Risen 2: Dark Waters 2-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 27, 2014
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The gameplay experience is the most important aspect of any game, in my opinion, so things must be done right. For Risen 2 some things are done right, but a lot, too much, is not. How about we focus on the good first?
The inventory system has been completely re-done from the original game, with the useful impact of having a ranged weapon 'always' available to you, instead of requiring the time to switch from a melee weapon to a ranged weapon. The reason I put always in quotes is because there is a delay for actually pulling out the weapon, an action that can be interrupted, and because there is a reload time for many of the weapons. At least these times are not too terribly long.
The map system has also been redesigned some, especially with regards to the fast-travel system. Once you have the map of an area and visit certain places, you will unlock their fast-travel points and save some time walking.
Companions are available to you for much of the game, which has its good and bad points. The good is that they will help you out in combat by doing damage and taking hits for you. The bad is that companion AI can be pretty darn stupid. I have seen them walk on tables for no reason, get stuck on rocks and unable to move until I dismiss them, get so thoroughly lost that I probably played for twenty minutes to half an hour without seeing them, and they do not even engage enemies consistently. One companion consistently will come to your aid when an enemy engages you, but another will just sit there until after you start attacking.
Another issue that is less an AI issue than it is a design issue is their climbing ability. You will come across ledges that you can climb up to get to new places, and your companions will follow. The catch is that they are slower than you at climbing, so you can lose them if you do not wait for them. This is legitimately annoying because the companions are so useful when dealing with enemies.
Voodoo is awkward, from what I have experienced. This is not some magical force you will be able to call upon, but something primarily only useful in contrived situations or when you prepare for it. Voodoo dolls, for example, require you to create them and have a strand of hair from the target, so you can only use them as part of quests. I have not actually used much more advanced techniques than that though, because I was focusing more of my resources to other abilities that seemed more useful, like monkey training. I am serious, trained monkeys are useful because you can control them to steal stuff more easily than yourself.
Leveling has seen some interesting changes, and not really for the better. Instead of being able to just learn new abilities and improve old ones, there is an implicit and invisible skill tree you must obey. To learn new abilities you have to visit and pay trainers (even those who say they owe you a favor), but you also have to have so many points into some characteristic, such as Cunning, which you increase by expending Glory points. By breaking the improvement system between the myriad of trainers and the character menu, it has become fairly difficult to approach. It is also frustrating as this system locks abilities behind walls that can take you quite a while to reach.
The health system has also been overhauled. In the first game when you ate or consumed a health potion, you immediately gained that health. In Risen 2 provisions and some drinks give you regeneration, to a point, while others will immediately heal you for so much. How you know which does which is unclear, and the regeneration speed is so slow that you really do not want to rely on it in fights.
The worst gameplay aspect of the game is easily the combat system. The only thing about it that I like is that it actually does resemble fencing and uses the proper terminology for sword techniques. Just about everything else frustrates me to the point of rage-cheating. There are enemies that will chain attacks so quickly that you effectively never get a chance to hit them without also being hit. (Maybe there are skills you can learn to help with this, but see the earlier paragraph on the leveling process.) There are enemies that have both melee and ranged attacks, with the ranged attacks always possessing perfect aim, so only an active dodge will save you. (Your aim can be so bad that you can miss enemies practically three arm lengths away.) Of course there are also enemies that hit hard and have very high health. Honestly you could probably double the damage of the player attacks and still not achieve parity with the lethality of enemies.
As bad as all that may sound, it is exponentially worse when facing groups of enemies. Not only will their ability to flank you come into play, and the ranged attacks become obscenely more dangerous, but also the targeting system starts to work its hexes on you.
The first title had a soft lock-on system that was quite annoying for how easily you could lose the lock and not be facing the right direction. Risen 2 is actually worse, because it is no longer a lock-on system but a targeting system with unknown behavior. One would be tempted to say its behavior is illogical, but that is impossible. Software cannot behave illogically if it functions, which makes some things all the more scary because that means it makes logical sense in some way. It does not target the enemy the camera is focused on, because I have turned the camera and not changed targets. But then, sometimes it will change when I move the camera. It does not target the closest enemy because it has targeted an out of range enemy while I receive melee blows from one much closer. But then I have seen it spin me around because another enemy got closer to me, but came from behind. It does not make sense to me, but there must be some rules it follows to even function.
This targeting system will orient your character towards the target, but because it does not lock-on, your movement is relative to yourself. If you move to the right or left, you will turn and go in those directions. It also resulted in me attacking the void behind my character because I would be moving backward when I press the attack button, causing me to turn around, attack nothing, and get hit in the back by my foe.
At the six hour and 26 minute mark, I finally got fed up enough that I decided to just cheat so I could advance the game and get it over with. Understand this cheating was not to avoid a single, specific area, but a systemic problem of the game's combat gameplay, so I turned to the cheats many, many times.
According to the game saves, I spent 19 hours and 13 minutes in Risen 2, which can be an underestimate with reloading, and according to Steam I spent around 21 hours in the game, which counts time in menus. That puts the expected playtime at around 20 hours.
Risen 2 has its good points and bad points for gameplay, but I find the bad points do outweigh the good. There is fun to be had with the good points, but whenever you come up to the bad, like the combat, the fun is practically undone with the frustration.