If you’ve ever played the original Risen on consoles you’ll know exactly how much of a technical disaster the final product was. It was so bad sometimes that some would classify it as unplayable. That leaves much skepticism with Risen 2. Piranha Bytes managed to learn from some of their mistakes, but was it enough to make Risen 2 a redeemable title? In some ways, yes; others, not so much. Risen 2 is definitely much more tolerable than its predecessor, but Piranha Bytes just couldn’t reach that level of polish many had hoped for.
Risen 2 focuses around a Titan goddess named Mara who is the master of a giant monster called the Kraken, which attacks ships at sea. Your goal throughout the game’s 30-60 hours of gameplay is to collect artifacts in order to eliminate the Titan Lord Mara. The story itself isn’t anything revolutionary or groundbreaking, but it’s interesting none the less. The biggest thing that stands out in Risen 2 is its beautiful Pirate theme. It’s one of the few things that make the game even worth attempting to play. Piranha Bytes did an excellent job in capturing the atmosphere and lifestyle of a pirate.
With that said, some of the same issues that plagued the first title are still present; massive frame rate issues at times, clunky combat, freezing, text can be hard to read at times etc. Thankfully, these issues aren’t as bad as in the original, but it’s a shame they’re still present. Piranha Bytes did improve on the combat system making it much less frustrating than before, but now comes with its own problems. Anytime you enter your inventory while in the middle of battle, your character magically sheaths his weapon. Combining this with the inability to properly evade enemies and their cheap tactics, there’s times where Risen 2 made me want to rip my hair out.
There’s been several cases where certain enemies will launch 4-5 attacks in a row. This is a big issue, because once hit, you’re unable to move. If you’re currently moving at the time, you stop dead in your tracks. Because of this, smaller weaker enemies in groups of 2 or 3 can easily kill you. In addition, for some reason enemy attacks can’t be interrupted, yet yours can. It’s not always this bad, though. Certain enemies don’t use the game’s technical flaws to their advantage, which can make the combat in Risen 2 enjoyable at times.
Everything you do in Risen 2 grants you Glory. The game’s XP system. Once you attain enough Glory, you can use it to upgrade your core skills, followed by purchasing talents and new abilities from the locals. I really liked this system, as it gave me a reason to explore and interact with more NPCs, which opened up more quests. As you progress through the game, you’ll eventually get your own pirate ship and have to form a crew. Had not every single ship in the game had the same exact interior and exterior, this would have been a much more exciting feature. The ability to customize your ship would have gone a long way, also.
However, living the pirate life is rather entertaining and enjoyable. Hunting for treasure and rum, dueling other pirates, cutting deals, using a pet monkey to help you reach out of reach areas and even meeting up with the natives to learn voodoo are all waiting for you. Yes, voodoo. Unfortunately, it’s not as exciting as one would think. Being able to control the body of very important people is great on paper. In Risen 2, it’s all story related. These do, however, provide some very unique quests to partake in, but I wish Piranha Bytes had expanded on the idea more.
The world in Risen 2 is quite massive, and once you obtain your own ship, you’ll be able to freely travel among the game’s many islands. Some of the islands are rather large, which brings me to one of title’s most impressive features: fast traveling. The key word here is fast, and I mean fast. You could be on one end of the island, pull up your map and select a travel point or even return to your ship and you’re there in less than 3 seconds. Sometimes you’ll get the occasional pop-in, but for the most part this system is very impressive. If you need to travel all over the island, you can do so in an instant with no loading screen whatsoever.
There’s a ton of content in Risen 2 to keep you busy. Even side quests are handed out like flyers, and while some are boring, less interesting quests, others are much more in depth and longer than what I expected. The entire time playing I always had something to do. I was never just wandering around trying to find tasks. I was always working towards something, and more options kept opening up. Even though the game can be frustrating at times, it was hard for me to stop playing.
Piranha Bytes has some very good ideas and has proven they can craft an epic RPG title. Their main problem is their lack of polish. Risen 2 is a step up from the original on consoles, but the technical shortcomings really hurt the potential this series has. The game that lies beneath all these problems is truly something special and unique. It could have even been easily recommendable to any RPG fan. It’s just a shame that it was executed so poorly.
If you managed to play the original Risen from start to finish and thoroughly enjoyed it, Risen 2 is an easy pick up for you. Even die hard RPG fans (like myself) might find value in it at a more reasonable price. For everyone else, you’re better off waiting until this drops to the $15-$20 range.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Pirate theme
+ Usable pet monkey and parrot is bad ass
+ Tons of content
+ Fast traveling instantly with no loading screen
- Cheap AI
- Clunky combat system
- Weak voice acting
- Frame rate issues, freezing, pop-ins etc
6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it. A game in this range has rental written all over it.
Risen 2: Dark Waters was developed by Piranha Bytes and published by Deep Silver. It was released on July 31, 2012 for Xbox 360 (reviewed) and PlayStation 3. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.