Developed by Reality Pump (TopWare Interactive), and released by publisher SouthPeak Games, Two Worlds II is a direct sequel to, you guessed it, the 2007 game, Two Worlds. Before reviewing Two Worlds II, however, I feel that something needs to be made clear; the most I played of the first Two Worlds game was the downloadable demo. This will be important later on.
Two Worlds II is long, although perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that Two Worlds II feels long. The single-player campaign consists of four chapters, each one shorter than the one before it. Unfortunately, this means that the first chapter of the game contains an extremely large portion of the overall gameplay. The problem is that it does not contain an equivalently large portion of story progression. This is where Two Worlds II truly feels long; I spent over ten hours in the first chapter, and I still had many side-quests to complete. With the expectation of being able to return and complete side-quests later (which is only partially correct; the orc quests become unavailable once you complete the story), I completed the progression quest that did not appear in my quest log and moved on to the second chapter. In that first chapter, the story progresses only slightly, with each successive chapter providing larger portions of the story. In short, the longer the chapter was, the less story progression I saw. Eventually, I defeated the final boss (in what, at first, seemed to be one of the most unbalanced final battles I had experienced in a long time, until I figured out the pattern of attack) and completed the story shortly after the 14 hour mark, completing a few side-quests along the way, but mainly focusing on story progression. My biggest complaint with Two Worlds II is the ridiculously slow pace of story progression in the beginning of the game. It almost made me quit playing entirely.
While on the topic of story, I mentioned that I had only played the demo for Two Worlds, so I came into the game completely unfamiliar with the story that Two Worlds II was directly continuing. Other than occasional references to your character’s role in the previous game, very little is summarized or spelled out for you. You, of course, are provided with motivation to progress the story in Two Worlds II, in the form of a captured sister, but little else. You are tossed in to the game not knowing why your character is in the situation he finds himself in.
Now that my potentially deal-breaking complaints are out of the way, let’s move on to the smaller complaints that, while at times very glitchy and detrimental to the overall game experience, were far less serious than the story progression failure:
- Bad animation during conversations
- Characters had a limited number of conversation animations that were constantly reused, sometimes even when the character wasn’t talking.
- Limited selection of pre-recorded phrases when entering areas and encountering enemies; not always used appropriately
- For example, when entering what is essentially the home base for the campaign, the hero saying, “I wonder what’s down here…”
- Bad targeting
- There didn’t seem to be a way to cycle through possible targets, be they conversations, items, interactions, or enemies.
- Typos in subtitles, quest log, and texts
- For a premium game, the amount of typos in the subtitles, quest log, and game texts was absolutely staggering. I expect to see no typos whatsoever in a premium game, and I saw at least a dozen. I didn’t even fully read all of the game texts, so there were probably many more.
- Framerate lag
- Framerate lag seemed to be a big issue at times
- Glitches when loading areas
- At times, when you enter a new area after a loading screen, the background/landscape is rendered, but the people, and other items in the environment are black polygons. It takes a few seconds for everything to fully render.
- Problem with breaking chest locks
- This somewhat ties in with the bad targeting. If you attempt to break a lock on a chest that is located in a corner, or has an item on top of it, or is in a confined area, your attacks will almost always miss and instead hit the wall or other nearby items. It can be incredibly frustrating.
- Defeated enemies will, on occasion, continue flopping around on the ground well after they have been dispatched
- This one is pretty fucking funny, actually.
- Towns can be very difficult to navigate
- While the graphics are incredibly detailed (something I will get into shortly), there does seem to be a great deal of recycling of environments. This is particularly infuriating when attempting to navigate through the large, winding towns.
- Occasionally, when an enemy’s back is turned and they are not in defensive stance, attacks are still blocked
- This can be frustrating, since at other times, a turned back is an easy attack.
- Not all side-quests remain available after completion of the story
- As mentioned earlier, all of the orc-quests are unavailable after you have completed the story. This makes some achievements unavailable as well. Also, any items you had stored in your chest at the Orc HQ are unavailable after the campaign is over.
That may seem like a very long list of complaints, but during gameplay, they are, for the most part, unobtrusive enough to keep from completely ruining the experience.
Now, for the good (it had to come in somewhere, right?). While the writing can be atrocious at times, reminding me of a bad 80’s action movie, I have to assume that it is somewhat intentional for two reasons: first, the music played over the credits is a very 80’s style metal ballad, complete with guitar solo; second, Indiana Jones. I bring up Indiana Jones because there is a very obvious Indiana Jones reference in one of the side-quests. In a memory flashback, you see a man and his father come across a secret cave. The man’s father calls him Junior, something he dislikes, and speaks in a rather impressive Sean Connery imitation. Once the cave is entered, you must pass three tests to find the item at the end. Featuring direct quotes from Indiana Jones (‘only the penitent man shall pass’), you are given clues on how to progress through the cave. The third test, instead of the leap of faith, is a test of intelligence, where the Black Knight (complete with direct Monty Python quotes and a self-referential joke about hoping to avoid lawsuits) asks you three riddles. At the end of the cave lies the Holey Grail (Holey, not Holy, as the cup has… holes… in it). Throughout the rest of the game there are multiple other references, quotes, and homages, which really made me enjoy the game more than I might have otherwise. There’s also a lot of swearing, which fits into the feel of the game.
The voice acting, at times, fell within that same vein of 80’s cheese. More than anything else, the main character’s voice actor made me laugh every time I heard him talk, because of something I had been thinking, and something Lindsey gave voice to: I am Batman. It seems the voice actor watched Batman Begins before heading into the studio and wanted to be Batman, so the hero character has that deep, rough, Batman voice that doesn’t fit the look of the character (at least, not mine).
Character creation is not the best I’ve seen, but it’s not the worst. There are a lot of options, but it’s difficult to differentiate between them at times, because some of the changes are incredibly subtle. The most interesting thing about the character creation and modification in-game is when you load the title menu. Each time you start the game, you see your current character next to the menu, equipped in whatever armor you have him in. This is not particularly important, just kind of fun.
Graphically, the game has its moments. The inventory items are incredibly detailed, as are most things in the game world. The problem is that the excessive detail and occasionally flat textures can, at times, make the game look like it belongs on an older console. However, the graphics are not bad, and there are some stunning vista scenes overlooking the ocean.
Unlike many RPGs, in Two Worlds II your hero character can actually JUMP. While the mechanic is not handled perfectly, and while the animation of the jump is not quite right, it is a basic human ability that often gets overlooked, and I was very happy with its inclusion in Two Worlds II. Jumping allows you to, at times, shortcut your way over rocks and landscape that you would otherwise have to go around.
One of the strengths of Two Worlds II, in my opinion, was a mix of spell creation, alchemy, and item upgrading. Spell creation allows you to mix effect types, delivery methods, areas of effect, and more to create a new, unique spell. Alchemy allows you to mix different ingredients found all over the game world into various types of potions. Mixing ingredients when brewing unique potions can produce very interesting effects. My favorite of the three, however, is item upgrading. Almost all weapons, clothing, and armor can be broken down into component materials (chainmail, iron, steel, wood, leather, fabric, etc), which can then be used to upgrade other weapons, clothing, armor, etc. Upgrades on weapons and armor increase item stats and attribute crystal equip slots (crystals that increase both basic attributes of strength, willpower, accuracy, and endurance as well as more specific skills and abilities).
Overall, the story itself is fairly standard fantasy fare; if the game gave you more of a feeling of accomplishment and story progression earlier on and more consistently, it would be vastly improved. As I mentioned, the unbearably slow pace of story progression through the first, and longest, chapter almost made me give up and move on to another game. The game is very buggy; this is something that desperately needs to be addressed with bugfixes and game updates in order to improve the gameplay experience. The writing (aside from the slow progression pace), while filled with typos, had a great sense of humor, and is what really saved the game for me. Now that the story is done, and I no longer have to worry about story progression, I am genuinely enjoying completing the side-quests that I passed by out of frustration with the slow pace.
Two Worlds II is $59.99, available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. I can’t say that the game is worth full price, because of the unforgivable gaff with the story progression, but if it drops to $39.99 or less, I’d say go for it. The game is entertaining, once you get past the frustrations and annoyances of the pacing and large number of bugs.