I got the opportunity to play a preview build of Risen 2 recently and I have to say I am impressed. I never got round to playing the first game in the series but I had heard mixed reviews from a number of people, after seeing various screenshots and gameplay of Risen 2 it looked promising, there are not many pirate RPG’s around and even less that have been executed well. You should all be happy to know that Risen 2 is an exception to that rule.
You start out as the same nameless hero from the first game, unfortunately things have taken a turn for the worse and you have been spending your days drinking rum and wine to pass the time. Your task, is to infiltrate a pirates den and prove yourself as a pirate climbing through the ranks until ultimately reaching the status of Captain. You get transported to an island with a larger population from where you start, as soon as you step off the boat you are free to explore in any given direction you wish, you cannot run off too far without conversing with some of the locals, so it’s a steady introduction to the games mechanics and features.
A word to the wise, this is a deep RPG, you will need to listen to the dialogue during conversations and talk to as many people as you can. Pretty much everyone who you can have a conversation with will have something useful to say, so if you skip out on this you will be left feeling lost and without a bearing. Its something we don’t see enough these days, there are too many games that class themselves as role-playing but you never get to really “play” as them, you just get your hand-held throughout. Risen 2, fortunately, is different you get a real sense of depth when playing the conversations actually mean something and you feel like your choices actually affect the world around you and what the locals think of you. The pirate theme is integrated throughout the entire game, it’s not just a small part of the game that crops up every now and again its at the heart of the game and you get to act out your life in more detail than any other Pirate focused RPG has done before.
Some of the quests you are given to start with are a little predictable, “go fetch this” or “go deliver that” but you soon realise it introduces you to the area you are in and introduces you to the unique personalities for everyone within the world. The dialogue really shows this, each faction is unique with their interaction. The Inquisition are somewhat formal towards you (until you go sneaking around at night or pull a weapon on them) the pirates actually sound like pirates! They are often loud, obnoxious and swear a lot during conversations. Even the tribes people are accurately portrayed, the variation of pronunciation and accents is one of the broadest I have seen and gives you a real sense of immersion when playing.
As you kill beasts and complete quests you will earn Glory, this is Risens substitute for XP. When you earn enough you are able to level up your Attributes, these include skills with blades, firearms, cunning, voodoo magic and your general toughness. Any attire you wear can also add stat points towards certain skills for your character. There are a great amount of options to choose from so you are free to be whatever type of character you want. This also ties into the multiple ways to complete quests, you are given an objective as always, however you can complete the quest in a multitude of ways. There was once side quest where I had to steal from another pirate, now if I had not had the lock picking skill I acquired earlier I would not have been able to do this quest at that current time, even then I was able to either cause a distraction and sneak past, or fight my way through and steal the necessary goods.
The world of Risen 2 is beautifully crafted, the environments are gorgeous, I myself spent some time just running around venturing down all of the different paths that are available to me, finding caves chests and lots of monsters to defeat. The enemies do not randomly spawn, nor do they level up as you do. If you venture too far into the wilderness you are in for a surprise and will most likely end up as Jaguar chow. Everywhere is accessible, every door can be opened, every person can be spoke to and has a bed to stay in, they don’t take too kindly to you sleeping in it either. You can even just stand there and watch as people go about their daily lives and if you decide to speak to a local while they are engaged in an activity such as smithing or cooking, chances are they will have a job for you to help them with to earn some extra gold or you will be able to use that apparatus to level up your personal skills. If you don’t want to be the type of pirate that takes part in crafting activities or mining you don’t have to, you are free to engage yourself in your new-found life as a pirate as much as you like.
Risen 2 is a rich experience with a lot of depth, giving you the freedom you desire to pretty much do as you please. It has some funny dialogue and you can tell it doesn’t want to take itself too seriously 100% of the time. The pirate theme is pulled off really well and hardcore RPG fans will have a lot of fun while playing and really immerse themselves within the world. It’s certainly a different experience starting out as a character who only has the clothes on his back and a sword to keep him protected rather than starting out as the “white knight” style persona who has to save the princess from peril. At some point in there lives most gamers have played pirates when they were younger or thought of what it would be like to be a traditional pirate. Now with the upcoming release of Risen 2 : Dark Waters you can do just that.