Ahem……few things bring such joy to the hearts of gamers and geeks everywhere as pirates. The eye patches, the rum, the parrots, the cursing, the bloodthirsty battles for booty (and treasure too!) – what’s not to love? Gamers have seen a fair share of high budget, time intensive open world rpg games recently, and if a game studio wants to catch the eye of gamers still locked in hundred hour play-throughs of Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning with a new epic game, they have to do something to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Like I said, everybody loves pirates, so why not take the questing and battling and leveling to the high seas instead of a medieval fortress? Piranha Bytes Studios is hoping it is just this formula that will get gamers swinging swords and rum bottles instead of battling dragons.
Now, I have to give two quick caveats here before I get too much into describing Risen 2. First of all, this is a preview build (Risen 2 is scheduled for release at the end of April in both US and UK) so while I may mention issues with graphics, play, etc., these things may well be fixed by the time the full game is released. Caveat number 2 is that, while Risen 2: Dark Waters is a sequel to Risen, I have not played the first game and so will approach this game from the eyes of a newcomer to the series.
In Risen 2: Dark Waters, you are thrown right into the action without a lot of background to the previous storyline, but fellow Risen newcomers should have no problem jumping right in, as the game does a good job of telling what to do and how to do it (even if you aren’t always fully aware of the why’s). As you begin the game, you are awakened from your drunken slumber by a summons – you being a rather scruffy, eyepatch wearing of seemingly less than respectable repute. As you make your way to the tower, you are witness to a ship being taken down by a monstrous kraken. You find out that this a frequent occurrence that is threatening the supply lines to your city, the last lines of the Inquisition. You are told to make your way to the beach in search of survivors, and it is here that you will taste your first bits of battle.
Like most rpg’s, how well you perform in Risen 2: Dark Waters depends a lot on how much you get from your environment. Everything from weapons and gold to provisions and healing drinks are often there for the pickings in bedrooms and chests, and just about anywhere else you care to look. Of course, the owners of said items aren’t always too keen on you making off with their stuff, and oftentimes simply entering the wrong room unawares can put you in the thick of battle.
As I mentioned, the beach is where you will first draw your sword, as you rescue the lone survivor of the shipwreck from some nasty sea creatures. As you draw your sword, each of the enemies shows a life bar above them, and your life is shown in the right hand corner at the bottom of the screen. One nice feature of Risen 2 is that you can battle any or all of your opponents at once. You don’t lock on to a single opponent – rather, you can thrust and parry and spin at each in turn, or one at a time, whatever works best for you.
Perhaps it was a compatibility issue with my pc, or one of those things that yet needs to be ironed out, but I found the combat to be a bit choppy, particularly when trying to battle opponents at multiple camera angles. While I could turn and fight quite easily, the camera didn’t always keep up with me, so I was often fighting a bit blindly. Even so, whether throwing coconuts at guards or slicing at warthogs, the fighting in Risen 2 was intense and generally quite unexpected, lending tension and interest to the game. The storyline is also quite interesting, and a nice departure from the often tired medieval knight them.
While there are numerous side quests available wherever you go (quite handy for picking up gold), your first main goal is to travel to a different island and infiltrate the group of cutthroat pirates that live there. Remember the survivor from the shipwreck? Turns out she’s an old friend of yours, Patty (the game doesn’t give you a whole lot of background on this friendship). Patty believes her father, famed pirate Steelbeard, has found a way to defeat the evil kraken. You’ll need to work your way into his trust, without letting anyone know that you are a member of the Inquisition. Of course, this isn’t easy (it never is, is it?), and before you can even make your way to his group you’ll need to collect supplies, clothing, skills, and provisions, to name just a few.
Risen 2: Dark Waters is a game that likes to let you make your own way. There isn’t any sort of real tutorial or hint features in play – part of the fun is that you need to figure out where to go and how to get there. You’ll need to listen very carefully when speaking with other characters, and the choices you make in conversation will affect how the game plays out for you. This adds a definite hint of added replay value to the mix, and just plain makes you pay closer attention and think just a little bit more about each decision you make.
While it definitely needs a bit more polish before it’s release, Risen 2: Dark Waters shows a lot of promise, and is already shaping up to be a game that will offer something new to the genre. Fans of action, rpg, and of course, pirates, should keep their eyes on this one – yar!