The history of gnomes in games is, like gnomes themselves, short and pathetic. Gordon Freeman's got fired into space, then reappeared as Gnome Chompski in Left 4 Dead. Bully's idle fisher gnomes got smashed to dust so Jimmy could wear a gnome suit. WoW's gnomes are basically wannabe hobbits. And Risen? Risen turned our beloved garden ornaments into grotesque fat pig-goblin-thieves which you slaughtered by the hundred.
So, oddly, some of the developer's concern in RPG Risen II has been about gnomic rights. The sequence we saw, when it didn't feature 20 foot high mystical monsters or someone stealing a galleon, focused on the gnomes, their language and their fundamental aboriginal humanity - they're not monsters, they're not stupid, they've just been brought up in a primitive, alternative culture.
Not that the first game's massacre leaves you grinding your gnashers with guilt in this game. They're still not totally sympathetic individuals, though their thievery is now justified; apparently, each gnome is hunting for the object that will guarantee them access to the afterlife, essentially a fetish (in the old sense). Though, of course, this newfound character complexity isn't restricted just to gnomes. Your hero is a tortured soul too, poor thing.