After a series of mind boggling delays stopping it arriving officially in the UK (the game has been available since November elsewhere in Europe), Two Worlds II has finally made its way into the hands of fans here in good old Blighty, albeit exclusively from online retailer, Amazon. After such a calamitous release, is Reality Pump’s second take on Two Worlds worth the wait?
The original Two Worlds was, for want of a better analogy, a car wreck of a game, but, like real life accidents, there was something in there that made you want to take a closer look, even though you know you really shouldn’t.
Underneath almost every technical faux pas you can imagine, such as awful controls, terrible voice acting, clumsy interface and a game engine that made the 360 groan as if it was running a game from 2055, was an oddly enticing title. It was a title that featured a huge and varied open world to explore, a crapton of quests alongside the main story, and a myriad of items that could be looted, crafted and combined till the cows came home.
In essence, it was a very old school, loot-driven RPG, and one that I spent a long time with. Sadly, the aforementioned list of problems (and that’s just a tiny fraction of them) stopped the game from being as good as it could have been, and it was a very rough gem that most would throw back in favour of a more polished and shiny offering.
Two Worlds II, on the other hand, promises a far more refined adventure, and one that rights the wrongs of the first game, whilst adding a whole new raft of features. If the devs are to be believed, this is the game we wanted the original to be, and I’m happy to say that, in many ways, this is true.
A whole new world
Set in a totally different area of Antaloor, Two Worlds II doesn’t feature the same hero as before, but a whole new warrior. This time the evil Emperor Gandohar has you prisoner, involved in some form of magical ritual alongside your captive sister. As the game opens, you escape with the help of a band of Orcs, and are quickly let loose into the new world.
This world consists of several islands which, together, are even larger than the world in the original game and just as varied. There are desert savannas, forests, mountains, caves, graveyards, bustling towns and cities and much more. It’s a rich and packed world full of NPCs, locations and interesting areas to locate and explore, and like the original Two Worlds, and other RPGs such as Gothic, Morrowind and Oblivion, it’s all free form.
You can wander around the world as you like, and the main quest is just a fraction of what the game has to offer. There’s a seemingly never-ending slew of side quests and optional missions to undertake, and you’ll never get lonely, thanks to a huge array of enemies to fight, ranging from simple wildlife and mutated creatures to demons, golems and the undead.
Quests are also quite varied and are more than simple ‘go here and kill these’ missions. Even early on you’ll get to save a village from starvation, take part in a horse riding challenge, escort important NPCs and stealthily rob a warehouse, to name but a few tasks. It’s always interesting and you really aren’t going to find yourself with nothing to do.
However, this could all be arguably said of the original. After all, it had the world and quests in great quantities too, but the problem lay in the execution. Two Worlds II, I have to say, is as different quality-wise to its lame predecessor as night is to day, and this can be seen almost instantly.
Not only does the game look far more attractive than the original, which, to be honest, was a bit of an eyesore, but, more importantly, it plays better too. Character control isn’t perfect still, and has a few glitches, most notably occasionally sluggish and unresponsive combat, but on the whole, this is a far more enjoyable game to play.
The camera is a huge improvement, offing a better view, and the core combat mechanics are far smoother. You still pretty much mash attack for the most part, but now you can also block, counterattack and dodge, as well as utilise special attacks, which again, are implemented better than before.
Ranged combat, including magic, is also better, and far more approachable, especially bow and arrow attacks, which now feature a decent zoom mode and upgraded specials. It all feels so much better than before you’d be forgiven for thinking your playing a different series.
There are some other glitches aside from sometimes clunky melee, though. Blocking and counterattacking is very flaky, and often hard to get right, and it’s sometimes hard to target your intended foes, both up close and at range. The included stealth mode is a little glitched too.
It is possible to get stealth kills (and satisfying to boot), but when you’re desperately trying to sneak only to be stopped by a small step that forces to you run or jump, thus negating your stealthy approach, it’s a bit of a bummer, as the AI instantly hears you and attacks. It’s also very hard to tell when an enemy may be able to see you, as some seem to see you from a mile away, whilst others are oddly unable to detect you. It’s all a bit confusing, and the stealth elements could have been much better.
AI shook up
Speaking of enemy AI, Two Worlds II is a bit of a mixed up beast. Sometimes your foes will appear quite intelligent, finding the best place to snipe from, backing off to use magic, or running away when too injured. However, for every decent reaction, there’s a not so equal and opposite reaction.
Enemies will often stand firing into trees rather than move to get you in their sights, and many encounters can seemingly be easily won, thanks to a form of invisible patrol area that enemies simply won’t cross. All you need to do is get an enemy’s attention then run away until it stops dead in its tracks. Often, even if you pepper said foe with arrows from past this imaginary line, they’ll never cross it. It’s an odd glitch, and one that can make some usually challenging fights a breeze.
You’ll actually relish these glitchy incidents sometimes, though, as Two Worlds II can be very difficult, especially on the hard difficulty, and early on when you’re pretty weak. Although the game doesn’t restrict you, and freely lets you wander around, it also doesn’t hold your hand, and it’s very easy to wander into an area where a lone enemy can trounce you with a single hit. It can be disheartening when this happens, but it’s all part of the game, and the need to level up and get stronger and learn new skills is heavily enforced here. This character development, and a healthy sense of self preservation, will always see you through, as sometimes, you simply need to run. Fast.
To help in this speedy retreat, and overall travel around the vast world, once again, the game features horses, and anyone who’s played the original Two Worlds will know just how infuriating they were. It was like trying to ride a pissed up blind rhino through the eye of a needle, with both hands tied behind your back. Thankfully, it’s better here, but the developers still haven’t managed to get it right.
Horses are now easier to control direction-wise, but to actually get them to go anywhere you have to tap the left trigger to get them moving, a la Red Dead Redemption. You then need to tap the trigger to spur them on, without driving them too hard, causing them to throw you off.
Unlike Read Dead Redemption, though, here it doesn’t really work, and your horse often stops randomly for no reason, gets stuck on the environment, and occasionally starts to bolt at supersonic speeds on a whim. This isn’t too much of an issue when simply roaming the land, but if you’re in the middle of a race and time is running out, it’s a major problem, and one that’s very annoying.
It sometimes even difficult to get onto your horse, especially when struggling to quickly do so when you’re under attack, as the mount icons appears and disappears, causing your hero to jump around while enemies close in. Not good.
With the main core of the game improved, at least in most areas, there’s Two Worlds II‘s impressive inventory and loot system to look at. As with the first game, during your adventure you’ll acquire a massive amount of weapons, armour, items, and ingredients, all of which have uses. This is primarily because of the game’s many crafting systems.
These systems include Craft (item creation), Demons (magic creation) and P.A.P.A.K. (potion brewing). Each one of these is very easy to use, and also very flexible and impressive. Craft, for example, let’s you break down any weapons and armour you find so you can use the raw materials for upgrade other kit. So, you can break down a stack of crappy old short swords and can then use the steel to improve your trusty two-handed battleaxe, adding more damage.
This is a much better system than the original Two Worlds‘ stacking affair that let you simply place one identical weapon or armour item onto another ad infinitum, granting players ridiculously unbalanced weapons and armour.
The alchemy system is equally useful, and by adding various mixtures of ingredients (of which there’s a staggering amount) harvested from the world, animals or other foes into a pot, you can create all manner of potions. Once you create a potion, you can then save the recipe for future use.
The Demons magic system is particularly interesting, and is another big improvement over the limited system from the first game. As before, it still uses tarot-style cards, but the creation of spells is far more involved and flexible. By combining core ‘carrier’ and ‘effect’ cards with optional ‘modifier’ cards, you can create all sorts of spells.
For example, if you use a fire carrier card with an area effect card, you’ll create an outward blast of fire that hits foes in a 360 arc around you. Adding an increased duration card into the mix may cause the burning effect to last longer, whilst changing the area effect card to a direct missile card will create a projectile fireball. Core cards can also be stacked, increasing a spell’s power. It’s an easy to grasp, yet complex system, and one that should allow players to really let their magical urges flow.
In fact, when it comes to item handling, Two Worlds II does it better than most. There really is a use for everything and you’re constantly on the lookout for better, more powerful loot. Even if you only find a rubbish pair of boots and a rusty axe, you can always break them down and improve your other gear. The creation tools are great and add a lot to the game play.
I’ll have seconds
Overall, I’m actually quite staggered at just how much better than the first game Two Worlds II is. I was hoping that it did manage to deliver the title the first so wanted to be, and for the most part, the developers have managed to do a damn fine job. Even the voice acting, which was notoriously woeful before, is a huge improvement, and visually the world is quite impressive and runs at a far smoother rate, with less slowdown.
It’s still littered with numerous technical glitches, such as audio cut outs, some dodgy animation, graphical clipping, and the aforementioned control issues in places. And, some of the writing is very poor, with some quest goals and conversations making little sense, but it’s a world apart from the initial outing, both mechanically and in presentation.
With several months still to go until the mighty Skyrim hits the shelves, this is a great open world RPG to get lost in, and it’s definitely one for serious RPG fans, particularly lootmongers, to try. Don’t be put off by the crazy release issues or the ropey first game, give it a chance. You may be surprised.
Two Worlds II is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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