The full name, Risen 2: Dark Waters bears an ominous tone right away. It is the sequel to Risen from 2009. Things in this world have gone from bad to worse and is being torn apart and set ablaze.
Waking up in Caldera to an underling tell me, a Lieutenant that I was drunk and a sad excuse for a soldier was off-putting. I only have one eye! I went to talk to the Watchman and a ship was coming in, in the middle of the night no less. But to our horror we witnessed the great Kraken come from the deep ocean from its eternal slumber and wreak havoc upon the crew of the ship. I raced down the steps to the beach and awaited for crew to wash on shore for me to save them, but there was only one survivor - Patty, an old friend.
The atmosphere is immediately engrossing as a thunderstorm is raging and the Kraken who has just destroyed an inbound ship threatens the world. It is up to you to stop it and the Titans all over. Naturally, as the one-eyed member of the Inquisition. The next morning, you speak to your Commanding Officer and are removed off all titles and connection with the Inquisition and set sail to blend in and become a pirate to get closer to obtain a weapon that can destroy the Kraken for good. From there the game really opens up and leaves you with nothing except the shirt on your back - well actually, not even that.
Risen 2: Dark Waters is very much an Action RPG, but it has trace elements of Adventure games as well. You are given no map, no breadcrumbs, only clues within the dialogue you have (so don't skip it or you might miss something) to find your quest objective. From there you must wander the lands and fight ravenous and feral animals that help you level up and possibly obtain food. Lacking a minimap telling you where your quest objective is and no glowy breadcrumb leading you to the next area, the sense of exploration and trial and error is very rewarding. You'll discover chests holding items to help you be successful or earn a little extra cash along the way. The game is hard as steel, engaging in battles whether animals or human attackers, you must always be on the ready to parry and attack without taking too much damage or it's game over and have to reload your last save.
There are areas that are a bit too above your level from within the game or above your own personal skill level to take down. Your partner, Patty is alongside to help you with her saber and trusty flintlock pistol. Once you get in the right area, the story will update your quest progress and you'll go on from there. Within that, sidequests will open to help improve yourself or gain the trust of those around you to help you blend in. As one of your main mission goals is not to be discovered to actually still be working for the Inquisition.
To say that the world of Risen 2 is beautiful is almost an understatement, as the lighting is very impressive and is rich in detail. Unfortunately characters and character animations during dialogues lack such detail and grace. Often looking a little stilted. It almost goes unnoticed with the writing being crass and humorous being delivered by voice actors relatively well that give it a sense of cheese, but keeps you interested no doubt. There are some audio loops for characters that repeat, until you perform certain actions or complete a section of a quest before they enable different behavior.
Once I had earned enough gold, I sought out the clothes merchant and bought the goofiest, striped, mismatched pieces of pirate gear I could buy and while I looked the part, I also looked like what would be part of the circus. The game feels like a great pirate adventure with the look, the feel, and the sounds of what you'd expect alongside a mythological creature who has come back to life after centuries of being imprisoned in the sea.
I made the early mistake of not talking to everyone I saw and missed out on key ways to not only improve my character, but to make things easier for me in the early game (such as a local map of the island so I could Fast Travel from location to location rather than huff it). So after reverting to a very generous autosave, I was able to undo my wrong-doings and talk to the right people and get things going in a much more positive light. There is a morality system in place, but it is not so black and white as you can do bad things that improve your status as a pirate. When talking to Patty's father, Steelbeard - you might say the wrong thing that doesn't give him a high opinion of you as you slogged through swamps with his daughter instead of taking a better path to get to his ship.
The Preview build I had was on PC and ran buttery smooth and no extensive wait times or mid-game loading (other than for cutscenes and location changes). The world is open to roam at your leisure and streams in the world when you need to see it. It was pretty lengthy chunk of the first part of the game, so expect to get a lot of mileage out of this treasure.
Risen 2: Dark Waters starts off well and maintains a strong narrative thread that keeps you interested to see the next quest and evolve your character the way you see fit, yet maintaining a bone-cracking difficulty level in a deeply crafted and beautiful world.
I can't wait to see what else to see what the game has to offer when it releases April 24th here in North America for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.