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Risen 2 Hands-On Preview

by on 02/27/2012

Pirates and RPGs seem like a combination we would see more often. Unfortunately this is not the case, and when a pirate’s life is filled with treasure hunting, curses, drunken brawls, and battles on land/sea it seems like a no-brainer.

Till this day one of my favorite pirate RPGs is Pirates of the Caribbean, an RPG loosely based on the original movies storyline and made by none other than Bethesda (you may have heard of them). Luckily Piranha Bytes with the help of Deep Silver are keeping the world of pirates alive with Risen 2.

I had the chance to get my hands-on with a beta version of the title that take us through about a quarter of the entire game. There were things I really liked and other things that I felt could be better, overall though the pros definitely outweighed the cons, and Piranha Bytes did a great job of making my character feel like he was becoming stronger, sharper-tongued, and more like a pirate…yarrr.

You start off  with a very brief tutorial and watch a cut scene with one of the most infamous sea creatures sinking a ship. This event sparks the entire the story for your character.

You are part of the Inquisition, and the same main character from the first Risen. The events from the first title have turned you into an alcoholic to cope with the changes, but you are still good enough to be put on a top secret mission for the Inquisition.

The Kraken (the infamous sea creature I spoke of), needs to be dealt with, and rumors have swirled that the famous pirate named Steelbeard has a weapon to do so. This top secret mission means you must infiltrate the pirate organization and figure out what this weapon is. In order to do so, the Inquisition dishonorably discharges you and sends you off to a new island to start the process of becoming a pirate.

You start talking to various people on the island on both sides of the law. You are given dialogue options and the dialogue in-general is definitely M-Rated. I am not 100% certain if the way you act in conversations affects your personality/morality like in games like Mass Effect, but regardless some of the dialogue options are too good to resist.

I wasn’t really impressed with the main characters voice acting but the voice acting is really good besides that. It just seemed like the main character was reading off a script with no real enthusiasm and when you compare it to the voice acting by the other people you speak to, it really takes away from the conversations.

Overall the script is really great, with plenty of witty banter and cursing where appropriate, and you will definitely enjoy interacting with the people in the game.

As you talk to people and receive quests, you really start to experience the world Piranha Bytes has created. This is the best aspect of the game in my opinion; PB did a great job creating beautiful landscapes and scenery to enjoy.

Of course there are set trails that you can follow and they stand out on the map, but unlike most RPGs you are not forced to stay on these trails and you will actually be rewarded by going off the trail. You will stumble upon by random chests, temples to plunder, items to scavenge, and enemies to kill.

Wandering around in these setting was a highlight for me and with little direction given I really felt like earned the gold, experience, or items I accrued because I felt like I found it on my own.

Combat in the game is a little difficult at first and could be slightly frustrating but after a few level-ups you should be fine. At first combat is solely left-click to swing your sword and right-click to parry (block), as you level up and earn gold that you can use to increase stats on various abilities including your sword, and you can also purchase new combat moves.

These combat moves will make a world of difference and will range in price from 500 gold and up. It is worth saving your money for these and not spending frivolously on cooler looking clothes (trust me…). For example I bought “kick” where I would hold down right-click and perform a forward kick pushing the enemy backwards to give myself more room and I also purchased a strong swing where I would hold down left-click and perform a harder more damaging swing.

There are a lot of different upgrades to get, not only for combat, but for skills like sneaking, pickpocketing, silver tongue (conversation options), dirty tricks, monkey taming, et cetera. I feel like it was a lot more difficult to earn money for these skills, and would have preferred a different method but I guess it does make every upgrade you buy very important.

You can also use guns, I stuck to a standard pistol that I was able to fire sparingly by pressing ‘E’. I am sure specializing in rifles could be very useful but I am a pirate and I feel like ranged weaponry was always a secondary option.

The last thing that was really cool was the mini-games you would come across while playing. Some of them were quest related but other times they were just for fun. For example I talked to a deaf gunsmith (who could still hear me sneaking into his home?) and he allowed me to play a ghetto version of skeet shooting where different items would get thrown across the screen and all I had was a crosshair like a FPS, in return I would earn XP depending on how well I did. Another example was a drinking contest that pitted me in a race against a fellow drunk pirate, you had to finish all the beverages before they did, you used the mouse (that was turned into a hand) to pick up the alcohol, and as you kept drinking the more your mouse would shake and you had to line up your hand correctly to the bottle to pick it up or you would spill it and have to wait for it to re-spawn. You could wager money and compete for fun or you could raise the stakes and play for his treasure map.

These were a nice touch and smaller moments like fighting a fellow pirate because you are wearing the pirate hat that he lost really adds to the experience.

I am not going to lie, the game is a little rough around the edges when it comes to some aspects of animations and as I stated above the main characters voice acting, but in-general once I started to get my sea legs I really started enjoying it. The story is great especially if you are a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the islands are fun to explore, and you will enjoy how you actually feel your pirate grow as you level up. The game isn’t perfect but with a little fine-tuning and very little competition in the genre, this could be a sleeper hit.

Plus I can’t stress how much fun it is to be on the verge of death and start sprinting away with a sword in your hand and drinking rum to gain health. There were moments I felt like Captain Jack Sparrow himself.

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