The idea of pirates merging with the action RPG world sounds great and Risen 2 sets out to do just that. However, despite the fun story line and catchy one liners, it just isn’t executed quite right. It always felt like Risen 2 was missing something even though I enjoyed my time with it.
Playing through Risen 2 made me want to go back watch all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The game had me captivated and willing to look past the lack luster voice acting to adventure through dense forests towards tantalizing treasures in an effort to see what happens next. The base story of Risen 2 flows around a horrible but sexy sea creature that plagues the ocean and your commander in the Inquisition asks you to find a way to kill her. It’s not a derivative plot, and the premise is quite interesting, lending for a great pirate adventure. Unfortunately, the plot informs you of your entire adventure quite quickly, causing the minor plot twists to fall victim to a fairly flat narrative. Fortunately, the unnamed protagonist and his interactions with NPCs is what makes the story engaging and interesting.
The most heinous problem this adventure comes in contact with is in the form of the combat. This is a single-button, unimaginative action game that tries to hide the simplicity of its activities behind tactics and abilities that are only unlocked through giving away a handful gold – gold that is so very hard to come by. No matter how much gold you spend, the combat always seems clunky and not as precise as most gamers would want it. The game targets the enemies for you and, unless you have handed over that sack of gold to learn new skills, then all you’re really doing is tapping the “action” button over and over again. And just tapping the “action” button will not guarantee victory against enemies, especially if they capture you in an ever long, health draining, “who can kill who faster” tug of war battle.
If you get bored with sword fighting and/or guns then there is the voodoo element to the game which of course, you’ll have to pay for and it’s a pretty penny. As far as it being useful, gamers will be left stranded. Unless your hero is accompanied by a couple of NPCs then you should just stick the pointy end of your sword into enemies.
For some leveling your no name character may come across as aggravating, but rest assured it is not. That is, once you get the hang of it. Every enemy you kill and every mission you complete will reward your character with “glory points” which are spent in leveling up your character. Do you want to spend your points in sword fighting, guns, voodoo, sneaking around, or charming NPCs into letting you slip through the cracks one or two times? All those options are available provided you have the proper amount of glory points to spend, and as mentioned previously, individualized skills are upgraded via copious amounts of gold given to the proper trainer. It is simple really.
Graphically this game seems a bit dated. While the setting and atmosphere is beautifully rendered, it holds an “old school” stiffness that is expected with older games. The environment is often stagnant and unmoving, while the water ‘lapping’ at the shore seems hard and rigid. Character movements are stinted and puppet-like, especially the sassy Patty who often resembles a little tea pot when she talks to you, bobbing around like some surreal marionette. The character designs, on the other hand, are gorgeous. And each character seems to have its own personality; from their physicality to their costume, a lot of love has gone into creating the cast for this game and it does not go unappreciated.
The one thing that I had the hardest time grasping is the inability to swim. I mean, I’m a pirate so why the hell can I not swim? It’s like when playing Assassin’s Creed and I have ability to scale huge buildings but I can’t climb a simple tree.
Overall, Risen 2 is a step up from its predecessor, but this is definitely a game that will probably slip under the radar of most gamers. The good points are too often undone by some fairly distracting technical faults and some frustrating moments during combat sequences, which can be trials of patience. The combat is dull and mindless and not even remotely entertaining, but if you can battle through the menial quests then maybe you’ll have a game worthy of your time. If you don’t finish the game then you can go ahead and watch Johnny Depp in The Pirates of the Caribbean films, instead. I can assure you the story lines are not really any different.
- Pirates, need I say more?
- Great storyline about…pirates
- Not enough rum in the game
- Combat was tedious and boring
- Leveling up system could use a bit of tweaking
Note: The Xbox 360 version was played for review. Risen 2 is also available for PC (reviewed by us in May) and Playstation 3.