Sailing with Pirates
Don’t be afraid. This will not be a report about events at the Somalian coast or the strait of Malacca. Roleplaying games like to prefer the comfortable version of a dreamed reality. The kind of reality in which you possess the ability to change things and in which even the greatest dangers become less frightening with the right selection of skills. Worlds created to be mastered. Just like the one in which we sail with Risen 2. Shortly before the trade show »E3« in Los Angeles, publisher Deep Silver invited the German press to Munich to present the current state of their newest pet project. Additionally, the developers sent master pirate Björn Pankratz to spin a yarn. And what yarn did he spin! It did not just consist of the usual fictional stories but also contained a lot of facts that let the ears of young landsmen grow.
But first things first. Let’s remember: In Risen (part 1), a nameless hero (as required for a Piranha Bytes game) was cast ashore at a subtropical island. With sword and magic, bow and speech, he mastered an adventure. In the end, he defeated a Titan locked up in an underground cavern inside a volcano. All that happened in a partially romantic, partially dangerous world full of whimsical characters, fantastic monsters and mysterious dungeons. After the story was over, the Titan was defeated but the world outside was still terrorized by uncounted other Titans. This is where the story of Risen 2 picks up. The Titans are still roaming the world and endanger the humans who have retreated to the few remaining places where they can still be relatively safe. Realms fall, societies break apart. New, however, is the setting. Piranha Bytes dares a jump into a another felt time. Even if Björn Pankratz ensures us it’s the same world: The pirates, who were a minor faction in Risen 1 are now the main faction of Risen 2. To make them a bit more proper and have them meet the expectations to typical pirates as most people know them from movies and stories, they do not use bows or crossbows anymore. Instead, the rely on archaic firearms like flintlock pistols and muskets. Also not en vogue anymore are the mighty metal armours. What proper pirate would run around in a strong harness? They have been replaced by the colourful jackets and shirts that pirates do fancy so much.
»In the foreground
is the story that
we want to tell.«
But let’s come to the clothing part later. More important is the question: What happened to the hero? After he defeated the Titan, he sailed away with his pirate friend Patty to search for other settlements. Patty on the other hand – those of you who played Risen 1 might remember her – was searching for her father, the fearsome pirate captain Gregorius Steelbeard. Our hero, who we’ll play again in the second part, did not want to have anything to do with that. He settled down in the city of Caldera, the last fortress of the Inquisition. He kept himself busy with moping. Because he did defeat the Titan – but to what end? No fame, no fortune, no honour, no perspective. The Titans are still threatening a devastated world. So, what does a grown up hero do in such a case? He grabs a new buddy named »Alcohol« and drowns himself in booze and self-loathing. The story starts when a ship that was destroyed by sea monsters is washed ashore on the island. Among the survivors is Patty who not only claims to have found her father but that he also discovered a way to defeat the Titans.My ship is my castle
Let’s jump back to the here and now for a minute. When the development of Risen 2 started, publisher and developer collected the feedback to the first part and analysed it. Deep Silver’s brand manager Daniel Oberlerchner explains: »One thing that everyone agreed upon was that the design of the characters in Risen 1 was not that good. Also, the colour palette was criticised. In Risen 1, there were – put simply – three shades of brown. Risen 2 will be a bit more colourful. Of course it won’t be higgledy-piggledy, it will also be as dark as the predecessor. But the characters will show more details.«
In addition to that we have the new feature that NPCs in the game now consist of individual modules. In Risen 1, they were made of only two components: Head and body. Now there are much more: Head, torso, arms, legs... all of which can be textured individually and combined freely with the others. This will allow a much greater variety in character appearances. Furthermore, Piranha Bytes will use sharper textures than in Risen 1 where many things looked a bit blurry. Other technical enhancements are for example the SpeedTree engine in which the leafs of trees now finally do not turn anymore if the player moves.
The combat system has also been redone. Since you will not fight with shield and sword but with cutlass or pistol, one hand remains free. That can be used for different other actions. At this point the so called »Dirty Tricks« come into play. You will be able to throw sand into your opponent’s eyes. Or to confuse him with your pet parrot. The spectrum of firearms will be large. Weapons with one or more barrels, muskets, shotguns, pistols or special ammunition are supposed to provide a wide variety of firearms. Special attacks are sometimes more effective than normal attacks. By the way: The really good firearms are reserved to people who play friends with the Inquisition. As usual, the richest people have the best weapons.
»We program a
not a naval combat
It is also possible in Risen 2 Dark Waters to travel from one island to another. Contrary to the predecessor, the game world is not made of just one single island anymore. There are several island and some coastal regions you can explore. To cross the ocean between these places, you’ll get your own ship. It serves as a kind of base or camp to which you always return. Here, you will also find the NPCs you recruited during the game. Of course, such a nice tub won’t be thrown after you. You have to earn your own vessel. That means that as player, you will have to climb the ranks with the pirates so that you will become captain of your own ship at some point. Björn Pankratz: »Obviously, we program a roleplaying game and no naval battle simulator. So there won’t be any big sea battles.« Also, no one has to be afraid of having to navigate his own barque himself. »You don’t have to equip yourself with a sextant«, promises Björn. You can hire Patty as navigator and in the course of the game you will find other NPCs who’ll serve as crew and combat party. It kind of reminds us of Gothic II where you had to assemble a crew and sail to Irdorath to defeat the master dragon. Who exactly will be serving on your ship depends on the faction that you befriend. There will be several. Daniel describes the motivation: »It’s about to work your way up from a nobody to someone with his own ship and crew.«
Known factions so far are the pirates which you will join inevitability in the course of the game – it’s a pirate game after all – and the Inquisition. Developer and publisher remain secretive about other possible factions (we suspect that there might be at least one other group with a focus on magic). But there is still plenty of time to present the other factions one by one. According to Deep Silver, Risen 2 Dark Waters isn’t due before the first quarter of 2012. Back to the game and your crew. From your crew, you can pick one NPC at a time to accompany you during your strolls on the different islands. This one will then support you with his skills and abilities. The companions will involve themselves in your dialogues and comment on your actions. Björn Pankratz says: »Because many players criticised that the characters in Risen 1 were too flat and exchangeable, we tried to make characters for Risen 2 Dark Water to whom the player will be able to develop a better emotional bond. We also tried to mix in some divisive, weird types so that there is someone for every taste.« The world itself is planned to be rather large. Piranha Bytes says it will be about the size of Gothic 3. But of course you have to keep in mind that most of it will be water. However, it should help to get a general impression on the size of the world. Björn explains: »There is a big city that will be properly explored only in the later parts of the game. There are islands which are built more linear and others in the later course of the game which will be more open. The locations are not just harvested once and then left behind as in some other games.« The islands will be completely open, so after landing there you will be able to go where ever you like – as we know it from Piranha Bytes games. By the way: Rowboats serve as teleporter replacement, which kind of fits the setting. Daniel adds: »You will meet some characters from Risen 1 again. Carlos, for example. Or Steelbeard who was only mentioned in Risen 1 and who you will now finally meet in person. And Patty, of course.«