If you listen to our weekly podcast you know that we have probably talked more about Two Worlds than the developers themselves. It became quite the joke amongst our staff not only because one of the guys on our crew loved the game, but because of its ridiculous dialogue and broken gameplay. Still there was something buried beneath that rough exterior that has drawn attention; enough it seems to warrant a sequel to this fantasy RPG. Two Worlds II is not ashamed of its predecessor. It still carries some of the same quirky design decisions and technical problems, but it manages to put all of that aside and create a compelling and massive adventure that will excite fans of the original and win plenty of new ones.
If you played the original game I would like to tell you that the story has progressed, but sadly it feels surprisingly similar. You play a male hero (no options for those that enjoy playing as a female) whose sister is once again in trouble and you must rescue her with the aid of the goblins. The main villain is once again Gandohar and like before he is up to no good. One man against the world with the goal of saving the girl may not be the most original, but it gets the job done. The biggest improvement is obviously the solid voice acting. In the first game some (OK most) of the dialogue was downright laughable. While there are still instances if stiffness and hilarity, for the most part it is rather well done.
What makes the world of Antaloor so immersive though is its rich history. As you progress through the game you will pick up tomes that are chock full of lore and backstory. The world of Two Worlds is certainly not a shallow one, nor is it one that ever takes itself overly serious, which is definitely a good thing. Towards the beginning of the game I was mowing down ostriches with my sword while also helping beggars at a local town to eat. There is simply so much to do that you can get lost in what the game has to offer, and none of it ever feels forced or tedious.
The meat of the game remains mostly unchanged with you picking up quests around the world and travelling to them slaughtering foes along the way. The teleportation system makes a return as do horses to aid you in traversing the massive world of Antaloor. Personally I found myself sticking mostly to on-foot and teleporters as the horses are still a chore to maneuver. Again the leveling system allows you to create the character you prefer to play. Each level awards you skill points that can be added to one of each of the three classes. At first it can seem overwhelming to figure out which skills to upgrade, but once you get the gist of it you will be building a powerhouse in no time.
Once again you will also be collecting an insane amount of loot throughout the game. This time things are a little different as you can no longer stack items unfortunately, but instead you now have the ability to craft items. You can either break down things like weapons and armor for the core metals or you can use metals and stones to improve them. Crafting is simple and can be performed as soon as you have the proper materials. Crafting new weapons and even potions is so much more intuitive this time around that mages will be in heaven. The system works mostly due to the fact that everything is highlighted showing you what can and cannot be created. This is easily more effective than stacking and it makes the loot collecting that much more addictive.
Combat for Two Worlds II is also an interesting endeavor as you now have the ability to create three weapon/armor sets and switch them on the fly. Sword, ranged and magic attacks return complete with plenty of tweaks of weapons for all of them. Magic is learned by collecting tomes for various elements and creating the spells. The spell system is extremely deep but also extremely complicated. You will need to invest some serious time to master all the game has to offer making it the least attractive of the three main types. Sword combat is the traditional button mashing style with a few setbacks. For instance blocking only stops part of the damage in the beginning and the clunky controls can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help. Finally ranged attacks are easily the best. Bows are strong and firing multi-shots and elemental arrows is a blast. Having all three keeps things fresh, but I honestly stuck with ranged through most of the game for more than one reason.
You see Two Worlds II is still chock full of plenty of issues. Combat is clunky but it can also be cheap because of poor enemy AI. Pathfinding becomes an issue for some opponents and when using ranged attacks sometimes they simply ignore you. I won several encounters with larger foes by simply exploiting the poor AI. The glitches are also still present with your character sometimes transporting forward and then back and NPCs just appearing out of nowhere. While not nearly as bad as the first game it is still annoying at times. I didn’t experience any game-breaking bugs, but there are definitely some in there as I have seen other users complaining about them online.
The online component also makes a return with another co-op quest and some unbalanced competitive modes. The co-op portion is by far the biggest draw with up to eight players joining forces to tackle linear quests. This works so well mainly because if you manage to get a good group of players you can really tackle the class system the way it was meant to be used. It has a sort of PSO feel to it that is truly addictive. The competitive mode is a hot mess and that is as nice as I can put it. There is no balancing in the matchmaking meaning you could end up fighting a top-tier player on your first match. Still even when you manage to square off against an equal-leveled opponent the classes are so mismatched that that game breaks itself during combat. Needless to say the competitive mode could easily have been scrapped and I wouldn’t have thought any less about it.
Visually the game is leaps and bounds above the original as far as technical aspects are concerned. The freezing and crashes are a thing of the past, but there are still some issues. For starters the loading is awful unless you install it (360 version) and there are still bouts of slowdown and plenty of screen tearing. The game displays all the traditional problems of a PC port to 360, but somehow still manages to be appealing to the eyes. The world is massive and there are plenty of locales and styles to see. Character models are decent, but the animation can sometimes be an eyesore. The audio is lightyears beyond the original and the voice acting is now bearable. The music is typical fantasy fare, but it gets the job done.
Two Worlds II is a massive game that has a lot to offer if you can deal with its shortcomings. Fans of the original are going to be in heaven as the game is leaps and bounds above the original while still managing to retain that Two Worlds flavor. If you love loot-gathering games, massive RPGs, or are one of those loyal fans that loved the first game this is easily a must-own title. While it won’t set the world on fire like some of the bigger names in its class, Two Worlds II manages to have a style all its own. There is plenty of game to warrant your $60 and the flavor of the franchise is written all over it.
Review copy provided by publisher.