It's been quite a while since I've touched a game relating to pirates, not because I don't like them, but because they're a something of a rarity in my collection. But I am a massive sucker for RPGs, so when Risen 2 came along my interest was definitely piqued for this series. I missed out on the first Risen game, but did a little reading up before settling down and easing myself in to this direct sequel. With a build of the game from its beta state there was a lot to see and do, there are a fair amount of things to like, and a few things to be concerned about as well. But it's nothing that a little bit of spit shining couldn't fix.
Risen 2 takes place directly following the events of the first Risen game, with the nameless hero stationed at Caldera as a member of the Inquisition. He's broken, embittered, and weak to the drink. A ship is attacked off the coast during a massive storm, the silhouette of the mighty kraken can be seen in the distance. In the search for survivors our hero discovers Patty has washed ashore. She is on the hunt for her father, Steelbeard, who has treasure, and more importantly, information on a weapon that can defeat the kraken and bring peace to the seas, well as much peace as one can expect in a world of pirates. Our hero, under orders from the Inquisition will go undercover to find out just what this weapon is, and what Steelbeard is playing at. So with Patty in tow, and a bit of rum, adventure awaits that will see our hero take down the forces and allies of Mara. Our short preview took us through two islands and put us within grasp of the weapon that would destroy the kraken before cutting things short.
There's plenty to see and do in Risen 2, with massive islands to explore and plenty of dangers afoot. You'll be fighting plenty of humans and denizens of the sea and using that experience to level up in a rather unique way. As you fight enemies and complete quests that range from completing menial tasks to stalking someone to see where they go at night, you'll earn 'glory' which is used to level up one of five disciplines. Blades, Firearms, Toughness, Cunning, and Voodoo are aspects of your character that can be improved, and each of those has sub-categories that get in to specifics behind your skills. You want to be able to persuade people? Then you'll need to work on your cunning. Want to specialize in magics? Then you'll want to level up those Voodoo skills.
Pretty much everyone has a quest for you to do; the first major town you come upon has enough to do to easily keep you busy for a few hours before you'll want to move on to the next locale. But not before seeing if anyone has something to teach you. Once you've leveled up your skills, its then time to go find masters of the arts who can teach you specialized skills. So while the skill set is initially lacking, it will ramp up and offer more complexity to the game, provided you've got the coin, because learning new skills does not come cheap, and gold is something of a rarity in Risen 2.
I call the skill set lacking initially because the combat in the early going of the game feels a bit shallow. You're able to parry some sword attacks and have a basic combo to start. These abilities will serve you well against human enemies but are mostly useless against creatures, and they don't take it easy on you in the slightest. Risen 2 is a difficult game, with enemies that will take advantage of your blind side and attack you in groups, this would be less difficult if the game didn't switch your focus in the middle of combat to the closest enemy, preventing an enemy that is already being attacked from being killed. (Update: It turns out that you can lock on to people in the game via a key binding which makes combat significantly easier) If the denizens of the islands don't get you, the traps will bring a swift end to an inattentive traveler. Littered throughout the islands are traps set up by locals that can bring a swift end to your adventure, and developer Piranha Bytes really is giving you a great tip during their loading screen when they say 'save often.'
At least traipsing through the jungles is a beautiful affair. This game can look absolutely fantastic on a powerful PC. With shadows being cast from all the foliage it is impressive that this game handles all of that so well, and in turn can produce some amazing scenes. Watching trees rustle in the wind while the sun is setting and seeing the pillars of light shine through is one of the nicest looking things you can see in this game. The weather effects are also pretty well done, with lightning literally lighting up the sky as a storm rolls in.
Risen 2 has a few months to go before the late April release date, and hopefully some of that time will be spent fixing some minor bugs that were present in the preview build. The beta state of the game felt pretty solid, had great looking locales, and a strong story with some pretty good writing. Deep Silver and developer Piranha Bytes have a great premise on their hands, and considering that we're a few months away from release, there is plenty of time to make this game a definite success.