Risen 2: Dark Waters review
In Risen 2, that’s a problem. Other RPGs offer a steady stream of loot and level ups. Risen’s system means players don’t choose character or class, instead plugging experience points into advancing their learning in one of five fields (see the boxout on the previous page). Levelling up one section unlocks the ability to gain new skills, but these have to be explained to you by trainers for wallet-scaringly huge sums of money. It costs a thousand gold to learn how to pick locks – even with a lockpick in hand – when most early to mid-game quests pay out around a hundred gold on completion. Budget badly – or just get distracted by an interesting and expensive talent – and you’ll be left not only out of pocket, but your progress stymied in several quest areas.
The game’s five key attributes are levelled up with ‘glory’. Complete a quest and you’ll be showered in the stuff, but being awarded ten glorious glory for ‘discovering’ a beach ten feet from a bustling town proves that it’s just an overly grand name for ‘experience points’. Choosing to level one attribute increases its price in glory, making it tougher for players who want to truly specialise. I set out to make my nameless hero the savviest pirate in piratedom, turbo-charging his ‘cunning’ attribute above all others. But before long the cost of each extra level was too rich for my inglorious bastard, and I was finding even the smallest and cutest of foes would rip through my weak-wristed defence. I was forced to shunt some glory I’d been saving into the ‘toughness’ part of the character sheet.
On the plus side, my focus on cunning had given me an area of expertise. I spoke to trainers and unlocked talents in both pickpocketing and speech, letting me talk my way into an early pirate camp without turgid fetch-questing, keeping my pockets lined with small influxes of gold from unsuspecting dupes along the way. This is Risen 2 at its best: even though the game lacks defined classes and has no real choice in terms of action or dialogue, by restricting cash flow and glory payout, players have to make their meagre holdings work for them. I spent most of the first ten hours of the game nearly naked, having deemed clothes to be an irrelevant, expensive frippery that squandered cash best saved for learning stuff from trainers.
I came to regret that decision later, as the enemies I was put up against increased in nastiness. Risen 2’s combat is fiddly: targeting changes without obvious warning, and you’ll find yourself slashing the wrong monkey [not a euphemism – Euphemism Ed] during heated battles. Swords are your main weapon, guns unleash a chunk of damage but have a reload time spanning tens of seconds. Level up your ‘blades’ attribute and swordfights are easier, but combat lacks finesse. Land a hit on a weaker foe and it’s easy enough to keep slashing until they drop. Some tougher enemies play more tactically – fight another human and you’ll have to wait for their guard to falter before pressing in – but others feel unfair in their attack patterns. I was asked to kill a crocodile for some villagers. The beast was orders-ofmagnitude more powerful than anything I’d faced before, and, crucially, my parry ability had no effect on its crushing jaws. This was canonically correct – crocodiles aren’t usually big on honourable duels – but the fight felt unfair and restricted my progress, as I had to grind around the area to make my character less flimsy.
Risen 2 is as coarsely put together as the pirates it references throughout. Dig around and there’s real gold to be found in the hours of game-time it offers, but the sheer hard work required to unearth them will be too much for all but the truly dedicated RPG plunderer.
A pirate’s life for ye? That depends on your tolerance for working for your treasure.
Clunky quest structure and uninteresting main characters shoot this weirdly compulsive RPG in the foot.