Seven things you need to know about Risen 2: Dark Waters
- Risen 2: Dark Waters
- Piranha Bytes
- Deep Silver
- Seven Things You Need to Know
First released in October 2009, Piranha Bytes’ RPG Risen was met with a fairly warm reception on PC. It told the tale of a nameless hero washed ashore on the island of Faranga, where ancient ruins were inexplicably rising from the ground. To stop people from wandering around in them and getting flattened and/or eaten, a sect of mages known as the Inquisition had established an outpost on Faranga, preventing anyone from leaving. All manner of beasties roamed the island, and the storyline involved classic fantasy staples such as questing for five mystical Disks and battling against gigantic Titans to decide the fate of humanity.
Boasting a fairly large world with several factions to join, including the militaristic Inquisition, a group of bandits led by Don Esteban (voiced by a pleasingly-hammy John Rhys Davis) or the mages who once ruled Faranga before the Inquisition turned up, and dozens of sidequests and hidden dungeons to explore and die in, Risen had all the ingredients of a classic.
However, the PC to console port was less popular, with some bestowing scores as low as 4/10. Problems with an adapted control system, lack of an easy-to-access quest map and a sweary, overly-cheesy script led to Risen’s downfall – and yet, the brand itself remained popular enough to warrant a sequel. And Piranha Bytes have been gracious enough, and smart enough, to listen to player feedback and make changes accordingly. As a result, Risen 2: Dark Waters (our New Game of the Day back in November) is beginning to look much more inviting than its predecessor. With the PC version heading for shelves on April 27th and the console editions a month later, here are the seven things you really need to know about Risen 2: Dark Waters
1. The story continues…
Risen 2 follows the events of the first game, and features returning characters
The hero returns... Only this time he's a drunken, voodoo-practicing thief
The nameless hero in Risen 2 is the same guy who decided the fate of the world in the first game. It’s several years later, and he’s now a destitute drunk who wears an eye-patch to cover up the tell-tale Inquisition monocle acquired at the end of Risen. He’s tougher, but apparently no wiser, and gets drawn into a new conflict in the port of Caldera where he answers the plea of old friend Patty to help find her lost father. The difference between this game and the last is that you won’t be opting to join any of the original three factions, and will instead settle into a new career as a salty seadog, regardless of whether you follow a physical or magical path of progression.
The nameless hero’s return at least lends a sense of continuity to events, but we wouldn’t expect any Mass Effect-style connections between games. Rather, the continuation of Risen’s story simply ensures a greater sense of scale and involvement in the world – particularly for players who dabbled in the first game. Although not affected by the player’s actions in particularly meaningful ways, several characters – including the aforementioned Patty – will return.
2. Avast, ye land-lubbers!
Risen 2: Dark Water swaps a cardboard fantasy world for vibrant tropical islands. And pirates!
Scurvy swabs and scum-sucking molluscs abound thanks to Dark Waters' pirate-y theme
Yes, it’s true. Risen 2 features pirates. The first game was a middle-of-the-road fantasy RPG set in a world that seemed to occupy the dull grey area between Gothic 4 and Two Worlds, and as such failed to capture the imagination of many gamers. Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver are looking to address that issue by transporting the feel of their world into a whole new universe – one filled with sneaky pirates, giant sea monsters and powerful galleons.
Project Director Bjorn Pankratz told gamebanshee.com that, “This time, the player will become a pirate and learn a pirate’s skills,” and “their (the player’s) ship can moor at all islands and the mainland, as long as the player has visited them before.”
Just from the screens you can see the difference between this game and the last. Gone are the drab hills and random identi-peasant monster fodder we became used to, swapped out for characters who have real personality and beautiful, sweeping Caribbean vistas complete with sparkling waterfalls, golden beaches and crisp white surf. And it’s all yours to explore and pillage. Well, we’re not sure how much pillaging there’ll be, but as long as it’s as gorgeous as the screenshots suggest, we’ll settle for a minor pillaging element.
Also, pirate games are few and far between, and pirate-based RPGs are even rarer. We can’t wait to take control of our own ship and crew – there’s even the option to acquire a pet monkey, just like Captain Barbosa. Huzzah!
3. You're off the edge of the map
The game-world is huge
The world is that much more detailed and, while it might not rival Skyrim or Amalur in size, it's certainly looking beautiful
Of course, the option to resort to piracy and own your own ship would be pointless if the world was too small to make use of it. Thankfully, Risen 2’s world is massive, featuring several islands in addition to the mainland – all of which are open to the player to explore as they choose once they’ve got their ship.
According to Pankratz: “The world will be open, as usual, and as a rule it will be possible to return to places you have already visited later in order to trade, learn, or complete quests. In Risen 2, the world opens up more and more - while the player can only explore one island to begin with, once he/she has a ship, any location can be reached.”
Quite how varied the locales will be remains to be seen. There’s obviously a concern that having the game set across a network of similar islands will hamstring the variety, but we’re likely to see more than a handful of unique dungeons, caves, fortresses and towns, as well as a day/night cycle and, at the very least, a mix of sandy shores, dense jungles and rocky foothills. There might even be a pebbly beach or two to test the soles of our hero’s feet.
Several screenshots also show animals fighting one another, oblivious to the hero’s presence. The thought of an ecology on the islands is an exciting one, and hints at an unexpected level of depth. The idea of an open-world adventure mixing the exploration and action of a standard RPG with pirate ships and cackling monkeys appeals to us. We like pirates. Did we say?
4. A brave new world
Risen 2’s world has advanced
Risen 2 has pirates, and pirates mean guns, grog and galleons
Taking a cue from Lionhead’s Fable series, Risen 2: Dark Waters presents a more forward-thinking world. In the space of time between the two games, the world has acquired flintlock rifles and pistols – replacing bows and arrows and giving everything just a hint of originality. Their inclusion is almost a no-brainer in a pirate-themed game, but more than that they present the player with new options in combat – as well as more to think about from a tactical standpoint.
As Bjorn Pankratz explained to GameBanshee: “Two-handed firearms work a lot like a crossbow. Unlike arrows, they have a direct line of fire, and they are indeed very strong in a fight. However, they can be unwieldy in melee combat, and as voodoo and melee weapons are also powerful and there can be different options depending on the situation, the weapons are quite well-balanced.”
Picking the wrong weapon for the job could result in some rather inconvenient perforation – but it looks like you’ll be able to mix and match fighting techniques to suit your preferred play style. Also the hero has some nifty little manoeuvres up his sleeves referred to as “dirty tricks” – such as chucking a handful of sand in your opponent’s face. If these abilities are dynamic and varied enough, we could be looking at a fresh, exciting combat system.
5. That Voodoo that you do-do
The magic system is unique, and the skills have been overhauled
This is Bones, the most recently-revealed character. He was a doctor once, but now he's mental. Will he turn out to be a valuable member of the hero's crew?
Not content with throwing in guns and dirty fighting, Piranha Bytes have also altered the way magic works in Risen 2 by introducing Voodoo. Perhaps an obvious choice given the Caribbean-inspired setting, Voodoo as a magic system hasn’t been done in many games (we struggle to think of any Action RPGs that have utilised it). If you choose to follow this path, the hero will be able to learn the art of Voodoo, creating dolls to channel magical attacks against his enemies.
On a similar note, the skill-set has been completely reconsidered. “We've made some big changes and additions to the skill system this time,” says Pankratz. “For example, players can now visit instructors to learn a lot of different perks linked to their skills. Aside from the thieving talents, there will also be other non-combat abilities, like monkey trainer, silver-tongue, or intimidate, and the latter skills will be available as dialog options once the player has learned that particular talent.”
Between the Voodoo system, dirty tricks and malleable skill tree, Risen 2: Dark Waters could turn out to be far deeper than you’d expect coming away from the first game. In most modern RPGs, customisation and free-form development is key, and it’s good to see Piranha Bytes paying attention to the status quo and taking risks with their universe.
6. Get crewed up
You can recruit companions
Ah, the "boys". Getting all tanked-up on island grog before a spot of burning and pillaging. Bless 'em.
As you gather a crew to man your ship, you’ll also be recruiting men and women of certain talents, from healers to foragers to fighters. On particular missions, you’ll be able to select one to accompany you, and even assign them tasks based on their skills.
You might choose to take a fighter with you for extra protection, or hook up with a healer to bandage you up when a coconut falls on your head or a fifteen foot tall rock monster starts batting you around like a cat with a mouse. Or, if you’re of a certain bent, you might just sit on your arse and send some lacky off to gather resources for you.
The world is your oyster, and the crew are your minions. Use them well.
7. Anything you can do
Dark Waters has been jointly developed on PC and consoles
A rather monstrous take on the already fugly "hairy angler fish". Try not to let them eat you too much.
Risen fell down in many areas when Piranha Bytes ported it to consoles. Technical issues resulting from the graphical transfer were minor compared to problems with a hideous and unintuitive control system, a useless map that was time-consuming and fiddly to open and read, and a general lack of accessibility.
To combat this, Risen 2 has been developed on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same time. Not only did this lead Piranha Bytes to set themselves a more realistic deadline for completion (thus allowing more time to perfect control schemes and monkey physics), it also meant that they could apply what they learned from porting the first game. They won’t be trying to shoehorn a keyboard-full of commands and hotkeys into a simple control pad; the mechanics have been built with consoles in mind right from the beginning – and considering that porting problems constituted well over 80% of Risen’s shortcomings, Risen 2: Dark Waters could be potentially very, very intriguing.
For now, though, we can only wait for Piranha Bytes to bring us that horizon. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho …
Risen 2: Dark Waters is due for release on PC on April 27th, and Xbox 360 and PS3 on May 25th. For more information visit the website or check out the Facebook page. In the meantime, here’s a shiny brand new trailer to get your teeth into...
Words by Mick Fraser (Twitter: @Jedi_Beats_Tank)
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