The Average Gamer

Hands-On with Risen 2: Gorillas, Wenches and Voodoo

Risen 2 is a game about pirates. It’s also a game about soldiers, about making choices, and a li-ttle bit about racism, though not in that socially-conscious educational way. More the other kind. You know. The racist one.

Developers Piranha Bytes have focused their efforts on breadth in Risen 2. You play a nameless hero who was dishonourably discharged from the army after the events of the original Risen game and is left to build a new life on the island of Faranga.

Take your time questing for gold and Glory points, which you can then spend on your five base attributes:

  • Blades
  • Firearms
  • Toughness
  • Cunning
  • Voodoo

Beneath each of these attributes is a subtree covering categories like parry, riposte and piercing weapons under Blades, sneaking and stealing under Cunning, bladeproof and bulletproof under Toughness, and so on. Beneath each of these in turn is a selection of somewhere between a dozen and 15 skills.

Spend enough Glory and gold in Blades with fighters to unlock the fancy attacks, spend it with thieves to unlock the sneaky lockpicking, spend it with soldiers for shooting skills and accuracy buffs. You get the gist.

During your adventure, your character can acquire a number of pets. As befitting any pirate adventurer, you can befriend a parrot who will distract nearby enemies for you, should you need a bit of crowd control. Watching a chicken or gorilla flail helplessly at a circling parrot is plenty of entertainment in itself, never mind the game. A lot of work has gone into the creature animations and it shows. You can also take control of a pet monkey and slip through small cracks to explore or to unlock tricky doors from the inside.

There are quest-hub towns like Tacarigua, where you can get to know the locals and help them with their petty problems. Bars have the requisite drunken pirates, whom you can challenge to a drinking contest for fun or profit, and fit wenches wearing off-the-shoulder outfits. Try not to stare too hard at them – I don’t know what it is with the women who live on Faranga but they all seem to talk by swaying their hips violently from side-to-side. It’s quite distracting and all the more disappointing when you think about how much character is in the creature animations.

While a lot of energy has been put into giving players the breadth of choice to build a character that they want, my playthrough didn’t reveal much depth to the physical gameplay. Combat with a blade is very simple, using a variety of long and short presses on the X button (on the Xbox 360) to determine attacks.

You can lock on to a target with the left trigger which then opens up the ability to parry and riposte with the Y but this just reduces combat to series of timed ripostes. Switching targets is somewhat awkward, requiring you to release the trigger then turning to face your new target and re-locking. There will be a dodge system but this was unavailable in the build I played.

Voodoo seems a little more promising – you can build voodoo dolls and take over other people’s bodies, opening up new quest solutions or pit animals in the forest against each other, sometimes allowing you to avoid combat altogether. I didn’t have the chance to try out firearms but you should be aware that depending on which faction you ally with in the game you’ll lose access to the trainers in either the firearms or voodoo skills. Don’t bother putting points into both.

As described in my Risen 2 preview back in November, allying yourself with factions will also close off certain questlines. The three major factions are the pirates, the Inquisition and the Shaganumbi, a native tribe who practice voodoo, have strong “African” accents, wear loincloths and generally seem to have come from the Noble Savage playbook. Even worse, while your character is normally quite dry and amusing, when he talks to the Shaganumbi, his sense of humour devolves to this level of exchange.

Noble Savage: “You must help me with the Kanadiktu”

You: “Can a dick do what?”

Me: *facepalm*

Glossing over the hilarity that is wilfully misunderstanding someone’s native language while standing in the middle of her village, the game’s story adds a decent wrapper of narrative to the traditional RPG questing. Rescue quests wear their typical disguise of “I sent X to find this item but he has not returned so go and look for him” and fetch quests – when they’re not asking you to look for an item that’s within a 5 metre radius of your quest-giver – are made marginally more challenging by not flagging the location of your item on a mini-map. In fact, there is no mini-map. The world is “open” and explorable but in the sense that it’s a series of corridors with a few scalable hills. You do have a compass and a piratey map so you probably won’t get too lost.

Risen 2 looks like a solid RPG for those of a piratey bent. The world is active and detailed with nary a smashable crate in sight. Sure, it leans heavily on narrative clichés but makes up for that with character, even though your character can be a bit of a prat. I’m watching this one closely.

Risen 2 will be out in Europe on 27th April for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. See more screenshots in our Risen 2 Facebook album.