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Old 04-24-2012, 06:20 AM   #1
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[PC] Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

Title - Risen 2: Dark Waters
Platform - PC. Coming to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in July
Developer - Piranha Bytes
Publisher - Deep Silver
ESRB Rating - M (Mature)
MSRP - $49.99
Editor - Michael "DoctorFinger" Chauvet
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What's Hot: A dark, interesting setting. A fairly deep combat system at higher levels. Some very visually appealing environments.

What's Not: Impenetrable mapping and navigation systems. Painfully slow character progression. Wonky character animations. Occasionally glitchy combat
Before I ever played it, I wanted to like Risen 2: Dark Waters. I’m a big RPG fan, but I’ll be the first to acknowledge that they overwhelmingly fall into two settings: LotR-like fantasy with elves and dragons, or Mass Effect-like space epics. Few try to do anything different, so even a slight tweak to the genre - like Risen 2’s dark pirate tale - is something I should like. But is the final product worthy of my pre-release hopes?

You play as a nameless pirate (apparently the hero of Risen 1, which I never played) working for the Inquisition. The world of Risen 2 begins rather small, as the monstrous Titans have driven humanity to the brink, leaving them only the city of Caldera free. The whole game revolves around finding weapons to use against the Titans, who are also greatly interfering with sea travel.


That voodoo that you do

As this is an RPG, your world revolves around acquisitions. Equipment, quests, consumables, gold, party members and most importantly Glory. Instead of XP, you earn Glory for kills and quests. Glory lets you advance skills like cunning, weapons and toughness. Only you don’t really gain new abilities directly from leveling up skills. Gaining levels simply lets you pay a master to train you in that skill, and here we find one of the game’s first real breakdowns. You start out fairly powerless - as with most RPGs - and after hours and hours of leveling you grow to be... still mostly powerless. Training in even basic skills is hugely expensive, and gold is so dear and used for so many other things that you find yourself pretty weak for most of the game. When I’m 6 hours in and still sometimes being destroyed by monsters from the first area, something is wrong. Unlike some other RPGs, you can’t really power level in Risen 2 since all of the basic skills are required sooner or later. You can’t just ignore, say, Voodoo skills or Cunning and focus on combat to make battles easier. As you progress you'll recruit crew members who travel with you and give bonuses and help out in combat. Determining the right crew member to take is important, but after a while you find yourself taking the same one or two allies along all the time.

The problems are compounded by a navigation system which is almost non-existent. In modern non-linear games you’re accustomed to having arrows constantly pointing you towards your goal, or hyper detailed maps showing you everything. Not in Risen 2. You have a map but it’s used mostly for fast travel once you acquire your own ship. Some of the islands and dungeons you explore have maps you can acquire, but even then they’re not of much use. None of the individual environments is so large that I couldn’t, eventually, find my way, but it felt like I was being forced into a bit too much needless exploration. I appreciate a developer who trusts their customers to do some things without being guided like a 5 year old on a scavenger hunt, but in non-linear game like this you need some tools to help keep you organized and on track. A decent in-game map and a useful objective pointer are not too much to ask for.


The Nameless Hero with crew member Patty

The story is pretty decent, if a bit uneven. There’s lots of pretty broad (and by ‘broad’ I mean ‘gross and juvenile’) humor throughout the game, but it starts to wear thin by the 50th time you meet the same stereotype. The combat would actually be pretty decent if it weren’t marred by way too many animation juggles. Every so often an enemy will hit you in just the right way and you can’t escape the hit animation before they strike again. When that happens all you can do is reload and hope it doesn’t happen again. Of course these juggle glitches sometimes happen in your favor; I beat a mid-game boss that way. But even when the glitch benefits you, it’s not any sort of fun. Later on the combat becomes a lot deeper and entertaining, but as mentioned before it happens so later that any enjoyment from it is limited.

Eventually in the last part of the game things open up and the whole thing starts to come together, but having to slog through hours and hours of mediocrity to reach that point isn’t my idea of fun. The progression and difficulty curves are way too steep, especially considering how frustrating it can be at low levels. Had Piranha Bytes been able to take the fun of the final 20% of the game and stretch it out over more they may have had a winner on their hands.


Some of the natives you fight. They're not portrayed positively

I’m not generally a graphics snob. I’d much rather have my graphics simple and evocative than showy and shallow. And Risen 2 has some wonderful environments and great enemy design. But I just can’t get over some of the technical issues, namely the animations and pop in. Characters seem to just flail about randomly, repeating the same 4-5 frames of animation ad infinitum while in conversation. No attempt is made to synch lip movements to speech at all. Movements by your character and his companions are better, but there are some major clipping issues with their character models. I understand when it happens with a character whose equipment - and therefore their model - can change. But when a party member whose look never changes has a scabbard which constantly runs through their leg or a jacket collar which regularly stabs through their head, I get annoyed.


Caldera, the nicest remaining city in Risen 2. Also, the only remaining city

Ultimately this feels like a game ruined by its desire to be a full retail product. Had Piranha Bytes set out to make a really bang up smaller title I think they may have hit a home run. But the need to fill it out to hit an arbitrary “hours of gameplay” bullet point means way too much padding and too little polish. The core is good, but not good enough to be worth the tedium leading up to it.

Score: (2.5 out of 5 Cogs)


Michael says, "Risen 2 really feels like two separate games. The end game, when you’re relatively high level and skilled, is entertaining and mostly well thought out. But getting to that point is a real slog through some poor design choices and balancing. I can live with the, mostly minor, technical issues. But when the first thing that comes to mind when describing a game is ‘slog’ I can’t really recommend it.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:29 AM   #2
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Damn. I was looking forward to this too. Thanks for the review Doc!
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:29 AM   #3
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Oh cockerdoodles!

I guess I'll start on RevAss then!
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:17 AM   #4
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Every time I see this time, it reminds me of the cartoon: The Pirates of Dark Water.
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:14 AM   #5
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"Determining the right crew member to take is "

is what? Don't leave us hanging!
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:15 AM   #6
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I will still give it a shot when it gets cheap but this is disappointing.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:18 PM   #7
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That's too bad. I hear the original Risen is great.

I just started playing Kingdoms of Amalur. Definitely filling my RPG nitch after ME3. I like the WoW like art style.
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Old 04-24-2012, 06:07 PM   #8
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It sounds like the issues you are having with the game won't bother me. I even expect some of it. But what does suck is the lack of a CE edition here in the US (or any hard copy for that matter). It sounds like a cloth map would have come in handy. What is a pirate without a good treasure map? Sounds like a lost opportunity there.

I may not dive right into this game and wait for a few patches that should fix any glitches and even balancing. I guess only The Witcher 2 is allowed to kick the crap out of you in the beginning of the game. So how long is the game anyways?
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:52 PM   #9
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I'm curious to hear what some who played and enjoyed Risen thinks about the sequel.
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Old 07-24-2013, 01:54 AM   #10
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I picked this up at the Steamsale and am kinda surprised it isn't as shit as I thought it would be. It's kinda like Fable with worse combat, but the Pirate theme makes up for it.

Also, played Risen 1 for a few hours (on the 360), this is wayyyyyyyyyy better. And it looks kinda nice.

edit:

I'm not a huge fan of slogs, and am not far in (2 hours), but I do find the lack of handholding kinda refreshing. I will play this occasionally so I don't get burned out quick.
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Old 01-23-2014, 09:15 PM   #11
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Zombie Thread: I picked up Risen 2 after ACIV for more pirating fun and really enjoyed it. It can be unforgiving at the start (hold onto Patty), but you do eventually get a handle on everything. While it's rough around the edges, the world design and character progression are better than many bigger titles (e.g. Skyrim, Dragon Age II), I had fun exploring and actually had to think about levelling.

I followed it up with Risen 1 and I'm apparently a fan of second (or third) tier RPGs. It is UGLY, especially on the 360, but it's actually pretty fun. Again exploration and progression are very solid. The plot is alright too.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:15 PM   #12
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It's nice to see someone else enjoy this. Check out Gothic and Gothic II to see where the series has its roots.
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Old 01-24-2014, 12:12 PM   #13
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It's nice to see someone else enjoy this. Check out Gothic and Gothic II to see where the series has its roots.
Conveniently on sale on GoG.com right now, though I usually prefer Steam so I can keep a running tally of all my unplayed PC games. Gothic I & II look a little dated, but Gothic 3 still looks playable.
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:24 PM   #14
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Another rough around the edge series are the Drakensang games. Demonicon looks similar as well and I am waiting for a sale on that one.

I did enjoy both Risen 1 and 2. On my second playthrough of Risen 1 I went directly to the cult and got stuck there on a fight that I could not seem to win. So I guess it is best to go bandit for that one. Risen 2 plugged along and like many games like it, is neither bad nor good. Just decent. And I don't mind that from time to time.
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Old 01-26-2014, 07:16 PM   #15
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Conveniently on sale on GoG.com right now, though I usually prefer Steam so I can keep a running tally of all my unplayed PC games. Gothic I & II look a little dated, but Gothic 3 still looks playable.
The problem is that Gothic 3 is a bit of a black sheep in the series with pretty major issues. I suggest playing the first, you'll get used to the graphics fast. The controls... I can't make any excuses for, but I recommend going keyboard-only for that one. It's worth it for the experience.

The Risen games are maybe underrated, but Gothic and Gothic 2 are true classics.
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:37 PM   #16
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I couldn't get past the controls on Gothic. I did like the setting though. And item management was a huge problem for me. I felt like I was doing it wrong the whole time. Gothic 2 ended for me when I walked into the barracks area in the first town and the entire town guard was chasing after me. You really need to save a lot for those games and restart after every little damn thing. They try to make it too realistic and in the end it takes away from my experience of the game.
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:44 PM   #17
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I finished Risen and have moved onto Divinity 2. It's certainly nowhere near as good (yet anyway), but I can't put my finger on why. I'll keep plugging at it. I picked up the Gothic games, though I imagine they'll just sit in my backlog forever.
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