Risen 2 Review
Everything you know about pirates is a lie. You think of them as smelly highwayman of the seven seas, swashbuckling through life with a cutlass in their mouth, a pistol by their side and a strong whiff of grog trailing behind them.
Cute image but you’re wrong.
Pirates are actually hollow shells of men, condemned to a life of fighting monkeys, picking up oysters from the beach and having everyone shout eff off when all they wanted was a little bit of guidance in their directionless, pointless lives.
That’s how Risen 2 depicts them. You play a hollow husk of a man, who begins his adventure by searching for a legendary weapon to kill the kraken by teaming up with Captain Steelbeard. So far, so pirate.
Yet this translates to a lot of meaningless NPC dialogue, confused wading through menus trying to work out what to do next and exploring bland jungle and beach while prodding monkeys and warthogs with your sword. It’s the least pirate thing ever made. They can’t even swim. The screen just fades to black and they respawn on the shore. Rubbish.
It’s very, very reminiscent of Two Worlds, bearing similar scars of a game that started off with a treasure trove of ambition but had it mercilessly scaled back at some point.
Example: Risen 2 is supposedly an open world game yet it’s so frequently and mercilessly chopped up by funnel-neck design and rigid pathways, it’s almost illegal to compare this to something like, say, Skyrim.
Reason? Even when there’s nothing going on in a bland world coloured by pirate vomit, Risen 2 is frequently slapped on the bum with slowdown spikes. And this is with the compromise of narrower pathways and the like.
Even so, pluck through the messy design and you can pick and prod at the best bits of Risen 2. It has a lot of depth and gets better as you invest more time, allowing the novelty of new skills and abilities to paper over the cracks.
There’s also a huge RPG hidden away here, with lots of emergent moments – talk to a hooker, walk away and her pimp will later ‘collect’ just for the conversation.
Beat him to a pulp and this earns you favour with another character further down the line. Those moments just about make Risen 2 worth persisting with as long as you can deal with the harsh reality of how unglamorous a pirate’s life really is.
Risen 2 is an awkward mish-mash of ideas that struggles to be anything more than promising or intriguing. You could work at it and pick out some of the fun elements out of the mess but should games be this much hard work?