Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

In the middle of the night on a lush, tropical island, I lead my gang toward the beach. A lone Inquisition supply ship is docked in the harbor, with only a handful of guards on the night watch. I order my group to storm the beach, proudly declaring the vessel as ours. We rush up the dock, swords drawn, and board the ship. Metal clangs now fill the once-quiet night, as the Inquisition guards block our sword strikes with their own. As my group overtakes the crew, I duel with the Captain by the wheel. It would appear we are too evenly matched – blows are exchanged and neither side is letting up. I put some distance between us with a hard kick to his chest, pull out my pistol, and fire.

The battle is over, and we have won ourselves a way off this godforsaken island. All at once we cheer, then swig bottles of rum and grog. My parrot squawks in delight. Sure, it might not have been the best strategy, and there may have been more effective ways of taking the ship, but what do we care? My group is a gang of boisterous, bloodthirsty pirates who never back down from a challenge, and in Risen 2: Dark Waters, so am I.

Risen 2

Risen 2 puts players back in the boots of the nameless hero from Risen, now a drunken lieutenant in the Inquisition army, a.k.a. the “good guys.” The Inquisition has been having a bit of trouble – pirates are raiding their developing settlements and stealing valuable supplies, and a water Titan named Mara has been sending out her Kraken to destroy ships and wreak havoc on the world. When word comes in that a pirate leader may have found a weapon to take down Mara, the Inquisition sends the nameless, rum-loving hero to infiltrate the pirates, recover the weapon, and kill Mara. Sounds easy enough.

The hero’s quest will span several islands, each sporting  unique sets of quests, ranging from hunting down escaped slaves to breaking a fellow pirate out of jail. Completing quests and defeating enemies nets the player “Glory,” which can be spent raising various pirate-y stats. A pirate with high Cunning stats can talk his way out of most situations and maybe pick some pockets while he’s at it, and a pirate with a high Toughness rating can scare off opponents or challenge them into doing reckless things. The simple stats tree gets complicated quickly, especially when each ability has to be “taught” before it can be put to use. Picking locks, persuasion, and even crouching all need to be purchased from specific people in specific locations for large amounts of hard-to-find gold. I often found myself grinding, killing monkey after monkey just to save up what precious gold I could to learn a necessary ability.

It seems like everyone has a bone to pick with the hero in Risen 2; when he’s not fighting other humans, he’s dealing with cave spiders, ghouls, leopards, and more. Combat boils down to sword striking, blocking, and throwing in the occasional gunshot. In sword duels, it works quite well. When dealing with monsters, though, the system breaks down due to the simplicity of combat and to glitches. I won most of my fights by never letting enemies break out of their stun animation, and my opponents would often use the same exploit on me.

Risen 2

The game has a steep difficulty curve, and refused to hold my hand at any time, even for a second. There’s no sort of compass toward quest locations or teachers, and puzzles often require items but don’t even hint at what items are needed. I spent hours wandering aimlessly around islands, often in circles, looking for treasure so I could learn one ability from one person (who’s location was a mystery to me) to continue the main game. I often felt less like a pirate and more like a lost tourist who fell from a passing cruise ship.

Developer Piranha Bytes clearly understands the fun and whimsy of rum-drinking, parrot-loving pirates. My companions were both charismatic and intimidating, and each island had its own distinct charm that made me envy the life of a pirate. Grog and rum were traded like gold, and I even had a pet parrot to help me in fights! Songs were sung, ships were plundered, and there were times when I was singing “Yo ho yo ho…” just for the hell of it. Piranha Bytes’ love and dedication to seafaring rouges is clear from the get-go, and their presentation shines.

Unfortunately,their presentation can’t make up for the fact that Risen 2 suffers from combat issues and a lack of guidance. It’s an otherwise fun experience that’s marred by poor design elements. If you’ve been itching for a pirate’s life, then I encourage you to hop aboard, but know that you’ll be sailing through some choppy waters.


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Author: Dan McKenney View all posts by

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