Risen 2 Dark Waters Sinks As Much As It Swims

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Looking for a high-seas adventure full of booty (ahem ... the treasure), swashbuckling and yo-ho-ho and a bottle of grog? Risen 2 Dark Waters may not be your mug of rum.

Risen 2 Dark Waters is a mash-up of Greek mythology and pirate cliches with some period-based sexism tossed in for good measure. There is a story here, but while you are trying to find a mythological weapon to defeat Mara and her enthralled titan henchman, the Kraken, getting distracted is easy. After all, there are islands brimming with treasure to be found, native voodoo-practicing tribes to avoid or fight, a little detached role-play to struggle with, plus sword fighting, musket shooting, high-seas adventure and exploration.

The game itself, with the special edition that includes two DLC (downloadable content) packs has a built-in time sink but not all of this Spanish Inquisition/Caribbean/pirate-based adventure is so captivating that you can't put it down. Why? Because the game has problems.

The main stumbling point is the look of the game, which tosses away players like tattered sails flapping in the wind rather than pulling them in. With the high-def graphics of which the PlayStation 3 is capable, players should expect to see smooth, crisp graphics with a relatively even frame rate. Risen 2 doesn't achieve either. The graphics go from a slight blur to pixilated edges, and there are stutters and skips in the game delivery. The animations can be redundant and during cut scenes, the background can shift or the central figures can suddenly be facing the wrong way.

But the game does have strengths. The audio portion of the game is much better, with decent voice acting, humor and a solid musical score. During dialogue scenes, players are given a choice of retorts, and can use those to begin to forge a personality for the central character, a nameless hero once a lieutenant in the army of the Spanish Inquisition.

Risen 2 also employs familiar trappings for any RPG player, with an easy-to-navigate interface. Also, it's possible to hop in and play almost immediately.

There are fun distractions—factions to appease, treasures galore, voodoo to avoid, native tribes that define the word "stereotypical." And while the third-person combat isn't bad sometimes, at other times, it feels like a ship trying to set sail with the anchor down.

The control scheme for the PS3 is what one would expect: Sword play involves button mashing while trying to swing the camera about to see what it is you are fighting, and there are long-range attacks with a musket that can be problematic at times. (Aarrrr! Gimme a sword, matey, and let's be at it!) The inventory navigation is accessible and easy to use, while the game itself does not present many problems telling players where to go next and providing a means to get there (although, there are challenges along the way, but that is part of the gameplay experience).

While the video-game world seems ready for a truly terrific pirate-based game, Risen 2 doesn't quite fill the bill. There have been runs at the title, but The Secret of Monkey Island (LucasArts, 1990) is still probably one of the best that's ever been done.

Risen 2 Dark Waters has problems, to be sure. It's taking on water and there is no bilge pump onboard. This title is a fair adventure but it is certainly not a high-end gaming experience, nor is it a tepid affair that fails to provide any entertainment value. It has intent, but it is just a little short too on delivery.

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