After exploring the vast expanses of Skyrim you’re going to need a vacation. Where should you go after spending a few months in the cold dreary mountains? The beach! You’ll soon be able to go on a tropical adventure in Risen 2. I was able to play an early build of the game. Here are some impressions.
The setting in Risen 2 is one of it’s best qualities. Tropical is a setting not used very often in video games. Exploring the lush jungles are great. Seeing the rays of the sunlight come through the wide leaves of the trees is beautiful. It almost makes you forget the lurking things trying to kill you. There are some technical hiccups but I played an early build of the game. There is still plenty of time to polish out those glitches.
Risen 2 is hard. Every aspect of it challenges you. The combat, leveling up, gaining skills, getting items, completing quests even just obtaining a map of the area you are in is a challenge. This is something that sets Risen 2 apart. You aren’t Kratos or Master Chief who single-handedly kill thousands or save whole worlds. You’re a regular person who can very easily be killed by any other regular person. Fortunately, for much of my playtime I had an AI partner or two with me. They were much better at the game than I was so I cowardly hid behind them when I got into serious trouble.
The battle system is easy to learn but a little clunky. When you want to fight you press a button and pull out the weapon you have equipped. While there is no ‘lock on’ button, if you block the game will lock onto an enemy for you. Your character feels a bit stiff while fighting.
The difficulty was frustrating at first but I eventually realized that battles would be more defensive and tactical, especially when all I had was a sword. Finding openings, backing away, circling enemies. I would back out of an enemy’s range, wait for them to make a mistake and attack. Battles with other humans became tense and exciting. They became even better when I got more skills and items to use. I leveled up my Cunning and was able to effectively use Dirty Tricks like throwing sand in my opponents face to blind them. A pistol takes a long time to reload but, if you hit with it, it becomes a devastating attack. Getting a hold of the battle system along with gaining new weapons and abilities made fighting humans fun.
Unfortunately the fights with animals and monsters retained the frustration throughout my play through. Unlike human enemies who will block and parry, animals and monsters simply charge at you. I couldn’t block their attacks and they couldn’t block mine. When I fought them I wasn’t using any strategy. I was simply attacking over and over until they died or they killed me.
Luckily,once you start leveling up you start killing the animals more than they kill you. Leveling and skills are handled interestingly in Risen 2. For each kill or quest you gain Glory. Once you have enough Glory you can increase one of five attributes; Blades, Firearms, Toughness, Cunning or Voodoo. Increasing an attribute, in turn, increases different Talents. Dirty Tricks, Thievery and Silver Tongue increase as Cunning increases. Slashing Weapons, Piercing Weapons, and Throwing Weapons increase as Blades increase. Increasing these Talents lets you learn different skills from various teachers you will find on your quest. It may sound complicated on paper (or on Internet or… whatever) but it felt simple once I started playing. I focused on Cunning. As my Cunning increased I was able to learn how to sneak, pickpocket and lock pick. As my Silver Tongue talent increased I was able to sweet talk people into doing what I wanted. Obtaining Glory was easy enough, but to learn skills you have to pay gold, which was much harder to come by.
The difficulty of Risen 2 doesn’t just add to the combat. It really made me act like a pirate. Gold is scarce and I really had to scrounge and steal in order to find it and other supplies. I went into the game thinking I wouldn’t steal or take immoral jobs. That went out the window once I realized I needed to get some skills and equipment. I was tricking people, stealing from their locked chests and pickpocketing them within two hours. Pirates are a nasty, lying, backstabbing lot and I was quickly one of them. I began looking forward to the next time I could sneak into someones house and take their loot. Risen 2 made me enjoy being a pirate.
Risen 2’s frustrating animals and steep learning curve didn’t diminish my fun. The difficulty amped up my sense of accomplishment after every won battle, every quest completed, and every lock picked. Piranha Bytes still has time to polish some of the graphical hiccups and make it as stunning as it can be. I’m looking forward to playing the full game when it’s released April 24th in the US and April 27th in Europe.