When Drew reviewed the PC version of Risen 2 back in April, I was definitely intrigued. I like western RPGs for the most part, and the idea of having one focusing on pirates as opposed to the standard fantasy fare had me excited. Fast forward a few months, and I finally got my hands on the console port of a seemingly solid game. After spending countless hours digging through this massive adventure I can safely say that we might be hitting the end-of-generation wall. Risen 2 has not made the transition to console smoothly, resulting in a less than impressive performance.
The story starts out like most of its type. You play an unnamed hero who is drowning his troubled past in a bottle, thus you will slowly gather tidbits of info along the journey. You currently are part of the Inquisition and not a very reliable one at that. The game opens with a nasty storm and a ship being brought into the harbor. It turns out the kraken is involved and you are tasked with finding any survivors, of which there is only one: Mara. She becomes your travelling companion as your commanding officer sends you to infiltrate the pirate faction and discover a weapon that could destroy the beast.
Sure it isn’t revolutionary, but it is interesting. The voice acting can be stiff at times, but there are plenty of charming characters to keep it interesting. The story actually branches off and allows some freedom in the decisions you make. Will you follow your orders, or perhaps fall in line with the pirates? The choice is yours.
The core game is massive, clocking in at 60 hours of content easily. Sure, you can mash through the campaign in much less time, but it is still quite hefty. Risen 2 is your standard western action RPG. You spend most of your time fighting with swords and guns while traversing areas, killing plenty of island-dwelling creatures and of course, completing tasks for seemingly helpless locals. There is no shortage of things to keep you busy around the world of Risen 2.
I wish all of this was enough to keep Risen 2 afloat, but sadly it is not. The game has suffered from being ported over to a console. We all know Western RPGs have a certain amount of “jank” to them, but Risen 2 really showcases it. First on the list, are the visuals. The game only looked “decent” on PC at best. When ported over to Xbox 360, things really took a beating. Foliage appears on the fly, while the frame rate and animations are downright embarrassing. It is bad enough that the game has issues with navigation, but when so many of the environments are re-used over and over again, it doesn’t help.
Combat is also troublesome. The original PC version eventually patched in a dodge mechanic to help with the stiff fighting, but that is sadly omitted here. It is also worth noting that there is no traditional block button. Instead you pull the left trigger to parry attacks, which almost feels useless at first. Enemies and hit detection are poorly delivered, giving the combat a true sense of feeling half-assed. The only tutorial at the outset of the game is that “X,X,X” is your combo. If that is the breadth of your combat, things aren’t looking up.
Upgrading your character and skills do help a lot of these aspects, and to be fair the gunplay is a little better handled, but there is a large barrier to entry to get that far into it. Your character has plenty of new perks they can level up including the likes of intimidation. You can be so scary in the game people will do anything you tell them. It is moments like this that really disappoint, because so much of the rest of the game is so rough around the edges. If you can handle that and get accustomed to its issues, there is a solid experience buried (I like that pun) underneath.
Risen 2 is a solid game with a host of technical issues that drag it down constantly. I found myself battling back and forth with enjoyment, mostly because the game consistently failed to present the simplest task without forcing me to deal with its issues. If you have patience, and have been looking for a solid pirate experience on a console, this is your best bet. If the option for PC is present, I highly recommend going that route, though. As it stands, this version suffers more because of the system’s limitations than anything else.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.