Can Risen 2: Dark Waters overcome its difficult past?
Risen originally found you washed ashore on a volcanic island, faced with Titans and monsters while ruins mysteriously erupted from the earth. The CG trailer for Risen 2 released earlier this year plays a similar tune, showing how Piranha Bytes continues to take its original pirate RPG theme to its logical conclusion by bringing together swashbuckling and dark voodoo magic. On paper, what's basically a combination of magic and pirates is still a fraction too camp to suggest a distinguished RPG; but the fact that my notebook has MAGIC PIRATES! scrawled across the bottom of a page speaks to the way Risen 2 appeals to the primordial, reptilian part of our brains that identifies with these things.
When Risen was released in 2009 it controversially split opinions thanks to a bad console port of an initially well-received PC title. At this point in development it's still too early to tell how the game compares on different platforms, however it's certainly gotten sharper.
Risen 2 transplants the comedy quirks of adventure games from the 90s into modern framework. You play the "Unnamed Hero", the very same from the 2009 original, in an unlucky position that begins with being betrayed by shipmates and marooned on an island. Taking place 10 years after the events of the first games - that's 10 years after you defeat your last Titan - the world continues to be infested with nasties and you are now tasked with infiltrating pirate ships for information on sea creatures that have reared their head. Elsewhere other monsters continue to roam, while some Titans are left under the control of particular magic-wielding enemy pirates.
You're helped by gnomes now, who now make a more prominent appearance. The beginning of Risen 2 shoves you into a lost-in-translation multicultural subplot where the Hero is invited into the homeland of a race he used to kill, many who have begun to learn swear-laden English from passing pirates.
Puzzle-styled quests leave you to decipher their pidgin language by interacting with NPCs, trading with them, and judging their responses. To build a sail, for example, The Hero trades with a reluctant gnome salesman for t-shirts. He will yammer in a complaining tone when you offer him the incorrect item to trade a currency, but by interacting with other indigenous NPCs the Hero will begin to learn the basic lingo himself.