Having originally launched on PC back in April, it’s a relief to see Risen 2: Dark Waters finally arrive on console. Risen become a cult classic following it’s Xbox 360 release, despite it’s widely noted technical inferiority to the PC original, and so giving the sequel it’s chance to shine across the board is a welcome decision at a time when the release schedule is looking decidedly less varied with every week, particularly at retail. That Risen 2: Dark Waters provides an enjoyable gameplay experience is simply the icing on the console cake.
Borrowing liberally from its predecessor, Risen 2: Dark Waters once again casts the player as an unnamed hero, now a member of the Inquisition. Set in the same world as the original videogame, Arborea, there are a number of notable characters that reappear in this sequel, as well as nods to familiar events and locations. Indeed, the popular Patty returns in this sequel and plays a major role, revealing one of Risen 2: Dark Waters’ most interesting story telling innovations. Much like the unfortunately malnourished Enter the Matrix, Risen 2: Dark Waters offers players some familiarity with the world and the stories that will be told within, but gives them their own new perspective to see it from. Players could’ve been taking on the role of Patty, but it’s far more interesting to be involved with her than play as her.
The gameplay designs lay somewhere between The Witcher 2 and the Fable series, though isn’t as in-depth as the former nor as accessible as the latter. It would appear as though Piranha Bytes has opted for that middle ground; the space in which you don’t have to be a role-playing game (RPG) aficionado to get to grips with Risen 2: Dark Waters, but by the same regard this isn’t a straightforward adventure videogame. There are decisions to be made, and how you make them will affect the paths you travel down. This largely relates to communications and mid-mission actions: for example, pushing Patty in a direction she doesn’t like may offer you a small boost, but taking the time to convince her that it’s the best thing for all parties involved and she’ll do it willingly, returning much greater benefits. Furthermore, aiding her in her own goals will make her more likely to return the favour, as is also the case with many specific non-player characters (NPCs) you will meet along your travels.
The world of Arborea is actually rather remarkable, delivering all kinds of terrain in a fashion belied by the images of sun kissed beaches and stormy oceans. These areas do exist of course, but dank dungeons and caves shimmering with the glow of mystical crystals also highlight your journey. Of course, within this world are many dangerous and bizarre creatures – not to mention the other humans – wanting nothing more than to cause you harm. At first the combat is sluggish and unwieldy, offering the player little-to-no indication as to how to progress. However, once some time has been invested in learning its nuances, and some financial investment requesting to learn new manoeuvres from NPCs, players will soon find the correct footing and begin to take down smaller foes with ease. It’s unfortunate that the design team hasn’t found a way to make Risen 2: Dark Waters’ combat more enjoyable for the first third of the videogame however, as this will undoubtedly be a barrier that many won’t be able to pass.
As compensation for the delay between the PC and console releases, both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions of the videogame come packaged with the first downloadable content (DLC) pack available, The Air Temple. Adding a brand new area and questline, The Air Temple see gargoyles infesting the world of Arborea with the titular Air Temple seeming the source. Players will encounter new allies and enemies, new weapons and side quests; and priced at £7.99 GBP on PC, you’d be a fool to look this gift horse in the mouth.
That being said, Risen 2: Dark Waters on console does suffer in comparison to its PC brethren. It may only be minor detail, and unless you’ve got a PC capable of running the videogame at its very highest settings you’re unlikely to even be aware such differences, but Risen 2: Dark Waters does not make the translation intact. Framerate dips are far more noticeable and incidental details in vegetation and environmental objects fade into a blurry mess far too often. Indeed the draw distance is only significantly less generous on console than it is on PC. This isn’t to say that Risen 2: Dark Waters is a bad looking videogame by any means, but it is one wherein there are obviously flaws in its visual design.
With regards to the aural presentation, Risen 2: Dark Waters features some remarkable voice acting. It may only just manage to sidestep verily and forsoothing its way through the campaign, but this is a fault of the writing rather than the delivery, which thankfully does make a considered effort to gloss over the fact that many of the NPCs look very similar, but worse still have the same preset sequence of animations. Risen 2: Dark Waters’ voice acting gives life to characters life that would otherwise be little more than wooden placeholders.
With its eventual arrival on consoles Risen 2: Dark Waters is very shrewdly placed in a position of power. At present, the high-definition systems are undergoing what is undoubtedly their thinnest release schedule line-up of the year, and as such Risen 2: Dark Waters is the only big name on the agenda for the next couple of weeks. This will work in the videogame’s favour, but in truth that’s a factor for marketing to consider, for gamers there’s only one thing that’s important: whether or not Risen 2: Dark Waters is an enjoyable videogame experience. Despite its many flaws and the issues surrounding its console conversion, Risen 2: Dark Waters performs more than adequately, and is a welcomingly lengthy adventure to fill those summer evenings before the big names start lining-up on store shelves this autumn.