I've said this before and I'll say it again - Bayonets make everything better. This was the main problem with the original Risen - not the lack-lustre console port, not the bugs, not the messy combat mechanics - it was the lack of a good bayonet. Now, our nameless hero returns for Risen 2: Dark Waters, sporting an alcohol problem, feeling jaded on an epic level, and bayonets as he has to rise(n) to the occasion and deal with an old enemy.
The game world is more alive, with a large variety of locations
It would easy to mistake this game for some generic fantasy story about pirates, despite the fact that the first outing was limited to a single island and involved a titan - something out of Greek Mythology. In terms of the way the game is set up, instead of just being on one island you have multiple islands, and there are a series of quest hubs that will have you going from area to area. Even though you're on a ship, you don't actually get to do any sailing, as the ship also acts like a hub - much like the Normandy in the Mass Effect series. The game is more linear to start off with this time, giving a lower barrier for entry and more of a tutorial, but by the time the game opens up fully, it'll be like it was in the original game.
The main draw for Risen 2 for newcomers will probably be combat and the skill system - there's been a complete overhaul, with it now being easier to attack multiple enemies at once, as well as do counters. Guns have also been included in the game as a new weapon, and as always your character is a blank slate with which you can choose what to specialise in. There's also a variety of skills - like having a pet monkey to help you get to hard to reach places, as well as a parrot that can attack and distract enemies whilst you fight them.
This is a very story driven game, with voiced conversations and multiple dialogue options. There's more tongue and cheek humour this time around, with swearing, innuendos and everything in between. Quests can be approach in multiple ways, each requiring slightly different skill sets. Do you want to steal what you need? Talk your way into getting what you need? Simply blow a hole in the wall? This is a party based game as well, although you can only choose one other member to come ashore with you. Sometimes a quest or a mission will grant you other NPC's that will fight with you, and companions have their own skills they can use in battle.
If Risen was the prototype, then Risen 2 is mass production model - everything from the original game has been expanded upon and fleshed out, from the lore, to the mechanics, to the world itself. There's foraging and crafting Talismans, 'potions' (although they're not really potions), there's factions that you can join and interact with. There's loot, clothing and equipment, and the game world itself is designed to reward you for exploring and poking about. This isn't a Final Fantasy game with redundant corridors and dead-ends - there's always an incentive to go wondering off.
Is it fair to say this is a PC game first and foremost? Yes and No. If you read our interview, you'll know that another studio is handling the console development, with Piranha Bytes's oversight. This time however, the console versions (it's on PS3 as well as 360 now) are being built from the ground up, and each version is being optimised for the platform it's being developed on. Piranha Bytes is mainly concerned with the PC version because that's the version they are doing. It does look pretty decent on the PC version, with really nice environments and textures. It looks ok on the console as well, although like most games that are coming out now the hardware is starting to show it's age. Still, the code we saw was early so there's still room for improvement.
Ok, who wants to go first?
Risen 2 is a pleasant surprise indeed. It's not that the original game was bad, but the market isn't exactly being kind to new IP's right now, and with sometimes all it takes is a bad port to sink a ship. With a bigger, deeper game world, improved controls and bayonets,it is sure to impress both fans and newcomers alike. Risen 2: Dark Waters is due out on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in early-to-mid 2012.
Top game moment:Nothing specific stands out to us yet, we'll have to wait until we get some hands-on time with the game.