For the last few months I have been really getting my RPG groove on. Whether this be shooting aliens in the face in Mass Effect, slicing and dicing spiders in Dragon Age or creating spells and picking pockets in Oblivion, if it takes over 45 hours to complete I’ve been enjoying it. So I was super excited to get my hands on Risen 2, an RPG but with pirates. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate, right? So I put that disc straight into my machine and set sail for my first foray into the world of an AaaaarrrrrrrrrPG.
The story of Risen 2 starts out much the same as most in the genre. You are the unnamed hero with an unknown but troubled past – which you will slowly unravel the further you delve into the story – who works for the inquisition. After a nasty storm a ship is brought to the harbour which only has one survivor. Of course being a pirate story the Kraken is involved and you are sent with the survivor to infiltrate pirates and discover a weapon that can destroy the monster. Like any good RPG the story does branch off and allows you a little freedom, will you side with pirates or will you complete your mission? The choice is yours.
The size of the game is another check in the box of RPG 101, clocking in at around 60 hours easily, but how deep you delve into the story is purely up to you and there is certainly no shortage of helpless peons around the world who will side-track you and extend the length of Risen 2, but once you have worked your way through the majority of the main story it simply runs out of stuff to show you, so it opts to just regurgitate everything you have experienced previously.
And this is where the sea starts getting a little rough. I really wish that there was enough to keep Risen 2 afloat - I mean it’s got pirates in it God damn it - but unfortunately this is not the case. Where Risen 2 ticks the boxes of things that an RPG should have it also includes and showcases everything that can ruin an RPG.
Firstly, it’s not that the visuals look outdated, it’s just that it feels like the polish was forgotten in this aspect. There are times when trees and foliage just appear out of nowhere, all of the textures seem to have a strange lighting blur attached to them and occasionally there is a stutter which I initially thought was my console reading the disc only for it to still be there after installing on my hard drive. I’m all for the focus to be placed on the story or other aspects of the game – this is why I’m still playing Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner – but at times Risen 2 becomes very painful to play due to these visual issues.
The combat is troublesome at best and erratic at worst with the system literally forcing you to draw an enemy away purely by running in order to take them on one at a time. The problem with this is, most of the monsters are faster than you so it becomes a lesson in futility. I quite often found myself surrounded by monsters with the lengthy animation for taking damage not allowing me to actually escape. There is no block button as such (Left trigger parries) which feels useless to start as it seems to be based on a first hit system which often feels unfair. For the first four hours, trying to kill two pigs was a suicide mission for the great pirate with no name. Pigs! Not world weary and sea hardened pirates but pigs. I guess alarm bells should have rung when I found my first weapon and I was told that my first, and after 30 hours of gameplay so far my only, combo is X,X,X.
At times the combat feels simply half assed and when I was pinned down by a leopard I received the perfect example of this with a quick time event where a yellow Y button appears with text underneath which simply says “Get Rid Of”.
Whoever was in charge of the voice acting should be made to walk the plank. After a few hours you feel more and more inclined to just skip your dialogue cut scenes as it just feels wooden and lacks any real emotion, whilst at times what is being said barely matches anything your mouth is actually doing.
If you manage to survive the pure frustration of the combat system and the ropiness of other aspects of the game, you come across the game’s interesting balancing act of a levelling system. Clever usage of your “Glory” points will be required to ensure you can level-up a nice spread of basic pirating skills, such as lock-picking and cunning, but many abilities will require you to spend gold in order to purchase them but you will need certain skills in order to search for said gold. Further to this, not only do you need gold and glory points you also have to visit specific characters in order to attain skills, and when you have to make a decision between a skill that will make you gold or one that will help you survive it’s not always a simple choice, but it is always one that keeps the progression within the game interesting.
Upgrading your character does help a lot of aspects but the issues with the combat, annoying pop-up of objects and dodgy voice acting are a huge obstacle between your starting point and the level you need to be in order to obtain the skills to start enjoying the game, and for many this may come too late and they will have switched off their machine never to play the game again.
There is the makings of a solid pirate game buried underneath the problems but these issues do not just pop up once in a while, they are constantly dragging the game under water and you will find yourself swaying back and forth on the level of enjoyment you experience. If you have an extremely large amount of patience to deal with the technical issues or are absolutely desperate for a pirate themed RPG then this is worthwhile entry onto your rental list until a more illustrious ships sails into harbour.
MLG Rating: 3/10 Platform: PS3/ Xbox 360/ PC Release Date: 03/08/2012
Disclosure: SiStevens rented a physical copy of Risen 2: Dark Waters for review purposes . The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here