First Looks// E3 2011: Risen 2

Posted 17 Jun 2011 15:00 by
There was a bit of a love-hate relationship with role playing game Risen when it was released back in 2009. Nobody had any doubt that German studio Piranha Bytes had created an adventure full of exciting quests and engaging gameplay. It’s just that, nobody really wanted to plough through the abhorrent glitches and shocking graphics of the Xbox 360 version.

Seems that Piranha has been listening to all the concerns from gamers around the world, and is looking to fix a whole lot of stuff in Risen 2: Dark Waters. For a start, the developer is directly handling the console port of the game, and although its framerate is unoptimised it has a graphical parity to its PC big brother. So that’s promising.

Across the board, things are much more colourful. The sequel is inspired by the Caribbean and the life of pirates, so the game world as a result is a lot more tropical. Vibrant greens, reds and blues counter the “three distinct tones of brown” (Piranha’s words) of Risen 1.

To make things more interesting, the characters - particularly the NPCs - have had a graphical and technical improvement. Whereas before characters consisted of a simple head piece and body piece, Risen 2 uses modulised parts with different clothing features so that you’re not likely to see the same character twice.

Speaking of characters, what has become of your own? The hero of Risen 1 returns in this pirate-heavy land, only ten years older and disillusioned with the world. As a result, he’s become a bit rusty with the powers that you once acquired, finding no need to ever use them again. After all you did try to save the world, only to find that it was all in vain as another titan destroys an island. Piranha likens the apathy and disdain of the lead character to John McClane in Die Hard With A Vengeance.

I’m told that your character will be spending a large portion of time in the land of Caldera, which you may remember from Risen 1. It’s the last stronghold for mankind against a powerful evil that’s sweeping the world and yadda yadda yadda. In particular, the ships that try to get to Caldera’s port are getting attacked by some kind of sea monsters. As something of a pirate-for-hire, you're tasked with finding out why the creatures are there - and to do that, you have to infiltrate an opposing pirate faction thought to be behind the mutant nonsense.

Whereas the last game allowed you to get medieval on an enemy’s ass, here you’re living the life of the seven seas. So no shield for you, and an extravagant pirate sword for your chopping pleasure. This gives you a free hand in Risen 2, which Piranha is taking advantage of by allowing players to customise exactly what goes in it. A second sword, a pistol, even a parrot that can be deployed to distract enemies... plenty of possibilities there.

You can take command of your own ship as well, which is rather fitting of a buccaneer such as yourself. As you sail between locations, you can speak to the crew on your ship and find out their morale and abilities. When disembarking to accomplish various missions, you can choose a couple of crewmen to assist you on your adventures.

All of these improvements must sound like heaven for those who played the first Risen game. They don’t come at a compromise to the game’s depth - 40-60 hours have been promised in the final version, along with legendary items to collect and a tweaked difficulty curve that isn’t as harsh as the one in the first game.

Let’s just hope that we get a decent conversion to console this time, and that the dodgy experiences had with Risen 1 hasn’t turned people off this much more promising sequel.

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