Deep Silver and Piranha Bytes recently provided us with a preview copy of Risen 2: Dark Waters that covers the game's first two regions in their entirety, as well as the majority of a third region. In all, this accounts for about a fourth of the full game, or about 8-10 hours' worth of content on a regular play-through. I sunk about 15 hours into it, but that was due to exploring every inch of the map and doing every side quest.
Story and Setting
As was the tradition for Piranha Bytes' Gothic titles, Risen 2's story follows directly on that of Risen. At the end of Risen, the unnamed player character joined the Inquisition and defeated both the misguided Inquisitor Mendoza and the Fire Titan he wished to control. The â€œheroâ€ - now wearing an eyepatch to hide the ocular he took from Mendoza - is introduced sitting on a bed in the Inquisition City of Caldera, surrounded by empty bottles of rum and finishing off another one. He is called up to witness a Kraken take down an approaching ship, and sent to the beach to investigate, finding one one survivor â€“ Patty, the pirate girl from Risen.
The Inquisition leaders decide the kraken must be killed, but to do so they need a set of special weapons (as was the case to kill the Titan in Risen). To recover them, the nameless hero is sent out to infiltrate the pirates, stripped of his rank and any affiliation with the Inquisition. Patty joins up, though she has her own story going on and only follows the player out of convenience. He is sent to the island of Ticaragua, where Patty's father Steelbeard is currently docked at a small pirate's outpost. There is no real conflict or choice to make between the Inquisition and pirates there, since you're joining the pirates anyway, but it allows the player to get more familiar with both factions, and offers an initial introduction to the third faction, the savages or natives or Moluccas, forest-dwelling, voodoo-using primitives that the Inquisition uses as slave labor when they are captured. The player has to convince Steelbeard to allow him to join his ship's crew â€“ fittingly by getting the ship supplied with rum, a quest that take you all over the island, with different kinds of fetch and negotiate quests.
Steelbeard informs the player that the Titan Mara handed the weapons to two pirate captains who joined her cause. He takes his ship and the player to the Sword Coast, a coastal area mostly unharmed by the tidal waves that hit the world after the Titans were freed. There, the task is to find Captain Crow and take the harpoon from him. Crow has allied himself with the Moluccas and is holed up protected in one of their temples. A native village of the Shaganumba tribe and Inquisitor fort can be found in this area, and the player will have to join either of those factions to get past Crow's protection and face him down, and it is at that fight that the preview copy cuts off.
Piranha Bytes is getting the Gothic license back soon, and where Risen felt very much like a Gothic game, they are clearly trying to turn this franchise in another direction with Risen 2. It's not just that they added pirates; where Risen was a fairly standard low fantasy setting, the look and content of Risen 2 is very much based on the early days of European exploration in South America. The Inquisition looks and acts like the Conquistadors, slavery is widespread, and the game takes place in more of a jungle setting. Voodoo magic replaces the scroll and crystal-based magic of Risen, and pistols, muskets and shotguns are added.
The setting has a good consistency and is applied well, the factions are unique and appropriate, with the natives well-executed in accent and language, as is the look of the settlements and items for natives, pirates and Inquisition. If there's any problem, it's that the game doesn't really explain the change from Risen to Risen 2, why the Inquisition suddenly has muskets where before they did not. It's a jump of at least a few decades, if not a full century, and would have worked better had they set this years later in the decade's time line, with a new player character. But even though this is a little jarring, the setting itself is easy to get in to, and the atmosphere of the game is very well executed.
The writing in Risen 2 is quite good, with solid localization. While the story isn't really enthralling as far as the preview copy took me, and the factions not yet fully fleshed out, individual dialogs are enjoyable, cuss-word filled adventures. Risen 2 is often light-hearted in writing, with the dry-witted PC exchanging barbs with allies and enemies alike. The sense of humor is very German and may not appeal to everyone, but worked for me.
Risen 2 has a relatively simple character system, but one that is also intuitive and seems like it will give solid customization paths for higher-level characters. The character attributes are split between attributes, talents, and skills.
Attributes are the main statistic, and the only place in which you can invest Glory (the game's equivalent of experience), consisting of Blades, Firearms, Toughness, Cunning and Voodoo. The basic cost of updating is 1000 glory, with increments of 1000 for every next upgrade â€“ so upgrading firearms or any other attribute from 4 to 5 costs 4000 glory.
Talents are the abilities tested in the game world, passively derived from attributes and skills. They can not be directly upgraded. There are three talents for every attribute: Slashing Weapons, Piercing Weapons, Throwing Weapons (Blades); Muskets, Shotguns, Pistols (Firearms); Bladeproof, Bulletproof, Intimidate (Toughness); Dirty Tricks, Thievery, Silver Tongue (Cunning); Black Magic, Death Cult, Ritual (Voodoo). Most of them are self-explanatory. The Voodoo skills consist of Black Magic for the use of scepters and voodoo dolls, Death Cult for summoning ghosts to your aid, and Ritual for the usage of potions. Each point put into an attribute increases the three related talents by 5.
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