Posted by Brother None at 4:05 pm on 02.27.2012 (1 year ago)
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.
Skills are upgraded by the usage of trainers. Unlike previous Piranha Bytes games, this does not take any experience points; instead, it takes only gold but has a minimum requirement in the related attribute, and for certain skills you must have the preceding skill upgrade. For example, the "Muskets I" skill takes 500 gold and requires a Firearms attribute of 3, "Shotguns I" takes 500 gold and a Firearms attribute of 2, and both of those increase their related talents by 5 points. If you want "Shotguns II" (+10 shotguns talent), you will need both "Shotguns I" and a Firearms attribute of 5.
Each talent has 3 of those upgrades, which makes up 9 skills per attribute, and each attribute has a further 6 skills related to them. These are the more unique skills. For example, there's learning to parry and smithing for Blades, the ability to shoot someone mid-conversation and gunsmithing for Firearms, learning to kick, distill and even regenerate health for Toughness, pickpocketing, sneaking, lockpicking and monkey training for Cunning, and creating dolls, scepters, talismans and potions for Voodoo.
It is quite different from earlier Piranha Bytes character systems in how it simplifies the spread of updates down to spending Glory on Attributes and money on skills. The skills not tied to talents are one-upgrade only, so lockpicking and pickpocketing are simply learned and from then on depend on your Thievery talent level on whether or not you can attempt something. Failing a test in Pickpocketing, Silver Tongue (persuasion) or Intimidation isn't really possible, the PC will simply refuse to do them if you lack the requisite talent level. Similarly, breaking lockpicks has been removed, you need only one lockpick and then the required thievery level to pick open doors and chests, which takes you into a fairly simple unlock minigame reminiscent of the one from Oblivion. This minigame – as far as I had got into the demo – is impossible to fail, all you need to do is figure out the order in which to push up the catches, which is usually really simple.
Further evidence of simplification comes in the fact that the old system of learning how to collect trophies from animals and prospect for ore – already pared down to simply “gut animals” and “prospecting” in Risen – has been completely removed. Now, if you own the required item (bone saw, skinning knife, pickaxe), then you can collect trophies and ore, with gold ore being the only resource I found for the pickaxe. Crafting does require skill in alchemy or gunsmithing, as well as recipes you can buy from vendors, a system I did not get to test much as there isn't much available later in the game. Interestingly enough, the creation of healing items falls under the Toughness skill of distilling, as Rum, Grog and Bloody Maries are the healing “potions” of choice, while the Voodoo skill of alchemy is mostly involved with potions that give temporary or permanent boosts to talents.
The character screen also shows crew (which is later game content not a part of this preview) and collection. The collection is made up of legendary items you found throughout your travels. Collection items can not be sold, though they can occasionally be bought (and are really expensive). They provide a permanent boost to an attribute (for instance, a peg leg giving +1 toughness) or a talent (a hand mirror giving +10 silver tongue). You learn about these items from reading books or talking to people, and can then spend time tracking them down, or you can stumble onto them by simple dint of exploration. This along with a more varied equipment offering does compensate a bit for simplifying the character system.
Risen 2's basic swordplay is essentially the same as that of Risen, and will be your primary mode of combat for the first 10 hours or so before you get to unlock muskets or voodoo. Like its predecessor, attacking with piercing (épée) or slashing (sabre) weapons is a process of stringing together series of strikes for straightforward combos. Shields are out, but you can still block with your weapon, albeit only in combat with other humans. In combat with animals, the kick has to be employed as a defensive tool. As with most Piranha Bytes games, the combat isn't based on fluidity and quick action like the Witcher 2 or Kingdom of Amalur, but more on knowledge of the opponent's timing and types of attack, and careful attacks and counter-attacks.
The biggest problem still lies with fighting animals, which is never very involved in Piranha Bytes games. You can not block their attacks, though you can dodge some charging animals simply by moving out of their path, and kick others to create some space or even to flip over the heavily armored giant crabs. For many animal or monster types – like leopards, alligators or ghouls – it is too easy for them to stunlock you, as they will keep relentlessly charging you, so combat with those often involves frantic clicking to try to stunlock them instead, or jumping around to avoid their attacks. Other animals, like the claw monkeys and firebirds, spend so much time warily circling you that you can often kill them before they even decide to attack. As per usual for Piranha Bytes games, there is a reverse difficulty curve, and early combat can be a little frustrating, especially as you get the hang of the system, though getting a companion in the second area definitely helps.
One thing worth noting is that there's surprisingly little recycling of animal and monster types. The ghouls and warthogs are back, and gnomes will make an appearance later, but most monster types are new, and clearly created with the changed setting in mind: alligators, leopards and monkeys fitting the jungle better than wolves would.
While muskets and shotguns aren't available until later, pistols join the game fairly early. A pistol, throwing knife or a “dirty trick” item (like sand to throw into someone's eye) can be equipped in your off-hand, and activated by pressing E. They are primarily used to gain and advantage when the odds are against you, and can stun or damage an opponent, but they do have to recharge after use, by way of a cooldown timer. A nice addition but not much of a game-changer. They are used by enemies as well, from monkeys throwing coconuts at you to humans using pistols.