Customer Review

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, May 3, 2012
This review is from: Risen 2 : Dark Waters [Download] (Software Download)
This is a game that is both fun and frustrating in equal measures. While it retains much of the enjoyability of previous Piranha Bytes games, the terrible combat, graphical issues, and lack of climbing and swimming really detract from the overall experience. Most reviews of the game thus far have labeled it a "mixed bag," which is very accurate. Let me briefly list a few of the major issues you should be aware of before you purchase this game.

First and foremost, it definitely feels like a Piranha Bytes game. If you've played Gothic I/II and/or Risen, the style and feel of gameplay is very similar. I count that to be an enormous mark in its favor. The combination of a relatively non-linear, explorable world and open-ended rpg elements that made previous Piranha Bytes games great is definitely there, but not quite to the extent it was in previous games. If you are anything like me, as soon as you start a Piranha Bytes game you go off exploring, climbing everything in sight and trying to get to hidden treasure. Unfortunately, one of the first things you will notice when you start the game is that you cannot climb or swim. This is a huge, huge step backwards. I know it seems like small matter, but climbing exploration was such a huge part of the game for me in previous Piranha Bytes games that the failure to include it is extremely disappointing and makes the world feel significantly smaller. The map might be as big as previous games, but the fact that you can only go on the flat parts instead of climbing all over the place means that in terms of actual explorable space it is functionally smaller. And yes, I realize that you can climb in some places, but only where it was scripted, and they are extremely few and far between. You also cannot swim, which is very annoying in itself, given that the entire game takes place on islands. It is made even worse by the fact that when you go out too far into the water the screen turns black and you are literally teleported further ashore. It is quite jarring.

Second, the combat is truly awful. Some people say that Piranha Bytes always has clunky combat, but I love it. Gothic II's combat was, in my opinion, the best melee combat ever in a rpg. It was all about skill and timing. The combat in Risen II is all about luck and stunlocking. They removed the dodge move from Risen I, and now there is literally no way to get out of the way of attacks. Against humanoids with weapons the combat is decent at best, with the ability to parry and block at least giving you the time you need to charge your pistol shots or dirty tricks (you can throw sand or other items in their eyes to stun them, but both dirty tricks and your dueling pistol can only be fired once every 20 seconds or so). Against animals, however, you have no block or dodge, and no choice but to keep saving and loading until you get lucky and hit them enough before they start stunlocking you into oblivion. Until you get guns (which is about 15 hours or so into the game), any fights against animals are nothing but button mashing, luck, and lots of loading. It is possibly the most frustrating combat I've ever encountered, rivaled only by the abominations that were the wild boars in Gothic III. Once you get guns it gets a whole lot easier, but until then, you will spend lots of time looking at that loading screen. They clearly meant to include a dodge, as right at the beginning an npc tells you that the best way to fight boars is to wait until they charge at you and dodge out of the way. Only problem is, you can't. You have no choice but to stand there and take boar tusks to the knees while you impotently try to get your character to finish his sword swinging animation, which keeps getting cut off by the boars' attacks.

Third, the graphics leave much to be desired. The game looks decent enough, if slightly outdated. I usually do not care about graphics at all. I could have cared less if they had just reused Risen's graphics engine. However, even I noticed the graphics in this game, because the problem is that there are a LOT of graphical bugs, several of which are extremely noticeable and frustrating. Many, if not most, NVIDIA users have problems with flickering trees, and everyone must deal with the ludicrously short draw distances. They seem to have two draw distances, one for undetailed textures and one for detailed textures. The undetailed texture draw distance is fine, but the detailed texture draw distance is set to something roughly equivalent to ten feet of game space. The trees literally change shape and expand and contract as you run past them as the game switches to and from levels of texture detail. Many of them look like they are imploding on themselves then exploding into leaves. It's hard to describe, but very strange and annoying. And while Piranha Bytes lets you modify just about everything in their ini files, for some reason the detailed draw distance is not one of those things. How this made it past the play testers in beyond me.

Now, you may be wondering why I've had so many bad things to say about a game I'm giving four stars to. It's because this is a good game, but the whole time you're playing it you're thinking how great it could have been. They have come so, so close to making a truly excellent game, but they fall just short. It has all the things we loved in the Gothic series; the exploration, the choices, the guilds/factions, the unique characters, investing is unique skills, etc. But many of those things are merely echoes of what they were in previous games. They are there, but they aren't there as much as they were before. If you liked Gothic and Risen, I can almost guarantee that you will like this game. But you will think how much more you would have like it if they hadn't screwed some of this stuff up so badly. The fact that I'm giving four stars to a game that has truly awful combat should be some indication of how good the rest of the game is when you realize that a large portion of your time is spent in combat. Piranha Bytes may have lost bits and pieces of what made their games great, but Risen II is still a good game and certainly worth playing. It definitely isn't as bad as Gothic III, but that's not really saying much. The game isn't fundamentally flawed in the way that Gothic III was, so there is still hope that a patch or two could up this game from good to great. When it comes down to it, though, a year from now when I'm looking to replay an old game, it's going to be Gothic II, not Risen II, that I turn to.

Edit (05/15/12): Now that the first patch has been released, I must amend my review. Several of my complaints have been addressed, most importantly the combat against animals. Piranha Bytes has added in both the ability to dodge at any time during fights, as well as the ability to block most animals. This has significantly improved the combat. While it is still not a fantastic combat system at its core (too much button mashing instead of skilled timing as compared to their previous games), it is miles ahead of the truly horrific mess it was on initial release. They have also improved several graphical glitches, notably the flickering trees and Level of Detail draw distances. The trees and shrubs still change size and shape, but they now do so at a distance instead of two feet in front of you. Again, it's still not ideal, but it is an enormous improvement. In all, they adequately responded to two of my three main complaints (very quickly, no less), and while my first and foremost complaint (the decrease in overall openness of the world compared to their previous games) is not likely to be fixed at any point, I am very satisfied with their quick response to public outcry. My rating of the game has changed from a 7.5 to a 9 in light of the new patch. It's still not as good as their previous games (excluding the aberrational Gothic III), but the patch has brought it significantly closer.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2012 2:16:13 PM PDT
Jason Necros says:
Nice review, helpful because I really liked Risen, but now I am thinking that this one is a pass until it drops in price.

Posted on May 5, 2012 2:57:10 PM PDT
K. Nielson says:
Jessy, do me a favor and say, is it true what some people say that in this game you can't join different factions? Because, that was one of the key elements of all Gothics. And if it's not in Risen 2, it's another reason for me not to spend money on this game.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2012 1:27:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 6, 2012 1:28:59 AM PDT
Cerulean says:
Thanks for the review. After reading your reviews of Gothic 3, Risen, and Arcania, I was hoping you would chime in on this game as well.

Posted on May 6, 2012 2:13:28 AM PDT
Jesse Rouse says:
I had heard that, too, but it is false. About a third of the way through the game you have to choose whether to join the Inquisition or the Natives. It's not quite the same as the factions in other Piranha Bytes games, though. Instead of having a major impact on the plot like in previous games, it mostly impacts what gameplay options are available to you. If you join the Inquisition you learn how to use firearms, and if you join the Natives you learn voodoo. Just like if in Gothic II you join the Militia you learn mostly swordfighting while if you join the Mages Guild you learn runes.

Posted on May 6, 2012 3:32:59 PM PDT
K. Nielson says:
Well that doesn't put my mind at ease at all...That just proves further that Risen 2 is inferior to its predecessors. It is interesting how on Metacritic this game almost doesn't have middle scores. It's either hated or loved. I personally did not like the first Risen. To me it was no more than a cheap clone of Gothic 2 with almost no innovation. So when people say that Risen 2 is in some ways worse than the first one, I laugh hysterically.

I've already burned my hands on Arcania..guess I'll just wait till the price drops.

Oh, and by the way, no retail copy for PC? Are they serious?

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2012 10:19:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 6, 2012 10:20:06 PM PDT
Jesse Rouse says:
Ah, I liked Risen exactly because it was a clone of Gothic II. I'd be perfectly happy if they just reused the Gothic II engine and simply made a new map and new quests. I'm not looking for anything new or innovative; I just want more of the same, because Gothic II is, in my opinion, the greatest RPG ever made. And yes, Risen II is definitely inferior to any of the previous Piranha Bytes games, excepting Gothic III of course. However, as I said, it's still a good game. It's just a step down from the great games they've already made. It is certainly worlds better than Arcania, but that's not saying much, either, as I said it was the worst game I've ever played in my review of it. I would certainly recommend playing Risen II at some point, but like you said, not until the price drops, as it is quite expensive, even if you don't count the cost of the Day 1 DLC they released.
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