Deep Silver

Piranha Bytes

Released: July 31, 2012
Reviewed: August 26, 2012
Reviewed by: Keri Weston

Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Also on: PS3, PC

Supported Features:
  • 1.5 MB Save Game
  • HDTV 720p/1080p
  • In-Game Dolby Digital
  • Content Download

  • What We Liked:
  • Pirate themed adventure
  • Lots of content

    What We Didn't:

  • Poor performance
  • Terrible graphics
  • Sophmoric script
  • Boring combat

    The Final Score: (?)

  • Risen 2: Dark Waters - Special Edition

    I love pirates…pirate books…pirate movies…even pirate costumes at Halloween. I also love RPG’s, so when I heard that the pirate-themed RPG, Risen 2: Dark Waters was coming to the Xbox 360 I was like, “sign me up captain!” I had first heard of this game back in April when it released on the PC. Alas, my lowly Mac was unable to partake in the quest for pirate booty. For the Xbox 360, I was treated to the Special Edition which included a double-sided poster as well as two DLC codes to unlock Treasure Island and the Air Temple, two new expansions that promised 6-10 more hours of gameplay beyond the core adventure.

    Risen 2 starts off with a monologue that had me thinking I had accidentally inserted Immortals or Wrath of the Titans. There was talk of gods, titans, eternal imprisonment, and the Day of Judgment, which was apparently starting today. It seemed a bit much for a story about simple pirates. For some reason I had unrealistic visions of “Skyrim at sea”, where I could create my own powerful “female” pirate captain and rule my scurvy crew with an iron hook and a steel sword. Instead, I was forced into the role of a stereotypical drunk swashbuckler with signature eye-patch who is rousted from his bed one dark and stormy night to witness the tentacles of a Kraken take down an approaching ship.

    Risen 2 is a sizable adventure that spans multiple islands populated with a wide variety of NPC’s to interact with and a creative assortment of monsters to slay. As expected from the theme and the genre, there is loot-o-plenty to collect, equip, and sell, along with the usually RPG tropes to slowly build up your character to meet the ongoing and ramping challenges ahead. Risen 2 breaks down quickly as you find yourself in the repetitive rut of exploring the land, talking to everyone who has something to say, and fighting everyone or everything else. Admittedly, this is what you do in most every open-world RPG, but Risen 2 is broken on several fundamental levels starting with the combat.

    Combat is real-time but there is no target lock and there is no dodge, which makes hitting and avoiding getting hit two serious issues. You simply move toward your enemy and mash the attack button and hope the game registers a hit. You have a standard block move that can later be upgraded with Parry and Riposte skills, but these only introduce a timing element to your button-mashing and only on human opponents. The bad thing is I was nearly 6-8 hours into this 50-60 hour game before I started getting any skills that made the combat remotely interesting, and even at its best, the combat still pales in comparison to any other current RPG you could be playing.

    One thing that really bothered me was the script; just how poorly written and inappropriate to the theme and the period. I understand the attempt to insert a bit of humor and perhaps modernize the lingo of the 18th century, but within mere minutes of starting the game (my second character interaction no less) I was treated to the F-bomb in five consecutive sentences as well as a few other curses. I’m no prude and salty language doesn’t bother me when used appropriately, but this was purely for sophomoric shock value. Most of the conversations featured dialogue options that were intentionally sarcastic, out of place for the period, or even self-aware snipes poking fun at the RPG genre or even our hero.

    There are a few shining moments in the game, usually when you aren’t talking to anyone or fighting anything. There were times I would get this sense of adventure and wonderment at some of the level designs and the scenery, or at least what the designers were “trying” to do. Then again, the quests can get terribly complicated with multiple and ambiguous objectives, and non-linear exploration that makes it really easy to get lost, and don’t expect the horrible map to help you get back on track.

    The Xbox 360 is clearly unable to handle a game of this magnitude, even though it seems to handle Skyrim with relative ease. The game just looks “bad”, like a last-gen title. Character models are poor and awkwardly animated, textures are simple and muddle together, lip-synch and facial animations are off…it’s just plain ugly. There were numerous performance issues with lengthy load times, even after I installed the game to my HDD (it only puts 3.3GB on instead of the typical 7GB), but even that wasn’t enough to save the game from hiccupping every time the auto-save icon appeared, which was frequently.

    The music is adventurous enough and there are some nice sound effects for creatures, combat, and the environments, although the game suffered from just as many sound dropouts as it does gameplay hiccups during auto-save. The voice acting ranges from acceptable to quite good in places, although as previously mentioned, some if not most of the dialogue seemed highly inappropriate for the period.

    I desperately wanted to love or at best, enjoy this game. I still remember watching my brother play Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat almost ten years ago on his original Xbox, and finally letting me play when he was done. That game was probably the biggest reason I got interested in playing videogames in the first place, so I have a special spot for pirate adventures.

    Risen 2: Dark Waters is just a poorly written adventure that was obviously ported to the Xbox 360 with little consideration for the hardware. There are brief moments of enjoyable fun but not enough to justify a purchase unless you find this in the discounted bargain bin. Pirates or not, there are so many other great RPG’s out there right now, this one just can’t compete.