Is it a pirate’s life for ye? If so, ye needn’t look much further than this one. Sure, it’s got graphical glitches, the controls could be better, the voice acting is just okay, the animations are wonky at best, and the game gets borderline offensive with some stuff, but that aside it’s easily one of the best, if not THE best, pirate game ever made.
Available For: PC (reviewed), PS3, X Box 360
Developer(s): Piranha Bytes
Publisher(s): Deep Silver
Release Date: 2012
Archetype: Action, Adventure, RPG
Risen 2 is a game that, if explained one way, you would absolutely not be interested in it, but if explained another, you’d be all for it. That statement may not make a lot of sense, so let me explain what I mean by the explanations. Risen 2 is a game that has a dated control scheme, is highly repetitive, has gay bashing commentary at times, has, I shit you not, “spear chucking natives,” and in general is a game that lacks focus.
Now, here’s how I would explain it. Risen 2 is a game that allows you to be a pirate in an “undercover” sort of sense complete with a huge open world to explore spanning several islands, all kinds of people to talk to and learn stuff from, an in-depth skill system that’s completely customizable, and save a few minor faults, is a great pirate game overall.
Both of these statements are 100% true. Risen 2 is a game with many flaws, some of which will be easier or harder to overlook depending on what kind of a gamer you are. Personally, I really enjoy it and I will tell you why. Risen 2 is the kind of game you can hop into, explore, beat the crap out of local monsters with a companion, find treasure, sell off loot, learn more pirating skills, and be treated to some rather nice scenery.
It’s not exactly the first game that’s ever done this, but it’s the finest open world game revolving around pirating that I’ve ever played and that’s really saying something because normally pirating is just kinda “ehh” to me, unless we’re discussing Monkey Island, which is less about pirating and more about just trying to dish out the lols. Regarding the customization, well, there’s quite a bit to it.
See, there are 5 main attributes: blades, firearms, toughness, cunning, and voodoo. Now, I’ve not really invested much in voodoo, but I’ll explain why in a moment. Each attribute governs 3 main skills. So for example, with toughness you have bladeproof, bulletproof, and intimidation. With cunning, you have thievery, silvertongue, and lockpicking.
The problem is voodoo is kinda weak. Now some may argue that if you spend a lot of time in it you’ll get access to all kinds of awesome potions, sceptres, voodoo dolls, etc., but here’s the thing. So far it’s all buffs and debuffs, how long they last, etc. While it would be very easy to invest glory (this game’s version of experience points) in them, it would be a waste because I very highly doubt I’m going to use this skill continuously.
The other problem is, much like with Skyrim, the differences in the numbers mean very little and are far too subtle. That means you’ll get major jumps when you get new equipment, but until then it’s more about skill and less about leveling up. The two good things about this are being more user skill-focused means that you have to be a better player to get far in the game, not just level up.
I respect that because it means it’s never going to be too easy and you always have to be on your A game. Second, however, is that there’s no level scaling. Well really, that would be impossible anyway because there’s no true character level, so the game couldn’t really guesstimate what your character will be able to take. No, it’s more about “Is that a gorilla? Oh fuck, that’s a gorilla. Let’s get the fuck out”…then later, when you’re ready, you take on the gorilla.
Plus, some enemies have exploitable attack patterns, but here’s where the two main gripes I have with the game come into play…and they both have to do with combat. First, you’ll get a lot of enemies that like to hang back and throw shit at you. You can’t block this. Same goes with gunfire. The best you can do is dodge, but what if you’re fighting multiple opponents at once?
They have no qualms about fucking you over with one fighting from a distance and the other in your face or even one in front and one behind you. They will fuck you over every time they get a chance and this becomes endlessly frustrating, especially since, no matter how hard you try, you can never seem to corral them to one area to fight them fairly.
But that’s not the worst of it, oh no. See, throughout the game you’ll get power attacks, parries, and ripostes. However, even when timed correctly, they often don’t work. Worse still, you NEED them to work or the enemy will just keep wailing on you with the same tired ass combo until you get bored, try to take a swing, and get interrupted with their attack. I hate to sound whiny, but it just isn’t fair…it really isn’t.
Often with these enemies I hit them with my pistol, kick them back, and basically reset their combo. Problem is…guns are “historically accurate.” In other words, you can’t just keep fighting from a distance. You have a “cooldown time” for all secondary weapons, guns included. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t have made the sword combat a little tighter, more focused, and quicker on your part to compensate for the bullshit you have to put up with from time to time.
That said, Risen 2 is an excellent title from a company I already love. In case you didn’t know, this is the same company that made the Gothic games, which I’m a huge fan of. Even if you haven’t tried the Gothic games, that’s okay. Just know that this is easily the best pirate gaming experience on the market, at least in my opinion.