Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

The Late Console Port Goes From Bad To Worse
by Adam Biessener on Aug 09, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Reviewed on PlayStation 3
Also on Xbox 360, PC
Publisher Deep Silver
Developer Piranha Bytes
Rating Mature

Risen 2 was one of the biggest disappointments of the year when it launched on PC back in April, and the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 port was delayed in an effort to give the console version a chance to right the ship. No such luck; the pirate action/RPG is noticeably worse on console than on PC for a host of reasons, the foremost being that the sorely needed dodge feature that was patched into the original after release is missing in action.

Waking up hung over, Risen 2’s antihero is immediately press-ganged into heading up a last-ditch effort to stop a vengeful titan from destroying the few remnants of humanity. The grand adventure spans multiple islands, each inhabited by deadly monsters and a diverse array of characters who can be friends, enemies, or allies on your quest, depending on the choices you make. The usual loot and leveling RPG trappings complement the swashbuckling action and clever dialogue. 

The dialogue and quests are well written, trope busting, and often funny. Most situations allow for a variety of clever, sarcastic, or plain mean responses that paint the unnamed protagonist in an amusingly unflattering light. He has no time for the contrived setups that define most RPG quests and lets the NPCs know it. Risen 2’s tone and setting are a wonderful break from typical RPG settings, with selfish governors being defrauded by lazy guards who are colluding with honorable pirates – none of whom are spared the hero’s caustic tongue. Too bad this great setup is wasted by incompetent execution.

As fresh and funny as it is, good storytelling can’t save Risen 2 from its disastrous combat. The majority of the game is spent mashing the single attack button and hoping that animations line up in your favor, because that’s literally all you can do until you unlock such masterful advanced moves as “parry” and “power attack.” You can’t even throw a coconut at a guy until and unless you spend large quantities of hard-to-come-by gold and experience to learn the Dirty Tricks skill. Don’t worry, though, because it won’t do anything useful anyway. Learning the parry and riposte skills eventually turn the rare one-on-one fights against human opponents into slightly more interesting timing challenges, meaning around one-third of the way through the game maybe five percent of the encounters become mediocre instead of awful. Such is the high water mark of Risen 2’s combat.

Fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay later, earning enough new abilities and improved equipment makes combat easier to tolerate in order to get to the good stuff. Making it to that point is a test of endurance and patience, even for gamers like me who give Risen 2 every chance to succeed on the strength of the first game and the promise of the world and characters.

The PC original had the same problems, but a post-release patch made a marked improvement by adding a useful dodge feature that allowed player skill to overcome some of the horrible combat design. Unfortunately, that addition is not included in the console version. Publisher Deep Silver does not have any plans to release it later, citing the space restrictions "certain first-parties" put on title updates. Between that and the inferior graphics, framerate, and interface, I strongly recommend going with the PC version over this lackluster console port.

The world is ending, and you must assemble a pirate crew to help save the day in between getting drunk and hunting for treasure
Significantly downgraded lighting and framerate issues compared to the PC version don’t do the visuals any favors
The good-to-great voice work is Risen 2’s high point
Everything that could go wrong in mapping controls to gamepads did. Worse, the much-needed dodging that was patched into the PC
The occasional amusing storyline or bit of dialogue aren’t near enough reason to suffer through the awful combat and constant technical problems

Products In This Article

Risen 2: Dark Waterscover

Risen 2: Dark Waters

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
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