Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

Eschalon: Book II

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

Risen 2 is your quintessential two steps forward, one step back title. At its core, it is recognizably a Piranha Bytes game, and it offers the expected boons and drawbacks. It's fairly unforgiving at the start before becoming too easy at the end (at least, when I was wielding a musket). Its main draw is exploration and it offers enough rewards and hand-crafted locales to keep that interesting. Its lack of polish and clumsiness in design is off-set by the interesting world design and fairly decent quest options. The game doesn't do a lot of hand-holding, you need to pay attention to what people are telling you as it offers no quest compass or similar aid.

For everything it added to Risen, in making the setting more interesting and adding a ton of skill and combat options, it seems to ask for something back. Exploration suffers a bit on some islands as there's just not much to discover. The challenge is lacking once you're 10 hours in and regularly traveling with a companion, to the point where I'd almost advise people to go it alone most of the time. The team also added a lot of superfluous content like mini-games and killcams that don't add necessarily add much, and what's worse they implement some of it so poorly that it won't even add much for the people who do like this kind of material.

But my most important criticism is this: Risen 2 is not focused enough on its good ideas. It'd be too easy to blame some of the obvious simplifications and casual nature of the character system and mini-games, but the core problem seems to be that they spread themselves too thin on implementing various worthwhile ideas while also crafting an open, dense world. There's a lot of neat ideas in the game, but none of them are used enough. Voodoo mind control is great, but they were so busy with other things they end up using it only half a dozen times or so.

So, an unbridled success this is not, nor is it a sequel that is "better in every way". It is better in some ways to Risen, but it also loses some of its shine to needless simplifications, the occasional lack of openness of some locations, and the addition of superfluous gameplay elements. Still, as a fan of Piranha Bytes' work, I found this to be a very enjoyable (if flawed) addition to their library.