E3 2011: Risen 2: Dark Waters Updated Impressions Preview

Deep Silver and Pirahna Bytes' sequel to Risen treads on strange tides.

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The sequel to Risen is making a bold aesthetic move from a gray fantasy world to a sea-faring island-hopping adventure while still retaining its open-world role-playing game gameplay. We recently managed to check out the latest build presented by the game's senior brand manager Daniel Oberlerchner during E3 2011.

He basically recapped the game's story, which took place 10 years after the first game (detailed here in our previous first look) and introduced the hero. This hero is more or less like John McClane from the Die Hard series: disillusioned and cynical. He also put up a slideshow of graphical comparisons between the first and upcoming second game. The differences were stark; Risen 2 was much more beautiful and detailed, thanks to Pirahna Bytes' intensively reworked proprietary engine since it made its start with the Gothic series.

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The Deep Silver representatives then showed off the third chapter with the hero all geared up and overpowered for the demo's sake. They showed off the combat system against mutant crabs, a giant called the Leviathan, and a tomb spider that is essentially a bigger and hairier spider with an ugly mug. Each enemy the hero will fight has a weak spot that must be exploited. The aforementioned mutant crabs can be kicked to flip them over, leaving them vulnerable for retaliation.

Oberlerchner also showed off the hero's base of operations: his very own pirate ship. Here, players can either save or travel to different islands in a heartbeat by conversing with the ship's helmswoman Patty. While there isn't any sailing or ship-steering minigame, he said that Risen 2's focus is all about the role playing instead of tacking on needless features with which the developers weren't familiar.

Another good feature to point out in this build includes the ability to recruit companions for your ship. As the hero fought for his life, he was assisted by pirate Steelbeard who was an expert in close-quarters swordfighting. You can only bring one companion on foot at a time, but you can pick from about five different characters Some companions are only useful in certain situations; Steelbeard isn't that useful in open fields and wide-open spaces, but new companion Venturo's musket can pick enemies from afar in such an area.

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While we're on the subject, the hero has a few tricks up his sleeve to turn the tide of combat. He can use his parrot to distract foes, pull off counter parries and normal parries, and even toss dust to stun foes if players choose these abilities when leveling up. We felt that every little bit of help was welcome, if the prequel's absurd difficulty curve was of any indication. Thankfully, Oberlechner said that Risen 2 will be a little easier than the first game, with the first few hours of the game introducing many incentives to power up your character and the hard parts to come in later.

It should also be noted that all of these fights took place in incredibly lush jungles with beautiful waterfall vistas. Furthermore, Oberlerchner said that the PC version need only modest PC requirements and will stick to using DirectX 9.

With a beautiful setting filled with piracy, the opportunity to bring in an extra hand for combat, and a promise of a much fairer open-world RPG experience, Risen 2: Dark Waters is shaping up to fix its predecessor's flaws. The game will be out in 2012 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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