RPGamer joined publisher Deep Silver, developer Piranha Bytes, and several other reporters for a roundtable discussion on Risen 2: Dark Waters. Although Deep Silver will be showing the game a week from now at Gamescom, they decided to fill us in on the game's development since E3.
The first few questions focused on what has changed from the first Risen to Risen 2. The most obvious change is Risen 2's heavy pirate theme. Piranha Bytes felt the best and most well directed part of the first game was a treasure hunting quest that had the player searching all over the island within a satisfying story arc. It decided to expand upon that quest idea and ratchet up the pirate theme as it fit the world of Risen perfectly.
The pirate theme permeates through the game in more than just setting and story. In Risen 1, you could join one of three factions. Depending on what faction you joined, everything from your perspective on the story and the world down to little things like the user interface changed. In fact, to see all of the game's content, you would have to play the game to completion three times. Piranha Bytes is hoping to fix a lot of that with Risen 2. Here, you will always be a pirate. While there will still be multiple factions you can join, the main difference is that your choice determines your access to perk trainers in the world, who can join your crew, and access to a few exclusive quests.
Of course, what pirate game would be complete without a ship? You will have full access to a ship in Risen 2, and over the course of the game you will build up a crew. It is important to remember that Piranha Bytes isn't building a sailing simulation. Rather, the ship is your mobile base and functions similarly to the first Mass Effect, where you choose a destination and are transported there after a brief cut scene. You also interact your crew on the ship and decide who will go out with you on shore leave. While you can't customize your ship, there will be different vessels available over the course of the game.
Another area we touched upon in the roundtable discussion was the character progression system. There is no class system in Risen 2, rather your character is an empty vessel for your play style. You can mix and match any of the different fighting styles, be that magic, guns, or swordplay. A lot of that combat variety comes from the various perks your character can learn. There are seventy perks in the game and for every perk there is an NPC in the world who can teach you it. Getting a trainer to teach you a perk can involve anything from joining a faction, paying gold for the skill, getting a reward for completing a quest line, going through several dialog options, or any combination of the above. One perk, for example, is the Parrot Trainer perk, which allows you to launch a parrot at people to distract them during a fight. It is a rather useful skill when you consider that a lot of enemies you encounter in the world are just as tough and skilled as you are. Another interesting perk that was mentioned is the Monkey Trainer perk. It allows you to inhabit a monkey NPC in order to reach previous inaccessible areas or levers or even to sneak through people's house and steal loot. There is still a very basic skill interface in the character menu but most of your character's customization comes from these perks. This, combined with heavy dialog options, side quests, and the faction system, means that Risen 2 will prove to be a fairly open ended and customizable experience.
On the technical side of things, the game is being optimized for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. If you buy the PC version, for example, you can expect it to look much better than it would on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as new PCs are more capable than the current generation of consoles. That is not to say that the 360 and PS3 versions of the game will look or perform badly, rather that each version will play to the strengths of the console that it is on. In fact, Piranha Bytes is assuring everyone that the game will look and performs leaps and bounds over the Xbox 360 port of Risen 1. Piranha Bytes is still hard at work on the title and is aiming for an early 2012 release. If you are looking for a hardcore pirate RPG full of swearing, wenches, whores, parrots, and, of course, loot, be sure to keep an eye on this title.