Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

23 Apr 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Deep Silver
Developer:Piranha Bytes
Release Date:2012-04-24
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Thieving & Dialogue

Other than choosing which combat attribute to focus on, the game has the supporting attributes of toughness and cunning, that lead to a wide array of extras. Cunning in particular is a must-have, and you can unlock sneaking, lockpicking and pickpocketing fairly early. Once you've got the basic skills unlocked, it's a question of having a high enough talent score in thievery to check whether or not you can actually pick someone's pocket or open a chest. In a bid of weakness, when you do not have the score to pick the in-conversation option for pickpocketing or intimidation or silver tongue, the PC will shrug and go "I'm not good enough for that yet", rather than try and fail.

Thievery is – if anything – a little too easy. It does require an investment of glory and gold to up your thievery score, but once you have the minimum it's a click of a button or too-easy mini-game away. While people will follow you if you just walk into their homes and often attack if they see you steal, a lot of items can be picked up with no consequences but a cry of "you filthy thief!", and sneaking into someone's home is often much too easy, whether they're awake or not. There are some sequences that are a little more involved (sending people up to distract a worker, things like that) but in general, stealing is pretty simple, to the point where I never used my pet monkey simply because it was too easy for me to just sneak in everywhere.

The dialog skills consist of intimidation (tied to Toughness) and silver tongue (tied to Cunning). Both are very frequently used. Often simply to gain small rewards or discounts, but also frequently as a part of quests or to unlock merchants or trainers. Neither feel vital, but both are worthwhile investments, which seems like the right balance for Piranha Bytes' type of action-RPG.

One minor annoyance is that Piranha Bytes added jewelry and clothing that adds bonuses to these thieving and dialog talent scores. The bonuses are small, though they can be further boosted by potions, but the net effect is that if you want to maximize your options, you are constantly switching out earrings, armors, rings and more. A very tedious affair, especially since Risen 2 has a nested inventory system (open inventory, open equipment, open head-options, select scarf). Why developers keep implementing these nested inventories is a mystery to me, they are not particularly functional on PC or consoles.

The Odd Stuff

I usually don't make a separate note of "odd stuff", but in Risen 2 they stick out like a sore thumb. The role-playing veterans have half-heartedly implemented a couple of "conventions" from modern RPGs, and none of them really fit. The lockpicking mini-game has been mentioned, and while lockpicking mini-games aren't new to Piranha Bytes games, this one fails exactly because there's no way of failing it. Lockpicks don't break, time freezes while you're doing it, so why am I even carrying out the menial task? What's the point if there's no conclusion to the event other than success?

Other mini-games don't suffer from this, but they do suffer from shoddy design. There's a shooting mini-game, as well as a drinking mini-game. Both are usually optional ways of making some extra cash, but they do rear their ugly heads in some quests. The drinking mini-game is kind of funny but just your typical fare. The shooting mini-game – where targets are thrown across the screen and you have to quickly shoot them – was pretty much unplayable for me, until I found out it scales down with difficulty, so I could set the game to easy just for the mini-game. I don't know if it's my twitch reflexes degrading or a bug, but I saw no way of reasonably beating it on normal.

Another oddity they added is a form of quick-time event... sort of. It's not a "press buttons as they appear" sequence, but rather it's just a "press this one button or die". They appear, most often in old ruins, as traps that you have to dodge by hitting the spacebar. Unfortunately, it serves as more of an annoyance than anything entertaining. You're usually not ready for it, so you die and reload, then you are ready for it and it's easy. Compared to the involved process of bypassing traps with spells and skills in Risen, I find this change to be more than few steps back. There is also one, but only one, instance of pressing a button to further a cinematic as you finish a boss. While I'm not a fan of QTEs, their pointlessness is accentuated even further when they're implemented in this half-hearted a manner.

And speaking of half-hearted, the game also has a killcam, which is triggered after you finish a particularly tough fight (usually when you just finished half a dozen opponents in one go). It looks ridiculous for a sword wielder, as half the time all it does is highlight how your blade is not even in contact with the enemy. I got a few cool shots out of it as a gun-wielder, with finishing pistol or musket fire shots, but that's rarely the case. Thankfully, it can be turned off.