Published on February 10th, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey
Two Worlds II Review: Worlds Apart
Developer: Reality Pump
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC
Two Worlds II is a sequel that has suffers from a rare problem. Before its release, gamers were already convinced of the game’s inferiority based on the original which came out three years ago. So many gamers were “crackin’ wise about its momma” that the decision on Two World II’s quality was quickly made before the game even had a chance to even prove itself. However, the game actually ends up turning the tables on those expectations, improving the broken mechanics and raising the quality on everything its predecessor failed with. Well, not everything, I won’t get ahead of myself here. But the basic fundamentals such as graphics, gameplay, quests, etc. have been improved enough to make time with Two Worlds II surprisingly enjoyable.
I feel that I should clarify my opening paragraph before moving on. Two Worlds II is better than the first, yes, but it’s still plagued with issues and really odd design decisions. I suppose the best way to set this up is to relate the first few minutes of my time with the game.
The game begins with a character customization screen as what is typical of an RPG such as this. As I looked over the options I noticed a small gray box to the bottom left of the screen. There were letters which looked suspiciously like the ending of sentences. I made an educated guess that this lost gray box existed to show me the instructions on how to make my character. What it was doing off to the left and partially obstructed by reality was beyond my reasoning at the time.
Options for designing your character are limited, only letting you choose a male character while offering a handful of face designs and hairstyles. Facial features can be altered but I could barely notice much difference as I tweaked the numbers. After I made my warrior, who looked like a Jersey Shore reject, I stopped short as panic set in. I didn’t know what button to press to accept and continue. As if playing a game of Russian roulette with the barrel pointed at my helpless hero I cautiously began pressing buttons one by one.
I chose—poorly. Back to the menu I went; progress halted and erased. Shit.
I attempted it once more, trying to remember which numbers went for which physical feature. I finished, held my breath, and pressed the right button. The opening cutscene started and the adventure began. Man, I thought to myself, I only started the game 20 minutes ago but it already has me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait to see what else is in store.
How about nonsensical images in the item screen?
After going through the introduction, which had all the campy grace of a He-Man cartoon, and escaping to the wilds with my rescuers, I decided to check my inventory. All items had a list of stats that appeared to the left when highlighted. But instead of real stats such as weapon damage, only indecipherable symbols were shown; a sword and shield, a hammer and shield and—stars? What the hell do the stars mean? Not even the included booklet had an answer.
After the earlier fun of creating my character, this new bit of joy only increased the speed in which I was spiraling into despair. So I did the most natural thing that came to mind and threw my hands up in the air in frustration before flipping off my TV screen.
It seemed more logical at the time.
I later learned that this is something a lot of gamers had issues with. I found out how to fix the problem and I’ll explain it step-by-step. First, go Settings then Graphics and set “Use safe area in interface” to “ON.” That fixes the floating box. Now, still in Settings, go to Interface. Now scroll down until you see “Replace Icons with Text.” Set it to “ON” to turn the symbols into refreshingly informative text. I still don’t know what the stars mean.
The story for Two Worlds II is simple to follow. The game begins with your character imprisoned by the evil Emperor Gandohar. Things look grim but as luck would have it the hero is soon rescued by a group of Orc soldiers, who, after a clumsy rescue, manage to warp you to an island at the edge of the world. But things are not finished between the hero and Gandohar. He still holds your sister in captivity and now you must venture into the world and gather allies to help you rescue your sister and defeat Gandohar once and for all.
The story is split into several chapters, each one ending with your hero one step closer to his goal. The chapters contain a decent amount of story missions to complete. Sub-missions are also plentiful and offer gamers the ability to pad their stats and explore more of the world. Though many of these missions are actually not that interesting, many of which involve the “go here, do that, come back” routine which has become familiar and boring.
Two Worlds II is an open-world game but I never found a lot to do when I traveled off the beaten path. There was a lot of open space and some caves to explore, but nothing on the same level as other open-world titles. Most places of interest are clearly marked on the map and tie in to either a story quest or sub-mission. But I still recommend traveling a little, as there are many creatures to hunt plus herbs to gather for use in alchemy.
Completing missions and killing enemies will grant experience points which go to leveling up. Once a level is gained, points will be given in two categories: Attribute points and Skill points. Attribute points can be dumped into attributes such as Strength, Willpower, Endurance, or Accuracy. Skill points can be used to upgrade skills such as Stamina, Metallurgy, or class specific skills for Warrior, Mage or Ranger.
The graphics are a somewhat of a mixed bag. The lighting effects, especially from the sun itself, can be blinding and the surrounding environments will often have a supernatural glow. When viewing the game in stills, the graphics look pretty good. At least until things begin to move, displaying horrendous screen tearing which makes the entire world look like it’s stuck on “vibrate”. Pop-ins are another problem which get worse as the game progresses. People and textures will often take a second or two to load into the game. Sprinting through the towns will often have an almost amusing effect of accidentally running into people loading into the game, stopping my character in his tracks. Often these poor NPCs look about as surprised as me. Character models are not that impressive and for some reason my character had a problem with patches of his head appearing over his hair making him look like he has stage two syphilis.
Those are just the major issues; the graphics aren’t completely terrible, in fact, they are leaps and bounds over the original. However, the technical issues make them fall below the standards kept by other games of the genre.
The audio, like the graphics, also lacks some polish. The developers made a smart move in replacing the old cast, comprised of the developers themselves, with some real voice actors. However, the new vocal crew doesn’t surpass them by dramatic amounts. The wooden voice acting and forced emotions simply didn’t impress. The sound effects are also predictably low-budget. On the flip side, I did find that some of the music was actually pretty catchy. Each town has its own theme song and I found myself humming along from time-to-time.
Character interactions are frustratingly limited. Don’t expect the same options as in Mass Effect 2. After initiating an interaction, both the main character and the target NPC will go into an often-long conversation with plenty of information but more often than not the conversation may end with only on option where you agree to take the quest or don’t. Even in situations where you can ask questions, the answers are usually an information cul-de-sac and you end up exactly where you left off with nothing important learned.
Every time Two Worlds II takes a step forward from the first game, it takes a few steps back from its peers.
The game offers the ability to play as three different combat roles: warrior, scout and mage, although the choice is ultimately up to the player. You don’t choose a class at the beginning; it’s something that you can use experience points to build up. A person can either be a pure melee fighter or even it up with some archery or magic skills. Going all three will make things difficult, having fewer points to distribute, but it’s possible to pull off.
The game allows players to switch equipment sets on the fly to suit certain battles. Armor, weapons, and accessories can be set to one of three different sets that can be accessed simply by pressing the coordinating hotkey. As an example, you could have warrior items such as heavy armor, dual swords, and accessories boosting strength and endurance as one set, but if run into too many guys and have to take a long distance approach, run off and change to your archery gear. This is a setup I actually used throughout the game. Often times my hubris as a warrior got the best of me and I had to make a tactical withdrawal, quickly changing to my archery gear which included armor and accessories that boosted my accuracy and boots to increase my speed in case I needed to make another cowardly sprint toward higher ground.
One of my favorite things about Two Worlds II is the crafting system. When old items such as swords or armor are no longer needed, the game will allow you to break down these items into their most basic elements. For example, if you happen to come across a weapon such as a sword you can break it down into the components steel and iron. Breaking down a wooden club will yield wood and iron; armor or clothes will provide iron, steel, or cloth. These components can then be used to upgrade other items in your inventory.
How much something can be upgraded depends on how many points are in your Metallurgy skill, but a high skill will soon allow you to forge new weapons more powerful than before and include slots to install gems which will add constant effects such as strength or elemental damage. The crafting system will also allow you to color armor or clothing after buying paint at specialized shops.
Often times during games such as this, I run into the scenario of having too much crap in my inventory. Most of the time I need to make room, so I dump off the less expensive items and go on my merry way. With the crafting tool, I could break down the weak items into more useful components to make my chosen equipment better, clearing my cluttered inventory at the same time.
Two Worlds II also has a few multiplayer options. The character that is created for the campaign will not be taken into the multiplayer. Instead, a new one must be made. This time, however, the game lets you choose from a variety of different races such as human, dark elf, and even a dwarf. This new character can be taken into one of several multiplayer arenas. Deathmatch and Duel are fairly self-explanatory. Adventure mode allows you and up to seven others to band together to finish a seven-part co-op campaign. Also in the mix is the Village mode, where players can play a management game using a village, and Crystal Capture, which challenges teams to collect the most crystals while avoiding flying skulls on fire.
When I could find people to play with, I found that I had the most fun playing Adventure mode. Fighting alongside a couple others, I spent quite a few hours exploring the lands and beefing up my character. Each mission is just one small area, which grows in size and difficulty as you progress.
Combat takes skill and practice to completely master. Some of the special skills learned through the campaign can mean the difference between victory or defeat. These skills can help when creating a battle plan against certain enemies. Some can be charged down and given the business end of a beating stick, others take a more tactile approach. Knowing how to fight each enemy takes practice and I had fun learning the different ways in which I could approach a given situation.
I suppose sooner or later in this review I have to stop the inane detailing and discuss the matter on whether or not this game’s for you. Let’s do that now.
Two Worlds II is a game that is held back by graphical flaws, weak story, uninspired missions, inconsistent audio, and some baffling design decisions. By definition, this game is completely retarded. However, I hesitate to call this one out completely. I still had a lot of fun playing the game and often found myself losing many consecutive hours into the night completing missions and crafting new items. The game is flawed but it has a certain charm that I can’t deny. Much like the one dumb kid in a room of smarter ones, it tries harder in order to stand with its peers. It makes me want to look down and say, “I’m rooting for you.”
The difference between this game and its predecessor is perhaps the biggest surprise. As I said when I began, it is somewhat rare for a game to be judged so harshly before release. I commend Reality Pump and Topware‘s strong attempt to defy expectations and create a game that is not just better, but in an almost rarer case, Two Worlds II actually comes out as a game that eclipses nearly everything that the first did wrong.
There is a lot to do in Two Worlds II, almost more than expected. You can take up a job playing music for people using Guitar Hero influenced minigames, hunt animals to sell or create potions, join various numbers of Guilds that can offer perks and extra submissions, ride horses, gamble, and more. The game is huge and I never found myself in a situation where I had nothing to do. The game boasts a ton of gameplay with an expansive campaign and many various multiplayer options.
Standing side-by-side with other games of the same genre, Two Worlds II will probably be passed up. And to be honest, there really are better choices out there. Like I said above, the game takes a gracious step out of the shadow of the horrible original, but lowers the bar when it comes to what is expected from an open-ended RPG.
But those who decide to try out the game may be able to derive quite a bit of fun from this latest attempt from developers Topware Interactive and Reality Pump. The game isn’t perfect in any regard, but it’s a far more inspiring attempt than what came before it and manages to succeed in standing on its own while offering enough content to satisfy any hardcore open world game fan. Two Worlds II won’t impress those who demand perfection. But to others, the imperfections can be ignored for what is otherwise a decent time in the world of Antaloor.
+ A much better attempt than the previous.
+ There is a lot of content, you will never have nothing to do.
+ Online co-op missions can be challenging and fun.
+ I can craft weapons and armor all day.
– Pop-ins and screen tearing diminish otherwise decent graphics.
– Audio is better than the first, but with typically bad voice acting.
– Character interactions are limited.
– Weak story.