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Risen 2: Dark Waters is a difficult game to review, because I want to express how much I enjoyed myself in spite of the mountains of criticism that it quite rightly deserves. It's unnecessarily mean-spirited, it demands an immense amount of the player's time before it hits its stride, and the whole thing's potentially offensive to boot. All that said, when it finally opens up and lets the player have fun, Risen 2 has hours upon hours of legitimately enjoyable gameplay on offer. The frustration of getting trapped in the corner by a faster opponent never lets up, but once players get strong enough to soak it up and hit back, the feeling of relief and vindication is remarkable. All told, you'll get over thirty hours of pirate-flavored silliness that will brutalize you, then make you feel good inside.
What Piranha Bytes has developed could have been a thoroughly supreme game, one that could have gone toe to toe with the heavyweights of action role-playing. Due to a number of highly questionable design decisions, however, a lot of that potential has withered away. With so much lost, it's perhaps a testament to how talented the team secretly is that Risen 2 is still packed with fun in the face of truly inhibiting setbacks.
That deserves a modest round of applause, at the very least.
Mash Those Buttons, 3.2/5.
The unevenness present through difference aspects of Risen 2 left me with a bittersweet feeling. The game is a definite improvement over the original Risen, but it isn’t on par with the great action RPGs that have come out recently. The pirate life is good, but with its nettlesome problems, an uninspired final boss, and a boring ending Risen 2 comes out to be a pretty average game. I enjoyed the game for what it was, but the series can do better than average, and for 50 dollars (60 on console) so can gamers.
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.
The Controller Online, 8/10.
The combat in Risen 2: Dark Waters is buggy and boring but it’s surrounded by a challenging game and engrossing environment. The world seems small at first but as other areas open up you’ll find out just how much there is to explore. The difficulty may scare some people off, but it will also be the element that sucks some people in. Building your character is a series of accomplishments in Dark Waters, rather than the constant march toward increased strength you get in other RPGs.
Finally, IGN awards the title a modest 6.5/10, and claims that the game lost much of Piranha Bytes games' "fascinating density".
The smaller scale of the explorable areas also means it's harder to feel lost and isolated. It's a strange decision considering a big component of Piranha Bytes' past work has been creating spaces that let you wander far off quest paths. The upside, at least for players who prefer when designers hold their hand, is a more focused experience. Risen 2 is by far Piranha Bytes' most user-friendly product. Fast-traveling between points of interest, the locations of quest goals and skill trainers, and progression from beginning to end has never been clearer and more straightforward than in Dark Waters. Casting aside the prohibitive density of past games certainly has its upsides – frustration is rarely due to the game's lack of direction – but in the process it seems as though many of Piranha Bytes staple elements were removed, or left untouched when they too should have been updated.
With Risen 2 Piranha Bytes continues to demonstrate skill at crafting big, believable worlds. Dark Waters is at times beautiful, offering a finely detailed set of islands to explore on your quest to become a notorious pirate captain and vanquish an ancient evil. It's Piranha Bytes' most accessible game yet, and though its style and boorish, humorous dialogue fit well with the pirate motif, it's a role-playing experience that uses convention as a crutch and marginalizes or strips away a lot of elements that made the studio's past games stand out. Disappointing character development options, sloppy combat and run-of-the-mill questing structures often make Dark Waters more of a chore to play than it should be, and exploration isn't nearly exciting enough to make up for its many flaws. If you desperately to role-play as a pirate, you certainly can in Risen 2, but you'll also find little that's memorable, and a multitude of poorly implemented ideas and missed opportunities.