Pirates. Everyone loves a good pirate. Alongside ninjas, pirates are a staple of pop culture, standing in a pantheon of cool archetypes for the modern video gamer. It’s odd then that, unlike the film industry, pirates have never really clicked with the video game world. Outside of Sid Meier’s Pirates, the sub-sub-sub genre is littered with half-baked ideas and terribly executed games, can Risen 2 overcome the curse?
No, no it can’t. Debuting on PC half a year ago, Risen 2 was a glitchy mess that only post-release patches turned into a somewhat decent stab at a pirating party. Unfortunately any steps forward that those patches might have taken on PC have been slammed back with an unfortunate console port that multiples the original problems while also introducing a whole host of new ones.
The original Risen gained some notoriety down under when it was banned in Australia for using sexual activity as a reward during the game. While that sounds AWESOME it also meant that the original didn’t have the sort of exposure that the sequel demands straight off the bat.
Players are given a brief introduction to the world of Risen as they enter this iteration. The ancient Titan gods are pissed, fighting amongst themselves for eons over old betrayals they have slowly turned their attention to mortals and begin to wage terrible ruin upon them.
Taking place in the ancient Caribbean, players find themselves tasked with finding weapons to combat the Titans, while infiltrating the ranks of the pirate elite and attempting to combat the various dangers that make up every day life in Caldera, the continent that is the world of Risen 2.
At the core of the Risen 2 experience is what intends to be a deep, fulfilling and rewarding RPG, but unfortunately a combination of less than inspiring design choices, narrative muddiness and some odd gameplay glitches mean that what should have been an innovative entry to a world ruled by games like Skyrim, Mass Effect and Final Fantasy will ultimately be reduced to an afterthought for the genre as a whole.
Taking place over 60 odd hours of gameplay, Risen tasks you with building your character by acquiring copious amounts of gold and leveling up particular stats. The only way to procure gold and skills (or alternatively rum) is through mini-missions, brawling or discovery of the many islands that litter Caldera.
What on the outside seems like a great motivator to drive the narrative and the development of your character forward becomes a chore as gamers will soon realize how under-powered you start off and how much actual grinding needs to be done to make the game somewhat fun to play.
Other RPG’s manage to make the grinding elements (which are a necessary evil in the genre) at least a little interesting as you power up your character to god-like levels; but with Risen the grinding is so infuriatingly dull and repetitive that after a while your entire gaming experience feels like it’s fallen into a Matrix deja-vu loop that makes you question whether the game is really a game anymore, or just some sort of punishment.
Risen 2 also has some graphical issues that betray the roots of the game in the PC arena, a PC arena that seems to have come from a decade ago. Textures frequently pop into view while NPC’s and you own character will float through many obstacles as if they weren’t even there. Couple this with some plan ugly areas that litter Risen 2 and what is usually a mainstay of any budding, sweeping RPG classic, the environment, is yet another knife in the corpse of the game.
Taking a knife to the game is also something you might be tempted to do during the first few hours of combat. What eventually opens up to a reasonable attempt at piratical panache is initially a matter of jabbing away on the X button and hoping that your enemy dies before you do. Criminally under-explored, the combat aspect of the game had some much potential that it’s failure to compel is one of the most disappointing aspects of the entire game.
There are glimmers contained within Risen 2 that point to a vast ambition by developers Piranha, but it’s the execution of some of the smaller, more controllable issues that lets the entire thing down.
Far from being a pirates life for gamers, Risen 2 will soon sink without a trace, laden down by technical problems, uninspiring characters and a narrative that just doesn’t have any spark. 
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Classification: M – Fantasy Violence