Risen 2 Benchmarked
Dark Waters. The Gothic creator Piranha Bytes has turned to a medieval fantasy world in its recent pirate RPG Risen 2. Despite partly outdated technology, the title creates a very special atmosphere. We test which graphics card is required for optimum visual quality in this review.
Titles from Piranha Bytes are not only characterized by their unique design, but also by their rough atmosphere and their spicy, congenial dialogues. Its first action RPG game, Gothic, found its way to the heart of many gamers when the PC title was released more than ten years ago. Unfortunately, the game's sequel and its addon The Night of the Raven was met with less fanfare and suffered from serious problems.
After the extremely buggy Gothic 3, Piranha Bytes parted with its publishers and sparked fear into many fans about the future of the German game developer. Luckily, the developer found a new home with publisher Deep Silver and released Risen in 2009 to generally positive reviews despite its relatively low PC requirements. In this review, we take a look at how the latest notebook graphics cards hold up against the sequel, Risen 2.
It has been more than two and a half years since the original, but the developer has showcased some exciting changes and new technology in Risen 2 with pirates and natives arming pistols and guns instead of simple soldiers and bandits with crossbows and arrows.
The changes may seen huge at first, but it quickly becomes obvious that the sequel has stayed true to the original once you actually start playing Risen 2. Expect no shortage of NPCs with gruff voices and even silly AI at times, all in a rich world teeming with detail and inspirations from its predecessor. While we've only gone through about four hours into the game, we give our initial impressions below and our experience so far under multiple GPUs and graphical settings.
One of the biggest strengths of Risen 2 lies in its fantastic atmosphere. Whether you choose to we walk along the beach or through the jungle or visit a village, you will immediately notice that every scenery has been meticulously developed with passion. While you'll face disorientation after a few minutes in some titles, Piranha Bytes manages to design every detail to be easy on the eyes. A small cave here, a hidden chest there - there is always something to explore. In other words: It's always worth leaving the main path.
In general, scenery and vegetation along with the local fauna and flora all look impressive. The in-game villages have also received a lot of attention including creases and marks on clothing and fish in the background (see below) and other small additions that really liven up the setting. We don't really mind that interactions with the doodads are limited, especially when the coming of dawn or dusk brings about some of the best play on colors we've seen in a game. In terms of atmosphere, the Pirahna Bytes title is definitely on par with Skyrim or The Witcher 2.
The soundtrack deserves some praise, too. Similar to its predecessor, the very pleasant and never obtrusive background music matches the scenery and are charming as well. Although some effects have been rehashed from the original, they have been enhanced with new facets in order to match the pirate theme. Voice synchronization is also convincing as in-game models do an excellent job on both the German and English language settings.
How about the handling and gameplay? Game control has not been one of Pirahna Bytes biggest strengths in the past. The implementation of the inventory, for example, was terrible in Gothic I and II. Fortunately in Risen 2, the inventory functionality has now been reasonably partitioned into well structured menus. A horizontal bar allows changing between ship logs, sea charts, inventory items and the character menu with further subcategories depending on the focused windows. User-friendliness and complexity seem well balanced.
If you do not want to walk around all the time, you can use the quick navigation tool to instantly teleport to key locations that have been previously explored. Nevertheless, the overall control and UI are not exactly perfect.
If you run through the game world and get in contact with objects, it becomes obvious that motion is not flawless. As the collision detection is not perfect, you'll sometimes get stuck or step through otherwise solid objects. Animals and opponents sometimes suffer from coordination problems and run in circles or take unintuitive paths. This is likely due to the rather poor AI of the series, not to mention the once again ridiculous jump and fall animations of our hero.
As a result, the animations are no longer up-to-date and cannot compete with the current batch of action RPG titles. People move clumsily and dollishly and their facial expressions are hardly recognizable. Many titles are much better in this aspect. Risen 2 is also outdated in terms of polygon sets and texture quality. Close objects often look edgy and surfaces are partly blurred. In addition, the implementation on background objects is not flawless: objects pop up, quality changes are visible and textures often flicker.
However, our main critique is the strange fighting system. Piranha Bytes have always had problems here, but at least the predecessor had a fighting system with a few highlights. Risen 2, though, is a step backwards. While fights with human opponents work somewhat decently as you can engage in some strategy and tricks, fights with animals can more often than not be won simply by repetitive clicking. This is mostly due to the fact that animals are unable to block most attacks, meaning you'll end up beating the poor things into a coma most of the time. The overall gameplay experience isn't as bad as Gothic 3, but we feel that certain enemies should have been made more challenging.
The story of Risen 2 is entrenching. Although it never reaches the level of something like Mass Effect 3, it motivates enough to keep the player playing. The same is true for the quests: passable, but not earth-shattering.
We think that Risen 2 is a successful sequel that Gothic fans can enjoy. For better or worse, the sequel inherits many of the designs, virtues and concepts that developer Pirahna Bytes is best known for.
Depending on the environment, the frame rate can fluctuate quite noticeably. Locations with sparse vegetation (like the beach) often run significantly smoother than when in the woods or in inhabited settlements simply due to the increase complexity of nearby objects and items.
To ensure that the title runs decent in every situation, we choose a demanding scene: the island of Takarigua where the hero finds himself following the tutorial. See our following video for the complete benchmarked scene. The path leads through a settlement, which we walk across straight away. Afterwards, we climb up a small hill with a sort of prison on the peak. As soon as we are in front of guard Carter, we stop recording with the FRAPS tool.
During this scene, the recorded values are about 10-20 FPS lower than the otherwise usual average frame rate. As a result, you can generally still play smoothly even with only 20-25 fps in our benchmark scene. However, we still suggest consistent frame rates of above 30 per second for an optimum gaming experience.
A lot can be configured in the options menu. In "Video", you can not only set the resolution, but also the refresh rate and VSync to prohibit line shifting. Further options are available under "Graphics", for example antialiasing and two- to 16-fold anisotropic filtering to sharpen up distant textures.
With that said, it's too bad that there are no global detail setting options. As a result, every option has to be set manually to low, medium, high or ultra. On the bright side, the graphics settings can be changed even while in-game for on-the-fly tweaking. The following screenshots depict our settings.
The different graphics options have a significant impact not only on the shading and the texture quality, but also on distance and vegetation, both of which suffer tremendously at low or medium details. Grass, for example is only sparsely drawn or not at all and can take away a lot of the game's visual appeal. Distant objects will also lack contour and details. In short: The title is far more impressive in high or very high details settings.
In order to enjoy Risen 2 on a notebook at a decent graphical quality, the model should feature an upper mid-range graphics card. Entry-level graphics cards like the HD Graphics 4000 can only adequately in low graphics options. Popular graphics cards with excellent price-performance ratios like the GeForce GT 630M are sufficient for medium details at most.
Those who wish to play smoothly in 1600 x 900 pixels and on high details will require a high-end graphics card (e.g., GeForce GTX 560M). Only high-end models on par with the Radeon HD 6990M can do 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) and maximum details.
Risen 2 may not be the perfect example of an action RPG, but its existing scenarios and gameplay are unique enough that users should give the title a try. We feel that the atmosphere especially is top tier and somewhat compensates for the weaknesses. Just keep in mind, however, that Risen 2 can only live up to its full potential on a powerful multimedia or gaming notebook.
Most of the results stem from laptops from Schenker-Notebooks (mysn.de). Many thanks for supporting us!
- Schenker XMG P501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GTX 560M, GTX 580M, Radeon HD 6970M & HD 6990M, 8 GB RAM)
- Schenker XMG A501 (Core i7-2630QM, HD Graphics 3000 & GeForce GT 555M, 8 GB RAM)
- Schenker Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M, 4 GB RAM)
The other benchmarks stem from the following computers:
- One M73-2O (Core i7-3720QM, HD Graphics 4000 & GeForce GT 650M GDDR5, 8 GB RAM)
- Acer TravelMate 7740G (Core i5-430M, Radeon HD 5650M, 4 GB RAM)
Except from the Xesia M501 (ForceWare 296.17) and the One M73-2O (ForceWare 295.93) GPU driver version ForceWare 296.10 or Catalyst 12.4 were used.
Further graphics benchmarks are available in the following, continuously updated list:
Further benchmarks and graphics cards are available in our article Computer games on Laptop Graphics cards.