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Review

Risen 2: Dark Waters Review

  • Game release: April 24, 2012
  • Reviewed: May 3, 2012
  • PC

Evocative tropical atmosphere and gleeful adventuring help Risen 2 navigate the turbulent waters of its problematic combat and scattered glitches.

by

Peg legs. Eye patches. Parrots. Rum. Think "pirate," and these images spring immediately to mind. Risen 2: Dark Waters features all these tropes and more, yet this pirate-themed role-playing game handles its inspiration with care. There are some grizzled pirates and ships flying the Jolly Roger to be sure, but Risen 2 never relies on the usual campy cliches to provide entertainment. Instead, it sends you on an island-hopping adventure to unearth treasure and defeat a sexy sea titan called Mara. This tale isn't just about grog-swilling drunkards sailing the high seas--it's also about a nobleman seeking political gain, a rambling freak with his soul split in two, and an ambitious tribesman proving his superiority.

Risen 2's central quest has you scouring the seas searching for magical artifacts to aid you in the battle against Mara. She's not much of a villain; she appears a few times, but her presence isn't as strongly felt as you'd expect, considering the role she plays in the plot. But the game is more about the journey than the destination, and there is enough variety and joy to keep you fixated on the continuing tale. You use voodoo dolls to take over a hiccuping boozer and infiltrate an enemy camp. You discover a shocking case of stolen identity. Missions rely a little too often on the same fundamental setups--following a quest-giver to a cave, and killing the creature inside, for example. But there's a lot to chew on: collecting fur for a wannabe fashion designer, disguising yourself as a messenger, spearing a gigantic kraken, or just searching for buried treasure.

Humorous dialogue and some sparkling voice acting brighten the tone, though it's unlikely you'll get attached to any of Risen 2's characters. Patty returns from the original Risen, refusing to be treated as a weakling simply because she's a woman. Like other cast members, she's got attitude to spare, but few of them ever threaten to steal any given scene. They give Risen 2 plenty of foul-mouthed color but never come into their own. That included the returning nameless hero, who speaks in the same monotone as in the previous game. It doesn't help that sound levels are occasionally off, allowing the soundtrack to overwhelm the main character's flatness. But at least it's a wonderful soundtrack: the main Risen theme is riffed on in countless subtle ways, never intruding, yet heightening tension when it's called for.

Pro tip: kick the warrior while he's doing his fancy gymnastics.

Lackluster lead aside, Risen 2 pulls you into its world, which is not a single spacious territory, but rather a set of scattered tropical islands. If you enjoyed the expansiveness of the original Risen (or the developer's Gothic games), the new structure can come across as disjointed. But each island offers plenty of room to explore and scavenge. Besides, what would a pirate game be without some high-seas travel? (Sadly, you never sail the ship yourself; you only witness it leave the harbor and arrive at its new destination.) Luckily, a few of these islands have their own visual identities, from the burning cityscapes of Caldera to the amber hues of a sacred underworld, and the game makes it easy to travel from isle to isle with a few clicks of the mouse.

Most islands, however, are blanketed with jungle foliage, though there's enough environmental variety that your eyes won't tire. Palm trees cast long shadows on the riverbank as you slosh toward the nearby native village. Investigate the beach near Puerto Isabella, and you can practically feel the sand and stones under your feet. Periodic thunderclaps make for a disquieting trek near alligator-infested waters. If you own an Nvidia card, you could run into some performance issues, but you'll likely enjoy smooth visuals and quick loading times on your journey. That's as it should be: Risen 2 isn't at the cutting edge of modern graphics. Flickering shadows, vegetation that grows into place before your very eyes, and robotic animations are among the blemishes that might distract you.

You're occasionally treated to slow-motion murder. But like the combat, the kill-cam execution is rather clunky.

More problematic are the quest bugs that could interfere with your journey. Do a certain set of quests in an order the game doesn't expect, and your yo-ho-hoing is over, brought to a halt by missing dialogue options. Another apparent bug requires you to exploit the AI so that you can complete a story-critical task. Yet while Risen 2 isn't the most elegant role-playing game, it's a notable improvement over its clumsier predecessor, at least where technical execution is concerned. But it's also not as intricate, or as open-ended. You make some choices that determine how quests play out, but the consequences of the choices you do make are less far-reaching, and there are fewer puzzles to solve and hidden mysteries to uncover.

Yet though it's certainly more approachable, you shouldn't brand Risen 2 as too simple or linear. There's still plenty of do-it-yourself progression that requires you to think carefully about how you want to improve your skills. Swordplay is a returning option, but you may also take aim with muskets. Offensive magic is disappointingly absent, but using voodoo curses and scepters, you can paralyze marauding pirates in fear, or set them against each other. Use your off hand to throw sand in a combatant's eyes, or toss coconuts, or whip out your pistol for a quick shot. You level up your main attributes by earning glory, which is Risen 2's version of experience points. Further skill development, from black magic to gunsmithing, requires you to spend money with a trainer.

Who would win this particular staring contest?

Gold doesn't flow freely in Risen 2, so it takes time before combat comes into its own. Until then, you feel remarkably weak even against the simplest of creatures, let alone the giant silverbacks and growling panthers you encounter later. Some elements of combat have been improved over the original Risen; you don't lock on to enemies unless you hold the right mouse button, for instance, and can attack without locking on at all if you prefer. But like before, melee combat still never flows as well as it could, for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that you get interrupted and knocked back with every solid hit you take. Even a couple of termites can be a problem if you get stuck in an irritating sequence of knockback attacks.

There are other combat problems too. You might think you are locked on to a giant beast when you fire your pistol, only to turn away and shoot in the opposite direction. And certain battles are best won not by being good with a sword, but by exploiting the AI; hiding in a hut and mindlessly slashing while a tall creature helplessly tries to get through the doorway can be more effective than devising a more traditional strategy. And yet the action takes off once you expand your repertoire of skills. Raise your scepter to the heavens and watch as two monkeys hoot and holler while they claw each other to death. Join the ghostly pirate you've summoned and inflict massive damage to oversized crabs. Kick a somersaulting warrior and slash at him while he's stymied. And if a quest turns out to be more trouble than it's currently worth, come back later after you've found a few rare items that permanently boost your fighting expertise.

Twenty hours in, and those sand devils can still be pesky. Don't let your guard down!

A companion usually accompanies you on your tale of conquest. Patty is one such pal, though ultimately you pick up a few more crewmates, such as a squeaky gnome and a scantily clad islander. You usually choose just one to join you, though there is a triumphant moment near the very end when the whole crew takes up arms and enters the fray. Your comrades aren't always the brightest bulbs, sometimes standing around doing nothing when you could use a spot of healing or an extra blade to damage your target. Yet their usefulness becomes apparent when you have to go it alone and realize just how vulnerable you are.

Risen 2's slow-paced progression and clumsy combat require and reward patience, something Risen and Gothic veterans have in spades. If you are such a player, you might be surprised by how focused this sequel is when compared with its sprawling, unforgiving predecessors. But Risen 2: Dark Waters surpasses its foibles, offering up a joyous and occasionally profane odyssey through humid jungles, dank caves, and imposing temples. It also lets you make monkeys fight each other, and that's a mechanic any RPG lover can get behind.

The Good
Array of quests that make you feel like a true adventurer
Voodoo and dirty tricks spice up battles
Great island atmosphere
Fun attitude that doesn't rely on tired pirate cliches
The Bad
Frustrating combat scenarios
Some annoying bugs
Not as free-form as the original Risen
7
Good
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Discussion

57 comments
Jomapil
Jomapil

First, Gothic 4 and now Risen 2. What a disappointment!

Please bring to us the true Gothic 4 and Risen 2.

 

 

circus2050
circus2050

you've had your fun with the butt pirates now please go back to gothic or at least start from risen 1 and bring back that manual crafting ffs, don't wanna see my character pretending that he is forging a weapon

Gliave
Gliave

...Why screw up the combat like that ...sheesh.

vyaswanth
vyaswanth

haven't played Risen 1 but this game is really awesome I am having a great time playing this game.Please developers I want these type of games(I mean similar to risen 2),pirates concept is great.

paramalways
paramalways

I Feel in an RPG there has to be a very strong main quest story to keep you glued, even while you do the side quest you must keep thinking how this side quest can help me in the main quest like getting a better weapon or something. if that main quest is not that intriguing then the game just fades away for me like the 1st Risen

spartan_jedi
spartan_jedi

Just bought the game, i never played the first one, hope this is as awsum as it looks.

dakage84
dakage84

I sorta liked the first one might have to pass on this one.

neuroboy
neuroboy

I enjoyed the first Risen, but this looks a bit too *piratey* for my liking. As another commenter said, the lore and atmosphere of Risen were key, and if this game has gone off at a tangent, then I may not bother. Mind you, that's not to say it couldn't be fun in its own right. Maybe later, once I've slogged my way through the 50 odd games on my To Do list...

Al-7asoud
Al-7asoud

I really thought I made a mistake buying this game, but I just finished it 30 minutes ago and I have to admit it was the most enjoyable pirate adventure game I've ever played.

Wensea10
Wensea10

This is a modest revies' however, the video game actually looks magnificent.

thorn3000
thorn3000

a new patch repairs part of the combat (adds dodge for ex.) which is big improvement...otherwise the biggst letdown was the non-compact world, I mean sure, you are pirate, you should sail from island to island, but I would still prefer at least one larger mainland, they could have joined the maps of Arborea together for ex...RPG players won't mind the negatives too much as most of the funny conversations make up for it, but I see the mainstream players having issues, like if fo ex. the very first group of sandevils kills them 10 times...overall a typical gothic 1,2,3 experience (remember combat in gothic 3 before patch (hint:boars!)? or the broken quests (hint:chalices)? but it was still good)...

PinchySkree
PinchySkree

Games like Gothic and Risen have always had quirky, buggy and hard combat. I just had a feeling they would do nothing with it  and this would be another sequel cash grab.

 

£34.99 at launch made me take it off my radar.

Madball357
Madball357

The three DLC available for Risen 2 come already in the DVD and they are unlockable by console commands. The only thing missing is some audio files to voice the DLC characters, otherwise they are fully playable, and the sound files are only 50mb (yes, megabytes).

 

I must have missed the memo reporting the greedy publisher's change of DownLoadable Content to Disk Locked Content.

topsemag55
topsemag55

Good job, Kevin. Always enjoy reading your reviews.

Wartotehlock
Wartotehlock

I'm getting a Fable vibe from this, hmm.  Which is fine I guess, I just wasn't big into the Fable games so it's leaving me iffy.

MemberUnknown
MemberUnknown

@Kevin-V 

 

Hello Kevin

 

What I was trying to put across was that several games had negative factors in their "deck" of the review. However this seems to happen far too often for every review I read. I understand the concept of "telling it like it is" but after watching the video "Defending the 6" I had a different perspective of games that have low scores. And what I think what CylonRaider01was trying to put across was that the decks might have some influence over the gamers, as do the scores. But you'll have to ask him that. I was looking forward to this game, your review may have changed my stance on this title, I guess I shall have to see something to convince me before purchasing. 

GeorgeSyll
GeorgeSyll

I think the worst thing about this game is what happened to the Lore and atmosphere.

 

  I can adjust to weird game mechanics and bugs can be patched, but the lore and the feeling the game offers is very important and ,in my opinion,it has been destroyed . The lore just jumped too far ahead and the atmosphere is lost.

 

 I remember Risen being,many times,dead serious and at some points, almost scary. This combined with the excellent visual treat of nice armors and weapons and magick made the game almost perfect.

 

 Risen 2 on the other hand is almost never serious. Combine that with the whole goofy piracy style and you got a genuine pirate themed comedy. And that is a major turn off.

I like piracy and voodoo but the serious and darker side of them.

ARASH_M
ARASH_M

i think the first one was better in its own time,and this one looks like a fable a little !!BTW a good review. 

zintarr
zintarr

The whole Fable 2 look and feel from the previews turned me off long before the review.

RobertBowen
RobertBowen

Good review.  Although there are some pitfalls and bugs (which will hopefully be patched) it sounds like a really enjoyable game.  And as someone who's played the Gothic series, I'm okay with 'clunky' combat.  I'm going to pick this game up when it's a bit cheaper.

MemberUnknown
MemberUnknown

@CylonRaider01

 

But sticking to the same tried and tested methods for all eternity isn't going to help. Developers should understand that the levels of expectations of gamers and reviewers has risen. COD hits the markets, but at least DICE tried to go out of their comfort zone and take them on with Battlefield 3. Developers need to keep up with the market so no rubbish games are made. But I agree with you, there are always exceptions.

dead888
dead888

Waiting for the PS3 version.

CylonRaider01
CylonRaider01

@MemberUnknown what is the best marketing strategy to sell crap?Convince ppl that u crap is the best by false advertising on sites like this.

MemberUnknown
MemberUnknown

I'll be honest with you, I am tired of Gamespot editors making pun-based comments about the game as their tagline. Showering it with praise and criticism in the same comment.

 

"Evocative tropical atmosphere and gleeful adventuring help Risen 2 navigate the turbulent waters of its problematic combat and scattered glitches."

 

"Sniper Elite V2 is a satisfying shooting gallery, though it often does a lackluster job maintaining the illusion."

 

"Bloodforge's striking brutality doesn't stand a chance of overcoming its crushingly dull gameplay."

 

"Prototype 2's brutal delights help it to overcome its sporadic missteps."

 

Come on, try something new.

 

avestavsdante
avestavsdante

I hate this game and I'm wonder why it's worth7!!!!!!!!!!!!

Slash_out
Slash_out

I finished the game yesterday.

It was very very fun. And so atmospherique.

 

Very, very worth your time and money :).

tightwad34
tightwad34

I saw this coming from a mile away.

voldalin
voldalin

Maybe I'll wait for a patch or two. Can't wait to play this though.

OverlordGunnar
OverlordGunnar

Piranha Bytes has reached a place similar to Bethesda in my eyes, their games are crippled with bugs which somehow make them more endearing to me (minus those obvious game breakers, multiple saves people, multiple saves). Risen 1 had a feeling of exploration which felt so much more rewarding than any game before it, the dorky voice acting brings a smirk to my face and the no hand-holding policy makes the games feel more organic than those which opt for quest markers and glowing items. Just bought this the other day and can't wait to start exploring.

RYPER
RYPER

I loved the first one, played it 5 times over and it was always a great experience. Currently having Risen 2 shipped over so in the meanwhile let's hope Piranha Bytes do their miraculous patching jobs and some bugs get fixed before I get to play.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@s_h_a_d_o -- Sorry about that. My work PC didn't run the game properly, and then I had some major dental troubles that kept me laid up. 

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

Would've been nice to have had some feedback *before* release. :|

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @MemberUnknown Well, in a sense, those things *are* meant to have influence. A review's very purpose is to tell you how good we think a game is, and use numbers and words to communicate that. 

 

The "Defending the 6" article made an important point I hope you didn't miss: a "6" isn't a low score; the scale goes from 1 to 10, after all! Our description of a 6-range score: "Games that earn 6-range ratings have certain good qualities but significant problems as well. These games may well be worth playing, but you should approach them with caution." And later on: "If you're a hardcore enthusiast who likes to play lots of different games, then you shouldn't be dismissing games that we give 6-range and 7-range or even 5-range scores to because these may be of interest to you if you can look past their faults."

 

Everyone has their limits for how much they are willing to tolerate. In the end, we can lay it all out: the pros and the cons, the wonders and the disappointments. But we can't make decisions for every reader though, because everyone's level enjoyment is so different based on what they like and what is important to them. A deck and a score are meant to give you a top-level idea of what to expect with a particular game. But to decide if a game is for you, the rest is important too. If you don't care about atmosphere and story, for example, some great games may not appeal to you. And if you have a high tolerance for certain quirks or bugs, games that get mid-range scores may be right up your alley!

 

I like Risen 2 a good deal, but it certainly has problems, though nothing outrageously debilitating. Our description of a 7 is this: "While its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, a game that falls in this range tends to have noticeable faults." And that's about right for Risen 2, I'd say. If you're a fan of RPGs and the flaws I outlined above don't seem like they'd bother you much, I'd say jump in!

vyaswanth
vyaswanth

 @ARASH_M havent played risen 1 but trust me you will like it but don't compare to the 1st risen because both of them are completely different.

RankJunkie
RankJunkie

 @zintarr It does not look like Fable 2.  At least not when you play it

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @CylonRaider01  @MemberUnknown That comment doesn't make any sense. There is no marketing of crap there--they are review decks that summarize the experience, pointing out the pros and cons that stand out most. Perhaps you've played games before? In that case, then you know that most games have elements of good and bad in various measures of each. And so we encapsulate the most standout elements in the review deck. 

 

All of those decks do a very fine job of summarizing the games in question. None of them received a score over 7.5; how on earth do come to the conclusion that the verbiage of the decks is somehow marketing those games? Do you actually believe calling a game "crushingly dull" and giving it a 3 is "advertising?"

 

Goodness gracious :)

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @MemberUnknown None of those decks shower the game with both praise and criticism. Perhaps this comes as a shocker, but most games have degrees of both good and not-so-good. Our decks try to encapsulate the experience in a single sentence, or maybe two. You could potentially see the "turbulent waters" mention as a pun, but none of those other examples actually feature a pun. 

 

In other words, those decks do exactly what decks *should* do: summarize the experience, indicating its general level of quality by mentioning the elements that stand out most.

 

In that respect, every single one of those decks are fine. 

Evtutchenk0
Evtutchenk0

 @MemberUnknown  that's what they have to do, point the pros and cons of a game. You should be really tired of the game developers releasing a half-finished game, if that happens you'll see less taglines like that

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @avestavsdante I am always confused when people ask "how did this game get so-and-so score." There are two pages of text there. The text exists for that very reason...

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @Kevin-V   "... and then I had some major dental troubles that kept me laid up."

That would've been a boon for role-playing as a pirate, surely? :P

blueinheaven
blueinheaven

 @Kevin-V Some people only look at the score, or even after reading the review still form their opinions based on the score. For this reason I don't like reviews where the text is massively at odds with the score. 

 

For what it's worth having played the game I think you did a great job with the review and the score is an accurate reflection of the opinions therein.

Risen 2: Dark Waters More Info

First Release on Apr 24, 2012
  • PC
  • Xbox 360
  • PlayStation 3
Risen 2: Dark waters is set several years after the end of Risen, and raging titans have devastated the world and pushed humanity to the brink of existence.
7.1
Average User RatingOut of 583 User Ratings
Please Sign In to rate Risen 2: Dark Waters
Developed by:
Piranha Bytes
Published by:
Deep Silver, Ubisoft
Genres:
Role-Playing
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence