topic among gamers. If you didn't enjoy it, you were simply frustrated by it. In my case, I just enjoyed exploring the world and I got used to its clunkyoften unforgiving combat mechanics. It's not impossible to master, but it does take a lot of effort and patience. In that regard, Risen 2 is no exception. It takes forever to get used to wielding a sword, axe, spear or any other weapon. Gamers are likely to get discouraged by this very early on in the game, because almost every enemy encounter gets frustrating when your character doesn't have the ability to pull off parry moves, ripostes or counter-attacks. Trouble is, even when you level up and unlock these moves, executing them requires perfect timing. Also, it gets confusing when the game prompts you to press the 'spacebar' when it really means: "You should've pressed the 'spacebar' by now." Chaining your attacks is also a problem. Combat boils down to two situations: either you corner enemies and attack them relentlessly or you let them do the same to you. That's not all. Most of the time, it's hard to tell when the right moment to strike arrives and when you should parry or block. To cut a long story short, the combat is as difficult and as confusing as ever and adapting to it is not easy.
You get your own pirate ship (I like that), I enjoyed the treasure hunts, the quests, improving the character and exploring the islands, a lot of that is packed into a nice little pirate adventure, visuals are satisfactory;
Combat can still be as confusing and frustrating as in previous games, buggish, ultimately not much of a story, poor voice acting.