So, I have a confession. I never played Risen. I mention this only because as I sat down to play Risen 2: Dark Waters for the first time and I realized I had no reference for the story. I went into it knowing only that it was a pirate RPG. I figured, I like pirates and I like RPGs so this should be fun. I’m kind of glad I started the game this way. They don’t give you a ton of back story at the very beginning. Just enough to get you started. Then, I started picking up pieces of back story as I played for the first few hours. Since you start the game waking up from a drunken stupor it got me into my role pretty quickly since both my character and I were slightly confused.
As I kept playing, the story started to pan out for me. Humans have just one last safe city to hold out from the Titans and even this is under attack. You get word that the pirates have found a way to kill the titans and are tasked with getting this weapon ready to stop them. The story plays out in a somewhat typical role-playing fashion with small quests needing to be completed to lead up to the large ones. And small side quests that help NPCs can be completed if you want to gain more experience, loot and information. So, RPG fans will find the quest system familiar with some traditional quest types like fetch and attack quests. There were some problem solving quests that were fairly unique which I found quite enjoyable. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but one example of these was fairly early I was tasked with finding out what happened to a couple other pirates. I found them arguing about who should get a promotion. I had the option after talking to them to pick either one, but instead I beat them both up and promoted another pirate instead because these 2 were knuckleheads. Late in the game I came across those 2 again and both were too scared to talk to me. So, while many traditional quest types are present you don’t always have to complete then in the normal ways.
I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the game looks on my PC. I have a decent system but it is not a high end PC by any means. Still, the game looks really good while I was playing it. I had most of the settings at medium for the visuals with a few on high to keep the frame rate nice and high, but when I bumped everything up to high settings the world looked great. The voice acting was not the best I’ve ever heard but it was pretty good and given that most of the characters are pirates I found the voices fitting. The one area that did bug me was the animations during conversations. While you are talking with NPCs the characters will randomly move their arms around. As a long time gamer I know this is supposed to keep them from looking stiff and more realistic, but in many cases the movements just did not fit the conversation. The characters looked more like they were flailing their arms around trying to fly. Maybe this was a glitch in the preview build of the game I was provided with since everywhere else the animations were better, but I found it annoying and really took me out of the game.
For me Risen 2: Dark Waters was a nice change of pace from the fantasy or space RPGs we generally see. Playing as a pirate was a blast. The game’s RPG mechanics like the quests were fairly traditional to the genre, but at least it does not take away from the game. The one thing I did get frustrated with at times was the game’s pacing. It was slow. You start off with only the ability to do a simple attack with your sword. As you earn experience you can then trade that experience in to upgrade your different attribute categories of sword fighting, bugs, toughness, thievery and magic. However, upgrading these areas does not immediately grant you the new abilities associated with that level. Once you rank up the level you need to then talk to someone who will train you on the abilities related to that level. A few times someone will train you on a specific area for free if you help them but most of the time you have to pay gold to be trained. I found this frustrating as I was constantly short on gold. I never had enough to train my character in all the abilities that I had access to for my level and buy the best equipment. Even simple tasks like sneaking, you have to pay someone to train you. The more advance the task the more you have to pay. Early on I invested in the sneak, lock pick and pick pocket abilities so I could have more money. This did help some as I stole pretty much everything I could get my hands on in the game and then sold it. But, this dual process made the progressions too slow for my liking. It would make more sense to be able to unlock new abilities by either upgrading or paying someone to train you to do them, not both. The one benefit of this dual unlock requirement was that I did a majority of the side quests in the game for the extra gold. This really helped fill in the story and game world for me.
In addition to the upgrade process being slow the general plot pacing was slow at points for me. This is probably because you can only fast travel between specific main points in the game world. So, after jumping to the closest town, I may then have to run another few minutes to get to the actual place I need to turn in a quest even though I’d already been there before. I did like that you had to find or buy a map for each new area before you can zoom in and see the details of a region.
Overall, despite the slow pacing I had fun playing as a dirty thieving pirate. The combat mixes swords, guns and dirty tricks pretty nicely. Your sword is your main weapon but you can throw items or use guns as well. Guns do require ammo to use, but I found a good amount lying around to steal. You can also craft your own weapons if you put enough points in that category and have someone train you how to do so. If you ever wanted to be a pirate, then you’ll find Risen 2 really enjoyable.
A copy of Risen 2: Dark Waters for PC was provided to us for this review.