Sometimes a second chance just doesn’t cut it. Not only does the console adaptation of Risen 2: Dark Waters fail to improve on its prosaic 2009 predecessor, but it fumbles at amending the many mistakes made by the original PC version published earlier this year. Warning signs that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 renderings would fall flat into shark-infested currents appeared early on: With Risen 2’s secondary release date being doubly pushed back, it was evident that developer Piranha Bytes was having a difficult time smoothing out all the rough edges of its inferior product. Overseer Deep Silver has had their ups (Dead Island) and their downs (mostly everything else), but the fact that Risen 2 is actually slightly worse than its initial arrangement shows that they were dealing with a doomed project from day one. By cramming Risen 2 with pointless DLC (the equally dull Treasure Island and Air Temple mission packs), rather than tending to the myriad of pronounced issues at hand, nearly everyone involved with the assembly of this game has conclusively labeled themselves dunces when it comes to digital dexterity.
Risen 2 tries oh-so-hard to deliver Skyrim on the high seas, but miscarries miserably. The narrative isn’t so much a direct sequel to Risen, which culminated with most of humanity being decimated, as it is a reset of its central storyline. You play as the same unmannerly Nameless Hero from the first installment, archipelago-hustling around drab coastal environments in an irresolute attempt to halt the evil reign of a dastardly titan who seeks to finalize the destruction that had already been put into motion. Of course, you meet many a brash NPC along the way, and if there’s something to be admired about Risen 2, it’s that it never truly takes its boneheaded tale or its context too seriously, offering up a bounty of ridiculous characters who embrace their clichés and the surrounding tropes with a decent amount of cordial comic relief. Unfortunately, even with its commendable voice acting and characterization, the core gameplay mechanics meet with utter disaster, so the minimal distraction the sound design and scripting provide don’t do much to enhance the overall package.
As a fantasy-themed action RPG, Risen 2 is fitfully flaccid at best. The glory points XP-leveling model is tired and dissuading. There’s little to no skill required in field battles; wild button-mashing is the primary method of dispatching both monster and human foes until more developed swashbuckling techniques are unlocked. Even then, any experimentation on the player’s part to install some temporary finesse into Risen 2’s broken combat system by formatting a set pattern of attacks is all for nothing; abnormally, Risen 2 doesn’t reward practice, but seems to frown on it. I spent numerous sessions training and completing extra quests of bromidic buccaneering with the belief that my talents were being honed, but all I ended up with was the ability to lob coconuts at enemies, and an unbending longing for the coveted evade maneuver that was retroactively patched into the PC version, but, bizarrely, left out completely here. Risen 2 throws firearms into the mix instead of Risen’s archery armory, but, not surprisingly, shooting off pirate pistols is about as exciting as the aforementioned fruit tossing.
Risen 2’s console graphics represent some of the poorest of the year, with Piranha Bytes apparently dedicating approximately zero man hours to refining the staggering amount of visual ruptures and framerate complications with the PC variant. The area lighting is horrid and surface textures are blatantly deformed. Deep Silver, for all their maladministration, is a company that frequently prides themselves on optical enticement. A momentary comparison of Risen 2’s ambiance to that of Dead Island’s, another title set largely around stained shorelines, and the difference is mind-boggling; how Deep Silver greenlit this dreck is beyond me. If you found snippets of amusement to apprize in the first Risen, and absolutely must see how things play out for its anonymous seafaring antihero, elect to pick the PC version of Risen 2 as your poison.