I guess I’m procrastinating from saying what I need to say, which is that you’re better off avoiding Risen 2 than picking it up. I know full well that’s the right thing to say, but I’ve been reluctant to because it’s clearly got heart and soul, the skill tree is full of genre-unusual delights and it offers several sweet hats. If it could have worked off about 10 to 15 hours of needless flab I’d probably have taken Risen 2 to heart in the same way I did the first half of its predecessor. Instead, I feel a gentle regret for having given it so much of my time and a strong frustration that it didn’t manage to make more of itself.
Risen 2: Dark Waters valiantly steps up to the plate to offer players something a little more refreshing for jaded palates – an honest-to-goodness open-world pirate RPG – and unfortunately squanders what potential it could have had.
The odd thing is that Risen 2 is not a bad little pirate adventure. Even with all its peculiarities, I have to be honest, I did have fun along the way. Plenty of fun. The quest structure is solid and rarely feels repetitive or bored. At this point, I should say that even with all these drawbacks, I felt compelled to play on. Maybe it's because I always enjoyed Gothic games and because I really enjoyed the original Risen. In the end, it is hard to refute the game's exasperating faults. It also lacks the sense of freedom you had when playing the previous installment and indeed when playing games like Gothic 2 and 3. Many fans may object to this. Not that the game isn't huge. Ultimately, you use your nice little pirate ship to move between several islands, all of which contain plenty of NPCs, foes and hidden treasures. There are enough quests, items, weapons and skills to go through, so those nifty RPG facets you'd expect are all there. It's not impossible to enjoy this game, but there's a lot to put up with. In many ways, Risen 2 feels like I've experienced the remnants of a once great game and that game is called Gothic.
Risen 2: Dark Waters offers a lot to like taken in its parts. A competent story, a good amount of player-driven choices, and beautiful locations to explore make it one of the best (and only) pirate RPGs out there. But it fell short for me when it came to other mechanical things like combat and character development. Fans of previous Piranha Bytes titles will likely have an easier time getting going, because familiarity with the developer's particular style game systems takes some of the sting out. However, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it at the end of the day, because the stew of gameplay mechanics it contains—particularly the bread-and-butter combat--just didn't hold up for hours on end.