Risen 2: Dark Waters [Interview] – Building pirates for all platforms
Following on from our recent hands-on preview of Risen 2: Dark Waters, we sat down with publisher Deep Silver’s Pete Brolly.
We spoke about how Risen 2 has changed from the first game in terms of its environmental layout, how the problems the first game has on 360 have been fixed and whether or not developing for consoles has a negative effect on the PC version.
So grab a bottle of rum, correctly position your eye patch and read what the old sea dog had to say.
IncGamers: How would you describe the way Risen 2 is set out? It’s not open-world in the same sense as Skyrim, but it’s certainly not linear either.
Pete Brolly: It’s definitely open-world. The difference is, though.., in Risen 1 you start the game and you’re free to go anywhere, and we got a lot of complaints that there wasn’t enough explanation. We didn’t want people to get lost at the start of Risen 2 so it’s a bit linear early on as you play through missions that introduce you to the world.
Then, on the second island, it’s all opened up and a bit more is explained. And then on the next island you get your own ship and you’re free to travel anywhere you like. So, no matter what the mission, you can go anywhere at any time.
Risen 1 was a like a funnel, where it started out open world and got more linear. In Risen 2 that’s reversed.
IG: How does your ship work?
PB: It acts as a hub in the world; your crew will hang out there and you can sleep to pass the time. You navigate with your map and tell your helmsman where you want to go – then you’ll set sail and there’ll be a cut-scene with you leaving one island and arriving at the next.
The idea behind that is that Risen 1 on consoles wasn’t well received because it was quite rushed, it was really an afterthought to the PC version. This time we wanted to focus on PC and console equally, and one of the biggest things was how to deal with the limited memory on consoles. So we made different, smaller, islands that could be entirely loaded into memory and have no loading screens.
Altogether though, the world is as big as Risen 1.
IG: When developing on multiple platforms like that, is it inevitable that one version will suffer? For example, has the PC version been compromised to make it the same as the console versions?
PB: No, definitely not. It’s all about how you approach the problem. The problem with Risen 1 was that the island was huge and basically had one big texture map placed on top of it – it wasn’t exactly designed with console optimisation in mind.
We fixed that by cutting the island up into smaller bits but letting you travel freely between them. The only compromise is that there’s a loading screen between islands, but nothing else in the PC version has been dumbed down to fit.
IG: Given the reaction to the 360 version of Risen 1, was there any talk of abandoning Risen 2 on console and concentrating your efforts on the one platform? Is that even a financially viable option?
PB: Risen is huge, particularly in Germany, on PC. But we really want to open the game up to everybody and the best way to do that is to release it on as many platforms as possible. PC is doing really well, especially with Steam and other digital providers, but there are still a lot of people that only play on console and we don’t want them to miss out.
This is definitely a PC-style experience, but there’s still a demand from console players for a big, demanding RPG that isn’t going to hold your hand. There’s a steep learning curve here, but there’s a lot of reward as well.
In an age of RPGs with action elements, and action games with RPG elements, it’s nice to have a classic hardcore RPG for console and PC players.
IG: Risen 2 does away with a mini-map and the Fable-style in-game line telling you where to go. That’s a different approach from the one most RPGs of this type are now taking, are you worried that some players may find the going tough? Or is that aimed squarely at hardened RPG players?
PB: The game is definitely a hardcore RPG and is very classical in nature, but we have introduced some devices to make navigation slightly easier. We save all the dialogue for you to go back and look and see whether or not an NPC told you to go somewhere that you didn’t pick up on.
You can also put points on your map for certain missions to make it easier for you to navigate. We didn’t want to overcrowd the HUD with looks of mini-maps etc, it was very much a case of making immersion as strong as possible. There’s also an option to fast travel to previously visited locations.
I don’t think players will have too much trouble in adapting to the game, though. Once you start playing you’ll very quickly pick up on how the world works and how everything fits together.
IG: The two major factions that you can join in Risen 2 are the Inquisition and the Voodoo, what are the advantages of each and are you forever locked out from the one you don’t initially choose?
PB: If you choose the Voodoo option then you’ll lock yourself out of some Inquisition missions, as well as some skills that you could potentially learn. You will still be able to use your pistol and ‘dirty trick’ skills if you choose Voodoo, but you won’t increase your firearms abilities enough to use rifles, muskets or shotguns.
On the other hand, you will get the Voodoo skills and missions.
IG: What are some of those Voodoo skills?
PB: New dialogue options open up where you can actually manipulate NPCs, so you can pluck a hair from their head and make a Voodoo puppet based on that person. You can then use that to take on a quest.
For example, one mission might involve a ship that needs to be taken over but is guarded by enemies. You could fight them yourself or you could take over the commander and use him to dismiss the troops.
There are also combat skills such as a spectre that can be used as a melee weapon or to cast spells – i.e. you can tell one enemy to attack another.
IG: You can also recruit crew members… how does that work and how do they help?
PB: They’re recruited at different times throughout the story so, depending on how you play, you won’t unlock them all – if you miss out a certain mission you might miss a crew member. At any one time you can only have one crew member with you, and they all have different talents.
One is melee focused, one is a ranged fighter, one is a gnome that will loot any treasures you come across and there are various others. In combat you don’t have to look after them all the time, but they’re not invincible either. They won’t just stand there and deal out damage no matter what, they will get knocked down – you can then choose to heal them with some rum or wait until the enemies are beaten and they will get up of their own accord.
So, they are there to help but they don’t make things too easy.
IG: Perhaps the natural question when talking about companions is the possibility of multiplayer, have you thought about including that in some form?
PB: Risen 2 is definitely a single player focused game, from the very beginning that’s always what it was going to be. The developer is known for crafting single player worlds and they didn’t want to detract from their skills.
IG: What will players of the first Risen specifically notice in terms of improvements?
PB: There are more combat options; the dirty tricks can really be thrown into the mix and used to great effect. In general, though, it continues the strengths of Risen 1. For example, the character creation is very in-depth but is light on numbers – you don’t have to read stats constantly and there’s a good balance between detail and not being overwhelming.