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Oh, yes, rum. This is a pirate game after all. Rum is the game’s healing item, and equally useful in greasing up a drunkard for information or help. The first thing I did during my hands-on with Risen 2 was talk with a tippler about getting fresh water loaded to my ship so I could shove off. A bit of rum made this charming, already intoxicated drudge quite chummy, and he informs me that his boss, Butch, is keeping them from loading water, in accordance with some embargo -- though he couldn’t quite pronounce embargo in his drunker slurs.
Conversations are fully voiced and rife with crude piratical jargon, delightful accents, and loads of swear words, all of which is rather charming. It’s also important to listen to the dialogue, as there are things you might be told that are important, but the game won’t explicitly highlight them for you. From the drunkard’s dialogue, for example, I learned there was a desolate, near off cave I could trick Butch into going to with me. Mentioning the cave and insinuating that it might be treasure-filled was one of a bunch of dialogue options, but the only among that group that yielded the desired result, which was a mano a mano sword fight with Butch -- and I didn’t even have to kill him before he gave up!
Reloading the save and talking to the drunkard further also opened up the idea of using voodoo to get my way, an option available because the nameless hero had sided with the natives prior to my hands-on. I went to talk to Butch, distracted him, and pilfered a strand of bead hair. With it and a few other items, I made a voodoo doll, which I then used to assume direct control of Butch and bark orders at the filthy layabouts to load water onto my ship.
IGN wasn't impressed with the original and seems to have the same opinion of the sequel:
But even if the combat didn't function particularly well, the options Piranha Bytes gives players definitely suits the tone of Risen 2. Along with his sword the hero has access to more conventional pirate weapons like pistols, as well as less obvious tricks like unleashing his parrot. The parrot was a particular favorite, as it distracted enemies, effectively rendering them defenseless and mitigating a lot of the frustration of regular combat. If Risen 2 gets the combat flowing a bit better, these mechanics could really make combat a lot more fun.
PC performance is mostly where it should be, but the console version is a bit rougher. Both had framerate issues, but the console one looks months behind, with jagged visuals and a lot of missing or somewhat broken animations. The final months of every game's development cycle are for cleaning up issues and addressing bugs, but the skeptic inside comes out due to the developer's pedigree. Pirahna Byte's Risen had its share of technical gremlins, but Gothic 3 was an utter mess. A representative can talk till their blue in the face about how this is unfinished code, but it takes time to rebuild faith after releasing broken products.
Depending on how your stance, you'll be pleased or annoyed to hear that Risen 2 definitely does no hand-holding. There's no mystical trail you can summon to direct you to a quest location, no beacon on some clearly visible map. In Risen 2 you listen to dialogue sequences carefully, remembering what you hear and parsing out where to go from there. You can always go into your journal and read transcripts for clarification, but the intention is for you to have fun figuring it out. You're a hero, and we all know heroes don't let things be done for them. Or something.
G4 seems to be the only publication that enjoyed the combat so far:
Voodoo power can also be applied in combat situations. You can use a voodoo doll to make an enemy hostile, and have him attack his own friends – hopefully the scurvy scallywags will murder each other and you can walk in and plunder their corpses to your black-heart’s content.
Speaking of taking control of other characters in the game: One of the interesting mechanics at play in Risen 2 is the use of helper monkeys. Not the kind of helper monkeys handicapped people need, (although you do wear an eyepatch), but one that will help you steal and murder. If you choose the monkey ability in game, you take control of your pocket primate and use him/her to get into tiny places in which your fat pirate ass would not be able to fit. If you were in jail, say, you could send your monkey outside of the cell to grab the jailer’s key. Monkeys can also be used as dungeon recon – send your subhuman pal into a dungeon and he can check out where the bad guys are and let you come up with a plan.
Because pirates are seemingly animal lovers, you can also utilize a parrot to distract enemies during combat. The little birdie is only one of many combat options, including throwing sand or salt in enemies’ faces during the fray and even pulling out your gun and cappin’ a fool in the middle of a cutlass fight. The combat seems varied and interesting, with a variety of attacks and counters, somewhat reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed.
Finally, RPGamer is offering a brief Q&A with project director Björn Pankratz:
With the growth of the European RPG of the past few years, how does it feel going up against another big European RPG with the Witcher 2's Xbox 360 release?
BP: There is never a time for a release when there isn't at least one other great game coming out. If our game is compared to other great titles, we take it as a compliment. However, as we are offering a pirate RPG this time, there will not be much comparison within the same topic, so there will surely be something there for everyone!