Risen 2: Dark Waters (PS3)

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Risen 2: Dark Waters has convinced me that the pirate’s life is not for me. I am now certain that in a fight to the death, a ninja would easily beat a pirate, and that makes me sad. Pirates are supposed to be funny, strong criminals with excellent fighting abilities and a knack for finding gold while wearing an eye-patch. At least in Risen 2, you wear an eye-patch.

Risen 2: Dark Waters is the the sequel to Risen, a game I reviewed a few years back. I recall it being a game with lots of potential but it lacked a lot of polish. I was hoping that the sequel would do better, seeing as the developer has more experience and more time to perfect their formula, but it turns out that was not the case.

Risen 2: Dark Waters Screenshot 1

Yo ho ho and a bottle of scum

Risen 2 is a role-playing game moulded in the fashion of classic RPGs where items are difficult to come by, and enemies are tough to kill. Story also features prominently here, and even though it’s nothing really worth writing home about the narrative does a good job of keeping you enthralled for at least a few hours.

As a washout Inquisition soldier, you’re ordered to find the pirates of an island you find yourself on and retrieve a weapon strong enough to destroy the Kraken, a monster in the sea wreaking havoc on the shipping lanes. You soon find the pirates and with some effort you convince them to let you sail with them and enjoy their adventures.

Risen 2: Dark Waters Screenshot 2

Risen 2 plays pretty well initially and going on quests and solving problems for the local townsfolk can be rewarding. Then I had to fight my first enemy, however, and I realised there is something amiss. Combat is supposed to be a hit and miss affair, but not as random as in Risen 2. Often you will be hit by your opponent and then go into a ‘taking damage’ animation where you can do nothing but watch your character take even more damage. Before the animation finishes, you will be hit again and again until you die. No fun at all.

You slowly learn new skills and get better at combat, but these skills come at a price. You can purchase a new skill from a non-playable character for an average price of 1000 gold pieces. This may not sound too bad, but when gold is this difficult to come by, 1000 pieces is a very steep price to pay. This prevents you from gaining any sort of real skill until much much later in the game. Yes, it might present a challenge for players, but this is simply not fun.

The voice acting of Risen 2 is another issue and I felt as though somme of the actors just didn’ care at all about their roles and delivered lifeless lines with about as much excitement as a toddler with a dirty nappy. It’s not the worst voice acting I have encountered, but it stands out.

Risen 2: Dark Waters Screenshot 3

Hi-tech piracy

Finally, the technical side of Risen 2 also has to come under question. Near the end of the PlayStation 3’s life you would expect games to make full use of the hardware and be able to push either insanely detailed images or less detailed images insanely fast. Ideally you will be able to do both, but Risen 2 does neither. Pirates live happily in a land without much colour, even though the game is set in the tropics.

The islands and towns on them seem more randomly thrown together than being a natural occurrence or human development, while the graphical tearing and gameplay stuttering should not happen, ever, and especially not in a title with any sort of budget behind it.

There are certain areas where Risen 2 does look lovely. Discovering lost ruins is a treat, but they serve no purpose other than trying to convince you that this place is real. It happens too seldom to be considered a benefit.

Risen 2: Dark Waters Screenshot 4

Risen 2 does itself proud at other times, though, and being a violent era (this is by no means an historical game) you can expect some brutal encounters. Risen 2 provides some side quests where the end result is more than just gold in your pocket. At one point, you’re tasked with killing some escaped slaves who are armed with bamboo spears, which brought to mind the ‘No Russian’ mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Thankfully for the slaves, the combat in Risen 2 is so random that they actually stand a chance against you. Another mission sees a pimp collecting his money from you for just talking to his call-girl. It ends up in a fight and you get beaten, naturally, due to the combat being so unwieldy.

Risen 2: Dark Waters Screenshot 7

Risen 2 has a lot of potential. It stems from a great, elaborate idea that lost its appeal somewhere in the execution. With a solid bit of polish and a more detailed direction, this could have been a great title with a much better score. Right now, however, it’s only suitable for gamers with an insatiable appetite for RPG’s, even if it tastes a bit off.

The Good: The sweet pirate’s life! Good moments here and there

The Bad: Unwieldy combat; Lifeless voice acting

The Ugly: Graphical tearing and stuttering at this point in the console cycle shouldn’t happen