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Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho!
Booze in this game is just as it should be to a pirate – precious! Unlike most of the other healing items in the game, they provide an insta-heal rather than a slower regeneration. There are plenty of plants that can be harvested for their healing properties, but unless you brew them into something more effective, they’ll just provide a small burst of regeneration. Meat can also be picked up from various animals that you kill, and cooked at campfires to turn it into regenerative provisions. You can learn to make your own rum, and can even acquire recipes for others drinks with varied effects – ever wanted to make a Bloody Mary?
You’ll be needing a fair share of that restorative booze and plantlife, because the difficulty level in Risen 2 is nothing if a little unforgiving. Playing on medium, I was constantly using my hotkeyed healing items and often found myself completely outclassed in fights. You have to learn to pick and choose your battles – if you get defeated the first time then the chances are you just can’t beat that particular enemy on your own right now (running back to other areas for a bit of help from the nearest friendly is always an option).
As well as using your sword you can find various items to throw at your opponents, including blinding sand and rock hard coconuts. Daggers and pistols can also slot into your off hand, although the reload time on the guns does make them strictly for opportune moments. All in all the combat feels a little clunky and lacking in fluidity, as there is no targeting system to deal with multiple enemies and the camera swings about much on it’s own accord. Things do feel a little repetitive despite the various items you can use, and unless you plug all your gold and glory into blade based skills it is just a matter of slashing things repeatedly – hopefully the full game will allow for a greater depth to the combat no matter your specialisation. Outside those problems the combat is pretty tough – frequent saving is in order!
This leads nicely into another aspect of the difficulty level, which is the way the game handles loss. Duels with other characters are not necessarily to the death, and after being given a good thrashing your character or opponent will drag himself upright once again and carry on – no death, no loading screen. Sure you can die in game (and you will!), but little situations like this (often over money) add a great depth to the game, as you actually have to deal with the consequences of losing a fight, rather than instantaneously reloading and playing it through until you’re victorious.
Other characters will take note of your accomplishments or lack thereof, and may be impressed by how you handle certain situations. One pirate captain that I was trying to convince to recruit me was particularly impressed by the way I bashed up a man demanding money for having spoken to a lovely young woman inside a tavern…
The main thing to take away from Risen 2 is that the game is packed with character. Although there are no morality or class systems, you can still steer Jim-lad in whatever direction you want. If you want to pick a fight you can keep pushing the buttons of another other character, or you can back off and find another way to solve your problem- bottles of booze are great at greasing wheels. A silver tongue can get you out of tricky situations, and the right outfit coupled with a high toughness rating will do away with the need for conversation altogether.
As far as character animations go the facial expressions and body movements are nothing mindblowing, and female characters in particular have a host of over the top gestures. Your main companion Patty is always swinging her arms and hips about as if she’s stuck in a I’m a little tea pot routine and banging on about being a woman who can kick ass – it gets tiresome pretty quickly. The models of NPC’s also repeat quite often, but luckily the dialogue and voice acting easily distract from the fact that the same man is a gruff lighthouse keeper, pirate prisoner and slightly camp storemaster. The writing is often genuinely funny even if the copious swearing does wear a bit thin at times, and NPC’s can often have small quirks that make them seem more than human shaped shop fronts. There’s a real sense of character and wit to this pirate infested world, which makes a welcome change from the bland medieval seriousness of other Western RPG’s.
The environment itself is also looking promising. The islands of the setting provide natural limitations to the world, and Jim-lad is free to explore every inch of the current island without any loading times. There’s a day/night system, NPC’s will go about their daily routines, and sometimes even the weather changes. Jungle grottos are dappled with sunlight, and everything feels suitably pirate. That said there is still an awful lot of smoothing over to be done graphically, as trees grow and shrink out of the landscape and guards melt into each other to form the ultimate three headed door blocker. The camera can occasionally do odd things in conversation and combat, and there are minor irritations like not being able to pick things up with your sword drawn. Sound wise Risen 2 is much more ship shape, and the jungle atmos in particular is fantastic, with sound effects backed up by some jaunty nautical themes.
Risen 2 is definitely one to watch for the RPG fans out there. It has it’s problems in it’s current state, but ultimately the version I played is still a beta, and there are a good couple of months to iron out the largest problem – at the moment, the visuals. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air that will bring plenty of character to the table, and will stand out amongst other RPG’s for having a well defined central character and a cracking sense of humour. Combat should hopefully open up further into the game, and I’m intrigued enough by the story to carry it through to it’s conclusion. The difficulty is challenging without being stupid about it, and the whole package is forming a coherent, likable world that should demand a good chunk of your time come April.
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