The option to focus on gunplay over swordplay in Risen 2 is a nice addition, but the game's use of firearms feels a little underdeveloped and less fluid than it should. It's more naturally conducive to the "attack-run-repeat" flow of combat than the swordplay, but also isn't terribly satisfying. That said, having a pistol my melee and magic-focused hero could fire off occasionally during a sword fight was a welcome addition. Some time into my adventure, I allied myself with some island natives who taught me Voodoo, which turned out to be one of the more interesting skills to pursue. Aside from the more standard spells I could deploy during combat, I was eventually able to complete quests by gathering components, creating a Voodoo Doll at one of the game's many altars, and actually taking control of other characters. By and large, these gameplay segments helped break up the action with an atypical and welcome addition to questing. Some of the thief-like skills that I learned also complimented the game's pirate motif quite well. Familiars like monkeys and parrots became available once my Cunning skill was high enough, and could be deployed to steal for me or distract enemies during combat, respectively. Another cool, cunning-related skill allowed me to shoot some NPCs in the face, mid-conversation, if I felt a particular chat was going awry. While systems like these weren't game-changing, they were nice additions that helped me keep my mind on treasure hunting, grog-swilling, and swashbuckling. For all the specifically pirate-themed rigmarole, it becomes evident quite quickly that Risen 2 is more of a standard RPG with a pirate skin than a completely new type of experience. As one would hope in a pirate-themed RPG, I got a ship of my own as the story unfolded, but it was relegated to being a taxi that ferried me between the game's multiple islands. It's expected, but still a bit disappointing, that sailing the high seas is pretty much relegated to a "click-and-go" affair managed via the world map. Risen 2: Dark Waters offers a lot to like taken in its parts. A competent story, a good amount of player-driven choices, and beautiful locations to explore make it one of the best (and only) pirate RPGs out there. But it fell short for me when it came to other mechanical things like combat and character development. Fans of previous Piranha Bytes titles will likely have an easier time getting going, because familiarity with the developer's particular style game systems takes some of the sting out. However, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it at the end of the day, because the stew of gameplay mechanics it contains—particularly the bread-and-butter combat--just didn't hold up for hours on end.
Why didn't I bring my gun to this sword fight?
[This Risen 2: Dark Waters review is based on a digital PC retail version of the game, provided by the publisher.]