Risen 2: Dark Waters

Published on March 31st, 2012

We sample the first two hours of Piranha Bytes’ RPG.

Risen 2: Dark Waters

The natives aren't restless in Risen 2, they're actually rather nice.

With all the talk of pirates, seafaring and thieving monkeys, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Risen 2 is a very different entity to the criminally underrated original. Thankfully our first hands-on with a near-final build of the game indicated that those worries were completely unfounded. This RPG leopard hasn’t changed its hardcore spots, but what Piranha Bytes has done is apply a lot more polish to the tertiary aspects of their well-crafted experience. You can still talk to every NPC you meet and tackle the story-based campaign in any manner you wish, but on top of those systems is a layer of polish rarely seen in a Piranha Bytes release, in the guise of genuinely funny writing, better performed voiceacting and interesting combat.

We began the game right from the beginning with players once again assuming the role of the nameless protagonist from the original, who has joined up with the Inquisition to help deal with pirates and the recently unleashed Kraken menace. Rather than sticking with the relentlessly stuffy faction, the player character teams up again with the ever-loveable Patty in order to infiltrate one of the many pirate factions clogging up Risen 2’s recreation of the Caribbean during the 17th Century – it’s like Monkey Island only with indigenous slaves and lots of F-bombs.

Risen 2: Dark Waters

Players will unlock their own ship to explore Piranha Byte's recreation of the Caribbean.

From there we were transported to the isle of Tacarigua where we were greeted with an environment that was significantly smaller than the original’s lone island of Faranga, but it was still tinged with factional tensions and needlessly angry wildlife which were ready to attack at a moment’s notice. Most notably though, Risen 2 isn’t tinged with the mellow-drama of the original. From what we played it’s actually a thoroughly funny experience with memorable characters like a hard of hearing gunsmith, flirty prostitutes and a trash-talking prisoner, who even though his only possession is a pair of crusty boxers, still has enough time to trade insults with the main character.

Risen 2: Dark Waters

Combat still involves repetitive mouse clicks, but that's okay.

The pirate theme has undoubtedly given Piranha Bytes license to create a more colourful story-driven experience and there are some really great quests to be enjoyed as a result. One activity had us negotiating a truce between the entrenched pirate masses and a hoity-toity governor who demanded compensation for a bunch of recently stolen sugar, where we could make a tidy profit sorting out reparations and after that we were paying off a prostitute to ‘distract’ a guard so our wannabe pirates could steal another vagabond’s bounty.

Risen 2: Dark Waters

There's now readable books scattered around the island to pad out the fiction.

The quality of these quests is really encouraging, especially as you can often solve them in multiple ways, be it pressuring NPCs with violence, buttering them up or avoiding conflict by sneaking around. We spent most of our time walking around the island and sampling the story, so there wasn’t much time to sample the improved combat, but we did notice more options than before with firearms complimenting the existing melee weaponry, in addition to dramatic buffers and counter buffers such as throwing dust into an enemy’s face to blind them while you attack. All our time was spent with only the most vanilla combative options available (slash attacks). More abilities were unlockable via trainers scattered around the map, but progression was pricey.

All of the brilliant yet ultimately needless interactions you could execute in the original Risen are still here, but now they’re supported by better production values, a more enjoyable atmosphere and most surprisingly of all, a great moment-to-moment story. We’ll find out more when the final review build comes in, but the first impression Risen 2 makes is extremely promising.


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