Risen 2 : Dark Waters – First Look

Avast, Ahoy and Yo Ho Ho!  No, don’t worry, we won’t be playing Lonely Island and Michael Bolton again, no matter how funny it was.  However, we did get a chance to set sail in a preview build of the upcoming Risen 2 : Dark Waters, soon to be released for XBOX 360, PS3 and PC!  The sequel to the not so well received RPG, Risen, this time you are cast in the boots of a Lieutenant of the Inquisition, tasked with infiltrating the pirate ranks and finding the key to saving the home port of the Inquisition.  This open world pirate RPG seems to be a whale of a tale!

A Pirate’s Tale

If you are new to the world of Risen, you’ve picked a great time to jump in!  The close of the first game has seen the release of the Titans and the dawning of the Age of Destruction.  As a Lieutenant of the Inquisition, you receive the call to check in with your commanding officer.  The opening is not quite colorful and cheery as our hero attempts to drown his sorrows and the burning homefront of the Inquisition, Caldera, in a few bottles of rum.  With Caldera under attack by one of the Titans, your commanding officer relays rumors to you of a pirate weapon that could possible take down the mighty Titan and get Caldera back on it’s feet, turning the tides in the Inquisition’s favor and restoring hope for humanity.  Ah!  But there is always a catch!  First, you must earn the trust of the pirates, and to do that you must join them!  Your leader swiftly discharges you and shuns you from the ranks of the Inquisition, to aid you in your secret mission, and sends you off to an open world of piratey adventure and booty chasing! (oh c’mon, you knew there’d be a few puns!).

Setting Sail

Collecting your first crew member, Patty, the daughter of the infamous Steel Beard, you set sail to the island of Tacarigua.  From here on out, the world is your oyster.  There are multiple islands to explore, many quests to take on and nothing but your thirst for adventure to guide you.  Risen 2 gives you the option to choose how to shape your character in both stats and alignment.  Leveling up takes a sidestep from the normal RPG fare by allowing you to boost your stats in a few key categories and then unlocking skills within those groupings.  For example, you can boost your overall sword skills and then purchase or learn skills within that tree.  In this sense, you don’t get a particular level of your character, you simply earn fame by killing monsters and completing quests, and trade that in for a higher level on a particular skill tree.  Combat is handled with parries and attacks for melee, with a handful of dirty tricks and, hopefully, a firearm as a backup.  You can choose to fight dirty and throw sand in your opponents eyes, or learn the ways of the natives and use voodoo to subdue anyone who stands in your path.  All of this takes place in a gorgeous new engine crafted for the game and the visuals are just stunning.  The game has day/night cycles and weather patterns, and quests that will hinge on those opportune times of day to complete them.  Unlike other games in it’s genre, the NPC AI in Risen 2 is especially interesting.  Venture into a barracks that you are not welcome in, and the NPC’s will rush in and order you out–refuse and you’ll find yourself at the business end of their muskets!  This only furthers the deep risk/reward consequence and morality system of looting too much and getting caught, or pinching pennies to avoid jeopardizing the alignments that you have.  The NPC’s have their own daily routines and are crafted to avoid the “carbon copy” appearances that can be common to many games in the genre.  Overall it seems that Piranha Bytes has gone through some great lengths to address some of the concerns with the original Risen and infuse a great deal of new elements into Risen 2 to make it a whole new experience.

No Pullin’ Me Peg Leg

I promise, no more PR speak, I know that you are all anxious to get our thoughts on the game without the pomp and circumstance.  We had a chance to tackle a very lengthy preview build of the PC version of the game, which will be using Steamworks as it’s only DRM.  Now, I must admit, when I heard that this was not the final build of the game, I had already braced myself for some glitching and bugs and some possible rough waters.  To lay that to rest, the build we checked out was nothing but smooth sailing, not just technically but also visually.  The game’s engine looks fantastic; lighting effects, water effects, all of it is simply stunning.  The controls were a snap to learn, whether you prefer the traditional mouse and keyboard or a gamepad, either one is intuitive and easy to pick up and play.  The quests and the options they presented were very interesting.  Complete a quest for someone on the island and give them their share, or pocket some of the gold for yourself, tough choice!  The story was very interesting and offered enough branching pathways and side-quests to keep you busy for a short port to port hop or a long cruise on open waters.  All of it seems to blend together in a wonderfully crafted work that we cannot wait to fully explore later this year.    If Risen 2 has not been on your radar (or would that be sonar?) then you may well be missing out on what looks to be a great sleeper hit for 2012!  The full game will release on April 24, in North America and April 27, in Europe for PC, XBOX 360 and PS3.


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