Frustration. If I had only one word to sum up my feelings towards Risen 2 Dark Waters then that would be it. Frustrated because, in RPG terms, Risen 2 could have found a gap in the market for console gamers yet it missed a huge opportunity. On face value, Risen 2 is an adult themed RPG based around the concept of pirates. You are a nameless commander of The Inquisition with the task of infiltrating a band of pirates after hatching a secret plan to make it seem as if you have been cast aside. You arrive on an island that allows for free rein with no obvious linear path. The game offers a range of standard RPG characteristics like gathering consumables and loot, item slots, a currency, professions, skill talents and an experience based leveling system. Sounds great, right? Wrong.
I never like to berate a game while I’m reviewing it. Since I’ve started writing for GC I always try to offer a certain level of objectivity rather than allowing personal feelings to dominate whatever spiel I am planning to write. I don’t think I can offer this here, I truly don’t. I have also never reviewed a game when I haven’t finished, at least, the main story line. Again, I can’t give you that assurance.
So why has Risen 2 provoked so much abhorrence from me? Let’s take a look
Graphically the game is as poor as anything I have seen on the Xbox 360 for a number of years.That may be being a little kind; it looks like a PS2 game. After the first couple of hours I thought my TV was on an incorrect setting. The animations are boxy, the shadows look appalling and dominate the screen when walking through the jungle. Just look at this image posted on the Official Xbox Magazine website:
Quite often I’d incur frame rate issues where things got a little jumpy. I first noticed the graphical issues within the first 5 minutes of the game in a rain storm. The splash effect on the group was appearing about two feet above the floor.
The barely animated jumping action is a sight to behold but nothing like the slight bend of the knees that is offered up by the ‘fear of diarrhea’ sneak animation.
The same face moulds are used with worrying frequency. This became notable within the first few hours of the game. Maybe I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to the NPC faces if the lip syncing wasn’t so drastically off. The Muppet’s Christmas Carrol was a better attempt at lip syncing than what is present in Risen 2.
I sound like someone who is a stickler for graphics, but I’m not. If the gameplay was of high quality barely anyone would batter an eyelid at the graphics quality, but sadly it sucks just as hard.
Despite being an unnamed leader in the Inquisition you are apparently bereft of any sort of talents or skills in combat. You even need to pay a 1000g to a prisoner to tell you how to ‘bend your knees and walk around a little’ or sneak. Sneaking is successful if you walk right past someone, start sneaking, then creep your way into his storeroom. But whatever you do, don’t come out of sneak mode, I can only assume, the creaking sound of your knees righting themselves will attract the poor chap outside to run in and investigate, even if you don’t move. Oddly it seems there is no consequence to stealing. If you get caught you’re in for a fight, but at the start of the game the only option is to run away. Upon returning the same chap will have forgotten you ever stole something and you can go back to pretending you’re about to soil yourself behind his back all over again.
The game doesn’t hold your hand at all, which should really be looked at in a positive light. However, as your character is lacking in anything in the way of skills, I stupidly wasted all of my gold on the sneak ability. Probably because I assumed I wouldn’t have to pay someone else 1000g to show me how to kick. Surely he should know how to kick? Even I know how to kick and I’m not even a pirate or a commander of any inquisition. Perhaps I should be.
How scarce gold is, coupled with your general incompetence at the beginning, makes playing the game quite painful. It is difficult, but it’s not the difficulty I have the problem with. It’s the fact that no matter what you do you just have to accept that you’re rubbish. Combat is based on a three swing sword attack, so the three same animations repeat over and over and over. You’re either going to kill whatever you’re fighting or it is going to kill you. There is no skill involved. The erratic lock on system means than when fighting multiple enemies, especially those retched charging boars, you have no way of avoiding damage. When I started I assumed it would be along the lines of the first Assassins Creed in terms of combat, simply because of the way LT button holds the sword out in a defensive position, but apparently not. Hit or be hit is the motto. There is also a ranged based pistol combat, I couldn’t afford the 1000g to learn it at the time, but with a 20 seconds reload time I can’t say I’m too disappointed.
As the game opens up the freedom to roam is commendable. Too many games restrict the player as to their whereabouts yet Risen 2 offers exploration almost instantly. Even if that does mostly involve running into packs of monkeys. Talking about monkeys there is a trainer that will show you how to tame a monkey as a companion and he will run along side you and steal things. DO NOT DO IT. Seeing someone brutally butcher your screaming monkey is certainly not something I would recommend.
The expletive-laden dialogue isn’t really much to behold and often feels like it’s there for the sake of it at times, even if the potential response of “the inquisition can fuck right off” did provoke some serious chuckling from me. However, conversing with NPC’s is unnecessarily drawn out and frustrating as you click-through all of the possible replies. For example early in the game you discover that rum production has dried up and there is an issue with the water and the wheat. So, you hear all about this problem and are then faced with the responses: “tell me about the water” followed by “tell me about the wheat”. All things that could be summed up far more quickly yet drag on unnecessarily.
Take this into consideration IT’S A PIRATE GAME THAT DOESN’T ALLOW ANY FORM OF PIRATING! Just think about that for a second. There is no sea based combat, you are not allowed to venture out into the open waters in the hunt for treasure. No raping, no pillaging, no doubloons. You’re a dry land pirate. Maybe like a London rioter on a tropical island but without a hoodie.
I should probably stress that this review is heavily based on my own personal viewpoint . In my opinion there are a number of RPGs or Action RPGs out there that offer a much greater experience that what is offer in Risen 2. Maybe the greatest example of piracy in Risen 2 is the £40 RRP. If you’re still curious to see the game I’d at least wait until it comes down in price.