The first Risen was extremely rough around the edges, very generic on the surface, and had a brutally difficult early game.  Anyone who had the patience and determination to look past the ugly exterior, however, was treated to one of the hidden RPG gems of this generation.  Risen 2: Dark Waters ups the ante of it's predecessor by blowing it's strengths out of the water, but unfortunately does little to improve on the weaknesses that cursed the first game into relative obscurity.

  You play the game as a premade character aptly named "me", at least until you turn the subtitles off like you should immediately.  Having no customization options for your avatar may seem like a drawback, but having the fully voiced, extremely sarcastic and snarky protagonist from the first game return as a pirate is a more than fair tradeoff.  The entire pirate angle was a relatively minor theme in the original game, and I have to give Phirana Bytes credit for taking an idea and running with it. 

  The writing is nothing short of brilliant, and I think the developers are well aware of this; roughly half of the fourty hours it takes to complete the game is spent listening to dialouge.  This is actually a major pet peeve of mine, and normally it'd be a big drawback but here there are just too many laugh out loud moments that it becomes the main strength and number one reason to keep playing.  Once you have the ability to possess someone's body through a voodoo doll and completely destroy his life and make an ass out of him, if you're not rolling on the floor you must be dead inside.

  Risen 2 is an adventure RPG through and through.  It has more in common with Monkey Island than Skyrim, and I don't mean because of the pirate theme.  The aforementioned stellar writing and great sense of exploration and discovery keep it afloat, even when the poorly implemented combat or uneven graphics start to drag it down.  If you take a laid back approach to the game and enjoy yourself wandering around the islands while listening to mood setting ambient music and keep a sense of humor when things are porposely or unitentionally hilarious you will have a great time.  If you go in expecting the next step up for AAA, streamlined RPGs you'll be severely disappointed.

  Saying the combat is not very appealing would be an understatement.  At the start of the game you're less than helpless, hiding behind your companions and hoping for the best.  Every encounter is a war of attrition consisting of mashing the attack button and hoping you can outlast the enemy.  I employed the "hide behind Patty" throughout most of the game.  Even after you start leveling up, buying firearms and better armor, any fight can go horribly wrong very quickly through no real fault of your own.  Along with some cheap (though hysterical) randomly placed one hit kill traps laying around necessitates saving every five minutes or after every encounter.  This puts a serious damper on pacing and makes the absence of a quicksave button annoying.

  On the positive side most enemies will stay dead after they're defeated.  That means once you clear an area of baddies you are free to explore relatively unmolested.  This is one feature I wish more RPGs embraced; random/repeating encounters help make the world feel inhabited, but there's a sense of accomplishment from knowing that once you finally take down a foe that's giving you trouble it's gone for good.  This also makes grinding low level areas nonexsitent, so make sure to slaughter every turkey you can and shoot those helpless monkeys in the face.

 

  Glory!

  I enjoyed Risen 2's leveling system as well.  You gain Glory, the game's pirate themed XP, in the usual manner by completeing quests, fighting, stealing, etc.  You spend the points to increase one of your main attributes (Blades, Firearms, Cunning, Voodoo, or Strength) which in turn provides a small increase to the relative talents.  You can gain perks by paying a trainer, the best of which is 'Nuff Said, a Firearms ability that allows for an Indiana Jones-style conversation ending quickdraw.  The perks do cost gold, which always seems to be in short supply, but I'll take a system that rewards you for being resourseful and forces you to carefully weigh every desicion over being handed upgrades like they're candy.  This also makes the in-game currency actually have value; you'll be scraping up every loose gold piece you can find just to put shoes on your guy at first, and even after you have a nice safety net any financial decision you make is gut-wrenching.  There are also legendary items that can be found or purchased as well as certain herbs scattered about that give you permanent stat increases, further cementing the focus on exploration and conversation.

  Graphically the game is a mixed bag.  The first chapter had me worried that the poor framerate, sloppy optimization, and poor textures would hold me back from enjoying the game.  I honestly can't say if the game actually improves later on if I just got used to the "style", but as I continued to play the bugs and choppiness slipped further and further from my mind.  There are a few instances where the art style and textures come together and the game shines, but it's not going to win any technical awards.  The sound is great throughout, however. 

  Much like the first game I can see people either loving it or hating it, depending on how tolerant they are of the rough patches.  I found it a nice middle ground between the big budget, streamlined modern RPG and the ultra-hardcore niche titles that are so complex they get in their own way.  It nails the adventure and conversation portions, and if it just smoothed out the combat and graphical flaws it would be the perfect blend.  If you're a fan of the original Risen or are looking for an off-center RPG to kill the slow release months, with the right attitude and sense of humor you can get some enjoyment here. 

 


 

 

  I have a DLC code for The Air Temple Mission Pack, and will PM the first person to get the trivia question right.  Please note this is for the Xbox 360 version of the game, and it is included with new copies of the game, but I figured someone who rented or bought the game used might be interested. 

 

   *In The Goonies, Mouth tells Chunk that 1632 is the high score for what video game?