Previews

Risen 2: Pirate RPG is great fun - but will it shine on consoles?

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Any gamer in the know loves a good RPG - there's something universal about all that questing and character development, and no other genre offers such a deep and satisfying level of immersion.

There are plenty of people, though, who run screaming from all the Tolkienesque trappings so often found in RPGs, though. If, like them, you feel nothing but disdain for orcs, goblins and elves, Risen 2: Dark Waters might reaffirm your faith. It's a conventional RPG, but with a welcome pirate theme.

In terms of pedigree, it's not exactly Mass Effect: its developer, Piranha Bytes, is based in Germany, and it will be published by the small but perfectly formed Deep Silver. The same team brought us the original Risen in 2009, which didn't prove to be a wholly satisfactory exercise: Risen was generally acclaimed for its subject matter and RPG-rigour, at least on the PC, but it suffered badly from a hamfisted, ugly port to the Xbox 360. Luckily, we've now managed to play through a couple of bits of Risen 2, on the Xbox 360, so are well placed to assess it in anticipation of its late-April release.

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Drunken pirate fun
Before we got our paws on Risen 2, Deep Silver brand manager Pete Brolly took us through some of its key aspects - handily, given that they wouldn't necessarily be obvious when jumping into two segments of the game. He explained that Risen 2 has a standalone story, which takes place a year or so after the first game.

Again, you take on the role of a nameless hero, this time tasked with infiltrating a group of pirates, who appear to constitute the only section of society equipped with a weapon sufficiently powerful to take on the Titans, which are threatening mankind. The action spans three tropical islands, although we only explored one, called Tacarigua. Some storyline continuity from the first game is provided by Patty, who spent the first game looking for her father, Captain Steelbeard - both feature this time around.

Brolly added that there are two factions in the game - Inquisition and Natives. Both pretty self-explanatory, and you can choose to align yourself with either. Since you can only learn new skills from non-player characters, those who want to achieve proficiency with muskets and the like would be well advised to join the Inquisition, whereas those interested in exercising Voodoo should check out the Natives.

That voodoo that you do
Brolly proceeded to demonstrate some of the fun that could be had with a bit of voodoo. You can, for example, take a hair from a character, use that to fashion a voodoo doll and then use that to take control of the character, in order to fulfil quests. Brolly also demonstrated how to use voodoo to get two nearby enemies - he used the example of gorillas - to fight each other rather than you.

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He then showed a key element of the game: Dirty Tricks. This proved invaluable in combat: hitting the right bumper brings up a wheel with various abilities that can be easily triggered, such as an auto-aimed pistol-shot when you're in the middle of a swordfight.

Each Dirty Trick has a cool-down period before you can trigger another, and the wheel includes the ability to take a swig of rum, which restores your health. Another, amusing Dirty Trick is the ability to unleash a parrot which flies around targeted enemies and distracts them. You can also send out a monkey kept in your pocket, to scope out areas, access small spaces and stealthily steal items. If he is killed, though, you'll have to buy a new one.

Deep Silver has clearly improved the classic RPG side of the game in comparison with its predecessor: Brolly explained that Risen 2 contains far more equipment for players to collect, each item of which improves different attributes, and through the skills you learn from NPCs, you can specialise, for example in throwing or slashing weapons, or different types of muskets.

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