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Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) artwork

Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) review


"Wait, where were all of the guns in the first game?"


Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) image


Risen 2: Dark Waters is an ambitious pirate-themed RPG. This was made clear to me when I discovered you can train a monkey to aid you when looting. As you can imagine, I leaped at the opportunity to have my own pet primate resting on my shoulder, awaiting my commands to raid ruins and sneak into storerooms. The only problem is that there are maybe two areas in the entire game where the monkey is necessary. The developers at Piranha Bytes had a neat concept, but they either didn't know where to take it or just didn't bother to fully utilize it. You might think it's foolish of me to rant about an insignificant feature, but to me it embodies my primary complaint with the game. Let's just say this title is chock full of "monkeys"...

Risen 2 maintains its antecedents' hallmarks: the nifty skill system--which is now more detailed and better organized than it was in Risen--and the collection of sweet side quests. As before, you net experience to boost broad attributes and the talents associated with them, which allows you to learn new skills from trainers found throughout the game's numerous islands.

Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) image


Unfortunately, Risen 2 all but does away with one of the Risen/Gothic trademarks, wherein you join one of three or four factions. Instead, only two "groups" vie for your approval: the Inquisition from the previous installment and the collective nation of islander tribes. In the aforementioned Piranha Bytes works, associating with a team required careful consideration because each company offered loads of perks and drawbacks. This time around, your decision can be boiled down to a simple question: would you rather fire a musket or wield voodoo? Risen 2's simplified version of the faction system is less thought-provoking and doesn't carry the weight the original iterations of it did.

Risen 2 boasts numerous open environments that are ripe for exploration. You'll spot your share of caves, dangerous beaches, forbidding marshes complete with alligators, and buried treasure. The spoils of your adventures, however, aren't always impressive. You'll come across a fair number of abandoned chests, most of which are brimming with dull loot like torches, rum, food, basic crafting items, and sometimes cheap merchant fodder. If you're brave, there are plenty of temples to break into with goodies to pilfer. Sadly, these constructs are basically glorified treasure chests with a few added hallways and the occasional QTE death trap. They're not very elaborate and the booty is more of the same, except that later temples provide increased amounts of higher priced merchant fodder. This isn't to say that you never discover anything useful. I've found a handful of unique weapon parts that allowed me to rebuild excellent swords and legendary treasures that grant passive stat bonuses. It's just that exploration is often more of a chore than a pleasure.

Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) image


Your island tours won't be as tedious as the game's combat, though. Risen 2 eschews shields, but allows you to block and even parry attacks with your sword, not to mention execute ripostes on rare occasions. The game takes an automated approach where holding down the right mouse button both locks on to your target and deflects most oncoming strikes, provided you aren't swinging your saber. The only trouble is that damn near every battle is the same story. You either end up blocking for ages whilst waiting for an opening, breaking into an all out assault that might cost you a small chunk of hit points, or putting distance between you and your foe so you can plug it with a few musket shots. Seldom did I alter my fighting style, except that I became sloppier during the latter phases because the campaign is crawling with healing items called "provisions," of which I had amassed about 130 by the time I reached the conclusion. It's telling how underwhelming this battle system is when you consider that I used roughly the same strategy to win my first duel as I did to defeat the final boss.

True, you could liven things up by acquiring voodoo. The only issue is that voodoo and brawls don't mix. When using a voodoo doll, you have to abide lengthy casting times that leave you vulnerable. If you're lucky, your current entourage might be able to distract the opposition. This doesn't usually occur, though. You could try to use scepters, but utilizing one requires a very rigid devotion to your "black magic" skill. Even then, your most useful spell is one that turns your enemies against each other, which is of no use to you if you're going one-on-one with, say, a panther or a leviathan. Personally, I found voodoo to be more trouble than it's worth.

Thankfully, you can skip some altercations through diplomacy, sorcery, or bullying, depending on how you've crafted your character. If there's one big thing Risen 2 gets right, it's the way some quests allow you to solve their conflicts with methods other than brandishing a blade and clicking the problem to death. During one scene, for instance, a guard denies you access to an archive. If you're not itching for a scuffle, you could sweet talk the guy. All you need is a "Silver Tongue" rating of 80.

Risen 2: Dark Waters (PC) image


With deeper social options for completing quests, it should follow that the protagonist would be more lively than he was in the previous journey and that his story would be closer to top notch. I'll admit that the hero is more enjoyable, if predictably snarky, but the tale the game weaves isn't terribly interesting. For the most part, it's one goose chase after another. You hunt down an artifact needed to give you an edge in the final conflict, you encounter a sea captain who has it, and eventually you fight him to the death. There's little character development and almost no dramatic sequences. The cast, as you speak to them, act lackadaisically about embarking on a quest to save the world from a seemingly invulnerable titan lord. Even the returning character, Patty, seems to not care that the planet is in peril and is more concerned about locating her father's treasure.

I suppose I could conjure up a bunch of conjecture about what went wrong with Risen 2: Dark Waters. However, it doesn't matter to me if the game was rushed, contrived apathetically to serve as a cash-grab, or cranked out quickly to keep the Risen brand relevant. The bottom line is that the end result is mediocrity. Yeah, I had some good times completing quests and fleshing out my character, but ultimately Risen 2 is loaded with missed opportunities and neat concepts that were underutilized. Personally, I think it may be time to let the Gothic/Risen formula take an indefinite hiatus while its developers focus their talents on fresh material.

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (December 06, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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