Beware of pirates and dress codes in this open-world RPG.
Risen 2: Dark Waters is an open-world role-playing game set in the Caribbean Sea during the age of pirates and colonialism. In it you play a burned out drunk with an eye patch who uses a combination of witty wordsmithery and swordfighting against a variety of enemies both historically-rooted and purely supernatural. But for as much as this game dabbles in the fantastical, it focuses on one very serious issue: sometimes you just don't want to wear a shirt.
Well, at least that was the focus of the somewhat lighthearted demo that publisher Deep Silver ran us through earlier today at Gamescom. It was more or less a metaphor for the choice you have in Risen 2. Your character is looking to meet with an island's governor in order to get his hands on a map of the island. As you approach the governor's mansion, the guards warn you that you'll need to be dressed a little better than that in order to meet with such an esteemed political leader. When you do charge up the stairs still very much shirtless, a fight breaks out and things head south.
Now, you can continue fighting your way to the governor and strong-arm him, but you don't have to. You can run along and find yourself a shirt through a variety of means, whether that's doing favors for people, stealing one from a barracks, or, one would hope, simply buying one if your character hadn't spend all his money on booze.
As the game expands, you're faced with more serious choices. Meeting with the governor, he offers you to join his employ and hunt down some escaped slaves (or as he slimily calls them, "involuntary servants"). It's up to you whether you want to work for such a dirtbag or not, a choice between filling your pockets and suffering a guilty conscience or taking the high road and remaining a poor adventurer.
Said adventuring takes a lot of forms. Risen 2 is a game where you can freely run through lush island jungles, sail the seas between islands, and upgrade your combat skills to fit your preferred play style. There's also a full conversation choice system with varying personalities to suit a given situation. One of the big goals for Risen 2, according to Deep Silver, is to take all of this openness and use it to reverse the "funnel effect" of the original game. Specifically, way the original Risen started out as an open experience and narrowed your level of choice as the story developed. Now the team working on Risen 2 want the opposite approach: start with linear experience (including purposely leaving out a character editor) and let the player control the experience more and more as the narrative unfolds.
We also had a chance to see the Xbox 360 version of Risen 2, which Deep Silver wanted to assure us was going to be far closer to its PC peer than the original version, which was criticized for having a thoroughly substandard console port. There's definitely a noticeable difference, but aside from the predictably lower resolution on 360, there wasn't a staggering gulf between the two platforms.
After all this, we're cautiously optimistic about Risen 2. It seems to be a game with a lot of options to offer the player, with a setting that hasn't often been used in the role-playing world. Check back for more coverage before the game's released.