Publisher:Deep Silver Platform:PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Release Date: Q2 2012
I never played the original Risen, having been put off by all the confusion created by the differing qualities of the PC and console versions at the time, which is something I've come to regret over the last few days of playing Risen 2: Dark Waters. Not because I feel I might have missed out on an amazing game, but because I've been so confused by the opening of the game, which offers no concession to new players whatsoever.
Instead, after some vague mythological information about titans, you're dumped into the city of Caldera surrounded by factions and characters completely unfamiliar to you. I spent the next ten minutes trying to confirm if this was the same Caldera that was featured in The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.
Turns out it isn't; it's actually a harbour town held by an armed force called the Inquisition and which your nameless hero starts the game allied with.
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Gradually, I picked the story up through osmosis by talking to the characters and established that the Inquisition is engaged in a war with mammoth, God-like beings called Titans. When rumour comes to Caldera of a magical weapon which could end the war and which a group of pirates are hunting for, you're told to brave the sea-monsters blockading the town and go undercover with the pirates to find it.
From there, Risen 2: Dark Waters becomes a tale of buckling swashes, as you ingratiate yourself with pirate clans and roam the world searching for clues, all the while trying to keep your real identity secret. The fact that you have no real identity and that your character is called The Nameless Hero makes this pretty easy, really.
This identity inconsistency is just one of a few hilarious incongruities which litter the game though, it turns out. The Nameless Hero, despite also having been the saviour from the previous game, starts Risen 2 with his skills completely reset - and we really do mean completely. One of the first things we did in the game was pay a large amount of gold to a captured prisoner so that he could teach us how to crouch.
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While moments like this shatter the suspension of disbelief though, they don't break the game and can't really be called faults. It's more that they are jar against the smoothness of the rest of the game, like the first time you kill a turkey in the game and find out you can harvest it for chicken meat. Small errors which, while noticeable, don't really impact on the quality of the game as a whole.
In fact, Risen 2 actually manages to draw some rudimentary, broken charm out of these little oversights - like an old jalopy that's all the more charismatic for the way the bumper is hanging off. Weird moments where you character throws away his old clothes, in order to look like a beggar, then immediately finds himself in need of a nice shirt so he can meet the local governor, summon face-palms that are almost worth the pain.