E3 2011: Risen 2: Dark Waters – Die Hard meets an open-world pirate RPG … seriously

Risen 2: Dark Waters is Die Hard with a Vengeance. Well, sort of. German studio Deep Silver stated that the main character in Risen 2 is a John McClane-esque sort – an unrecognized hero spinning into alcoholism before being called back into action. This is how they explain the open world series’ shift from a medieval epic (the first game) to Risen 2’s “pirate RPG.”

Need back story? Here you go. Following the events of Risen, the only human city left in the world is Caldera, a port city protected from raging titans by a magic crystal. It depends on sea-shipping and now sea monsters are halting shipments. So the main character has to ally with pirates and figure out the cause for the most recent attacks (hint: it’s probably whatever sea monster that gigantic tentacle that shoots up at the end of the trailer is attached to). Your character in Risen 2 starts off as a blank slate, his skills acquired via the people he meets and the decisions he makes. If he hangs out around sketchy pirates, he’ll pick up sneaking and pickpocketing. If he befriends the local baker… well, we don’t know what would happen. We only saw pirates. Who hangs out with bakers when there are pirates around?

The first Risen was a solid game, but was understandably criticized for its dated graphics and occasionally stupid allies (and enemies). Deep Silver has taken note of these problems and is taking a stab at fixing them. Graphically, the environment looks more photorealistic and the characters have also had a makeover. It’s not quite Skyrim just yet, but it’s a huge improvement over the first title.

Your shield hand from Risen now holds throwing knives, a variety of guns, or bombs. You can also throw sand in the eyes of some types of enemies to distract or enrage them. This brings us to the variety of enemies, all of whom have different weaknesses. We saw a group of giant crabs and found the best way to kill the top-heavy beasts was to kick them on their backs and stab their soft underbellies. Unfortunately, the enemies’ behaviors are all being done by hand and most haven’t been implemented yet, so the various baddies we saw mostly ran around aimlessly. But the final product should feature a deep menagerie of smarter targets, which should make combat much more satisfying.

Risen 2: Dark Waters is slated for release in the first half of 2012, so there’s plenty of time to finish all the work left to be done. The early build we saw definitely showed promise and significant improvements from its predecessor, so if the team is able to deliver on that promise, this could be a truly memorable seafaring epic.

Jun 15, 2011

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