Published on March 2nd, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Risen 2: Dark Waters Hands-on Preview
The Titans are ravaging the world under the control of Mara, but you’ve got a nice bottle of rum that needs comfort. The game picks up from where Risen left off. At this point the Inquisition is left to fend off continuous attacks from Mara and her control of the Kraken. In the opening scene of the game we see Caldera, the last stronghold for mankind, in flames. The showering of Mother Nature doesn’t quite pour hard enough to extinguish the burning city in the background. The camera pans the landscape and finally lands on a luitenant that is posted in bed with a bottle of rum to keep him company.
The story picks up right away allowing for a basic understanding of the controls, inventory and map. The game also supports a controller over the mouse and keyboard combo. I found that both options have their perks and the controller supports all of the same functions. After picking the room clean it is time to meet Commadant Carlos. He shows us an oncoming ship near shore which is taken down by a giant sea creature, presumably the Kraken. Our hero is called upon to look for survivors of the ship–but he must pull himself out of his quarters and away from the bottle of rum.
As the beginning of the game progresses, we also see the introduction of a familiar character from the first title, Patty, the daughter of the infamous pirate Steelbeard. After she washes ashore, we are immediately introduced to our first bout of danger. Patty is just as tough as our hero and doesn’t thank you for saving her life from scurrying Sand Devils. After taking out these vicious looking, yet harmless enemies, Patty then notifies you that she may know the whereabouts of her father, Captain Steelbeard. Something more promising is that she wants to deliver the message to the Inquisition that her father may hold the key to a magical weapon that can defeat the Kraken.
After meeting with Commadant Carlos, he recommends that the two of you be on your merry way aboard the Black Betty. This ship is heading towards Ticarigua, which is a laboring island where Steelbeard may be at port. It is then that you are given the quest to go undercover as a pirate on the island of Ticarigua where there might be some information regarding this magical weapon.
Risen 2 is an Action RPG title that boasts a lot of gameplay variety. I can honestly say that RPG titles are not my go to genre of choice. Actions RPGs, however, strike a different chord and leave me feeling like I’m actually doing versus commanding. Things like jumping, grabbing ledges, and being a participatory factor in combat is more fulfilling than just hitting ‘A’ to do a mega-colossal attack.
There are quite a few things that you will find yourself experimenting with in your characters skillset. If you are unfamiliar with Risen, like some other RPGs out there, the main character does not choose a class. Rather, Attributes and Skills are developed and players can choose the strengths and weapon mastery.
Experience points are dealt in the form of Glory and can be accumulated by defeating enemies, completing missions, or persuading someone in your favor. Be warned, losing a sword battle, or getting caught sneaking around where you don’t belong can also deal negative glory points.
Glory can be cashed in to build your character Attributes in the following areas: Blades, Firearms, Toughness, Cunning, and Voodoo. These areas also host subcategories that can be developed by learning new moves from NPC’s throughout the island. These moves can be anything from alchemy to parrying. Learning skills from NPC’s can also aid in the mastering of such traits as pick-pocketing through the development of Thievery.
Much like other Action RPG titles out there, the game also huddles around various crafting and traits. Oh the workbench, how we love thee. Workbenches throughout Risen 2 allow you to manipulate weapons and create other goodies. From brewing rum, to making swords, and right down to becoming craftsmen of Voodoo/alchemy, there seems to be everything one would need to make it in this pirate’s world.
Staying alive in this new world can be tough. The land itself produces enough supplies to collect and use for trade. From Black Oleander, to meat from a freshly killed turkey (which is referred to as Raw Chicken for some reason), and even digging up buried pirate’s treasure—the land can sustain your life. Various potions can also be created from these plants and can strengthen your character for limited amounts of time. Among other things, cooking meat over a campfire also can produce Provisions, which can be used to recover health quicker than just the use of plants themselves. Potions cannot be created right away, but the involvement with the right person will allow you to develop skills and make them on your own.
It’s not what you know, but who you know, right? In the case of Risen 2, persuading the right person, or choosing who you talk to can get you the right information. There are plenty of garments to equip that will deal you plus points in “Silver Tongue” and even “Intimidation.” The utilization of these and other skills will help in your success or failure. A fair warning, talking to certain people may anger other characters and divulging things asked to be kept secret may cost you some time and some serious trekking.
For example, I was reporting back to Sebastiano at the Inquisition camp after exploring the newly discovered Shagunumbi Village. After speaking with a tribe witch and agreeing to some of her terms, I didn’t think anything of it before heading back to deliver my report to Sebastiano. Little did I know, Sebastiano knew of my interaction with this character, which also resulted in his distrust as I was dealing with the locals. This also showed how important it is to strategically plan out your next quest and anticipate what the outcome may be.
There are plenty of quick travel points that are listed on the maps. Instead of the slow paced standard jog, once these are discovered, landmarks can be selected on the map and traveled to almost instantly. This saves time from traveling up and around mountains or through streams and rivers. Traveling the distance on foot allows you to explore caves or a chest to loot. The game repeatedly suggests for you to “Save often”–you never know when you might be killed by a wild jaguar or booby-trap (these were annoying as hell in the first part of exploration) while walking carelessly through the open areas of the jungle.
The map was great to use, but I would have liked to see more icons depicting familiar landscapes after journeying to them. Discovering region maps helps in getting a close up view, but you must obtain these in order to look at them quickly. Something cool would have been a place to put custom descriptions on the side. In particular with the PC version, it would have been easy to make a quick note on the side: “Creepy cave where Molucca and drunken pirate were located,” “Angry Worker Termite and Goul. Come back to this area prepared.” Something along those lines would have saved me some time, and quite frankly, some frustration. Parts of the foliage filled jungle might look repetitive to the untrained pirate eye.
One thing that I did enjoy about Risen 2 were the conversations and content. The game doesn’t really take itself seriously, showcasing much of this silliness in the verbiage choices. At times, the game seems as though it was passing itself as a satire, especially in the comedy that ensues during conversation. From subtleties such as scratching your players hind-end during moments of waiting, to the contents of the dialogue—there are plenty of laughs to be had. At one point while I was talking to a Tonka, who are the toughest and strongest of the Shagunumbi, he replied to my smug remark with “Kaka.”
My background in gaming mostly encompasses FPS, Action, Adventure, Platformers and the occasional arcade style sports games. I did however start to understand how players could get so involved with Action/RPG titles and the ability to suck you into the games’ story and character development. One of those titles that I started to get into having never played was Dragon Age. The action in Risen 2 is a lot slower than Dragon Age II, but quicker than the single button pushes in BioWare’s RPG. Although this is true, I do feel however that the combat system was far more responsive in the competitors, and less fulfilling in Risen 2.
Risen 2 has plenty of options when it comes to character development, more specifically, combat. As previously stated, I do feel that the action is a lot faster and implies that same concept of my character doing something every time a button/key is pushed. While it is great to develop your character, the timing for these moves drove me to frustration on multiple occasions. It occurred most as the game progressed in difficulty and my character fell victim to ignorance of moves. The Dirty Tricks were used often, but sometimes fell victim to inaccurate lock-ons. I was often left exiting the game for a few moments just to clear my head before jumping back into Puerto Isabella.
On the island, Firebirds aggressively snapped to the point where getting in a slash or parry was laughable. Coupled with the missed save points, overbearing enemy confrontations might repeat themselves after easy deaths. Trying to exit multiple spears combo’d with slashing tribesmen added to the pool of frustration.
Forgetting to save also took my nerdrage over the edge. There I was, yet again frustrated because of the gaped autosave. It was something that became a love-hate relationship. At times I was glad that it didn’t save just because I wanted to test out a new ability to see if it was worth splurging for. Other times I started from the save point only to come back and prepare for the battle that lay ahead.
It is clear that Risen 2: Dark Waters is in its final stages of completion. The combat could use some tightening and the autosave tweaking could save some time and heartache. There are also a few bugs that I noticed, like standing underwater without having any harm come to me. I’ve heard that the team is already Kraken’ down on these tidbits to deliver a more than worthwhile endeavor. The game definitely needs some final polishes and a few aesthetics that might beg me back to play again. Plus, after leaving the preview the way it did, I can’t see not stepping back into the role of the hero pirate to stop Mara,defeating the Kraken or saving mankind from my exploration. After all, the beast at the top of this post doesn’t look so menacing, right?