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Risen 2: Dark Waters – Review PC

Most modern Role-Playing Games give players moral choices like “Paragon” and “Renegade”.  The pirate RPG Risen 2 from Piranha Bytes stays true to pirate morality and gives gamers moral choices that amount to “Renegade” or “Scurvy Yellow-bellied Cutthroat”.  This morally-questionable, plundering, looting, rum-drinking pirate-ness is what makes Risen 2 stand out among the crowd of action RPG’s.

The player’s Nameless Hero is a pirate in search of the one weapon that can defeat a nigh-invincible Titan that is causing no end of trouble for the world.  To do so, he has to assemble a crew, unite factions, and journey across a world that is much like a typical fantasy game setting, but is also much like the Age of Sail at the same time too.

There are fire-arms alongside swords.  Monsters roam the land with ordinary humans.  Magic exists, but only in the hands of Voodoo practitioners, instead of elves and wizards.

It’s a unique setting, and the devotion to keeping the pirate theme present at all times is by far the strongest feature of the game.  Instead of generic health potions, the hero drinks rum to regain hit points.  NPC’s usually speak with all sorts of colorful piratey colloquialisms, and there is plenty of adult humor in the form of references to alcohol and plundering wenches.

From a story perspective, gamers don’t need to have played the first game.  The history of this world is quickly summed up, and returning characters and factions are re-introduced well.  Those familiar with the previous game should know that the same Nameless Hero returns (Now sporting an eye-patch following the finale of the last game), and many of the same factions are back too.

The Risen series is made by the same developer that also makes the Gothic games, and their distinct brand of action RPG has a loyal following who can forgive the many problems that their games have.  However, gamers who are just discovering Piranha Bytes with Risen 2 are likely to run into trouble when first starting out.

The problems come mainly with Risen 2’s slow character progression.  Characters need to earn “Glory” by completing quests and defeating monsters, much like Experience Points in other RPGs.  However, players also have to spend gold on trainers to gain new skills.  For much of the game, gold is extremely hard to come by, and this means that new abilities are likewise few and far between.

There are no classes, so the Nameless Hero is defined by which skills he has trained in.  There are paths for thievery like lockpicking and pickpocketing, there is magic in the form of Voodoo.  The combat system uses a parry system, where players can deftly block an incoming blow, then retaliate… if they have the right skills.

If players don’t invest in the right combat skills early on, they will find themselves button-mashing away until they earn enough gold.  Then they have to find a trainer.  Alas, the trainers are scattered amongst the ordinary NPC’s, shopkeepers and townsfolk, so even when ready to learn a new skill, the scalawags that designed this game have made it hard to even locate the trainers!

Players can be a few hours into the game before learning even the most basic skills.  Misspending money in the early levels can make it yet harder to accumulate the money needed to correct these mistakes later on (Didn’t learn how to pick locks right at the start?  That will keep the hero from looting yet more money from locked chests as he goes along).  Gamers can likewise find themselves well into the main quest before learning anything at all about voodoo.

It also takes a lot of “Glory” to get the Nameless Hero’s basic stats up high enough to be effective in fighting enemies.  Simply following the main quest yields only a fraction of Glory needed to battle the enemies encountered (Even when playing on the Easy difficulty level).

There is a loot system too, but the game is likewise very stingy with even the most basic items.  Although there are many different kinds of weapon skills to be learned, actually getting these weapons can be very difficult, and expensive.

However, if players are prepared before starting the game, and are willing to play Risen 2 on the developers’ terms, then it can be a very fun game.  It has a free-roaming nature, giving players lots of sidequests and optional stories to pursue.  There are also story and faction choices at various occasions, so players will be able t explore this world as they like… as long as they don’t choose to just head right down the main quest line.

Risen 2 is certainly going to be fun for pirate enthusiasts, and gamers who like to poke around virtual worlds just to see what’s out there.  For those so inclined, it is out now for PC, and arrives for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 later this summer.  Two DLC story packs have released since launch as well.



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