Another Two Worlds?
I will admit I wasn't looking forwards to this particular game after the terrible nature of the first. I was wondering if the developers had learned anything post Two Worlds and had they made the same mistakes again? Thankfully after a lot of time spent in the game, both in single player and the significant multiplayer, I can report that it's not the case. Two Worlds 2 is actually a lot better than the first game, by miles.
It's a clichéd tale but it works well enough, kidnapped sister, main character escapes evil Overlord Bad-Guy Emperor with the help of some rebellious element. Main character embarks on prophetic quest to save the whole world yadda-yadda-yadda. You're likely not going to be bothered much by the story, since the core game offers almost too much to do and a huge Oblivion-like map to explore and get much-o-loot from.
Two Worlds 2 is a third person action-adventure with Oblivion overtones. It has a massive map and numerous continents, with a tonne of adventure potential around every corner from random encounters with wildlife and indigenous species, to pitched battles with overwhelming numbers of foes hidden away in camps scattered across the many miles of terrain. There are numerous locations, cities, villages, settlements and more just waiting to be discovered and thanks to a pretty intelligent map system, with various teleports, you're not going to be doing much in the way of slogging from one continent to another. You're also doing this with a customised character; since the game lets you make a custom hero with quite a few sliders and so on to tweak.
There are also horses, which are much better than Two Worlds and handle significantly easier too. You kill things, do quests and rack up the XP (Experience Points) to level your character up how you want. Your 4 main attributes gain 4 points to be split between Endurance, Strength, Accuracy and Magic. Endurance gives you more Hit Points and allows you to carry more loot, Strength boosts melee damage, Accuracy boosts ranged damage and Magic well...Magic lets you do more with the magic system and bolsters your spell damage.
Then you get Skill Points, these can be put into an array of various skills, warrior based skills that give you special abilities, ranger based ones that help with shooting your bow...firing arrows that cause distractions, or multi-arrows for instance. Magic based that lets you do all kinds of cool things when spell casting. There are skills for assassination, lock-picking, metallurgy (crafting weapons) and more ... the list is quite large and you'll struggle at first to decide where you want to put your points. You also get points for doing things in the game, making potions using alchemy and crafting weapons can earn you a free point or two.
Even killing a certain number of beasts rewards you with a free point eventually.
The main game is basically a single player quest with your character rising in power as you play, typical of this genre of game. There are lots of optional side quests to undertake and many hidden caverns to explore. You can find loot all over the place and either sell it or break it down.
This segues nicely into the crafting system, where you can break down a weapon/armour and so on into its core materials. With a higher enough metallurgy skill you can then craft better quality weapons by upgrading the ones you buy or loot using bits of the broken down gear. The cost in bits rises as you upgrade each weapon and the benefits are quite impressive when you reach the top tier of the skill. Once you learn the Fusion skill you can use magic crystals to upgrade your weapons even more, giving them new effects...you can even fuse several crystals together to make a more powerful one. Crystals can also go into armour and into rings/amulets.
Alchemy lets you use ingredients looted from animals, or from the herbs around you. You can brew specific potions and experiment by adding ingredients in any order, to see what you can come up with. A new potion is created and the recipe goes into your inventory, allowing you to use it again with a click of a button as long as you have enough in your store.
The Magic System is insane, there are spell amulets and those are broken into spell cards, which have varying effects and bonuses attached. It's possible with some knowledge of the system to make a spell that lets you walk on water, one that causes objects to fall out of thin air and another that then creates a tornado that catches all of these objects and spins them around you as a crazy shield. The limit here is your knowledge of the system and your imagination when you have enough power in Magic and the cards to play with.
My one gripe about the game so far has been the inventory management, yes; you can set up 3 particular weapon sets with your favourite options. What rings you're wearing, what weapons and armour you're using and so on, that's great. What isn't great is that it's possible unless you're being very careful, to break down a beloved weapon unless you have it equipped or sell it by accident. Since the inventory has a habit of jumping around as you're breaking down loot or selling it, so if you're a bit fast on the button...gone is your superb two handed sword you saved up for and crafted into insanity.
If they'd have implemented a way to preserve favourite items, with a button click, which sets them as locked...that would have saved a lot of trouble. So be warned, keep a close eye on what it is you're about to break down or sell...
It is a minor gripe though, nothing that careful management can't prevent.
The combat system is pretty robust, there's a lot of scope for tactics in ranged combat and melee, you have numerous special moves you can employ and you can time your strikes just right to get counters and so on. The system works well enough and once you get the hang of it, you realise that just mashing the trigger to attack isn't going to cut it. Blocks, counters, special moves and learning to evade all play a part in victory against some of the tougher foes that you'll encounter along the way.
The lock picking system is fun, you have a pick and several latches you need to catch as the pick rotates, you can reverse the direction and the idea is to line up the cylinders of the lock by catching the latches/notches with the pick one by one. Get it wrong, or take too long and the pick breaks.
There are even a couple of dice games and other things to keep you occupied beyond the main quest, these will help you get a lot more in the way of coin and let you afford some of the skill books that I haven't mentioned just yet. Not every skill is one you get from a quest plotline or for free. You have to explore, hunt down books and in some cases buy them. Once you read the book, the skill is unlocked, and then you can put points into it.
There are other elements to the game, they're introduced as time goes on, so you can learn about them from the numerous books you'll be able to read. Suffice it to say that Two Worlds 2 gameplay is a hundred times better than the first and it is definitely enjoyable.
There's a solid frame rate this time, with only minor loading between world chunks...Antaloor is a HUGE world with pretty decent vistas, a little bit of pop in and pop up that you ignore as you explore the varied environments and take in the sights. It isn't a beautiful looking game compared to some, but it is a very nice looking game that has a few graphical touches that make it pleasing to the eye. Ok, there might also be a bit too much flare and bloom at times but that's only a minor thing.
I really like the spell effects and the level of detail on the actual characters, environments and especially the weapons is pretty decent. The swords look metallic and some of the more powerful weapons have runes inscribed on the blades, they shine with a convincing glimmer in the sun and look generally pretty damn cool. Even the armour looks good, with embossed leather covered in swirl patterns and so on. The texture artists must have worked overtime on those alone.
There's a nice use of shadow and light here, day and night cycles work really well and the whole atmosphere of the game alters at night. You don't feel as overwhelmed or as scared at night though, since in general your character is far more badass than most things if you take the time to level them up properly. Still, there's a feeling of unease created through the night time system when you're out in dangerous wilds.
So to sum it up, graphically the game isn't a slouch and there's a lot of detail across the board.
A King compared to Two Worlds, Two Worlds 2 has improved animations throughout. There are still some odd ones now and then, but for the most part it all works as it should and you get some pretty neat combat animations with the battles, parrying weapons, dodging and blocking with flourishes all work well. Lip synching isn't too bad either and the characters blink, move their heads around and roll their eyes if irked. Basically, it's not quite there yet compared to some of the market leaders, but it works well enough for this game.
There are some decent physics here, bodies fly when hit by enough force and ragdoll around if the character throws a decent force based spell. Weapons actually have a mass and weight and seem to impact in different ways. The usual object based physics are present and become very useful if you combine them with a tornado based spell to create that shield of debris talked about earlier. Big monsters hit hard and can throw your character around like a leaf on the wind, you have been warned!
It varies based on creature, most of the time they're actually pretty intelligent, though you can exploit their aggro range and their path finding if you know what you're looking for. Overall though, expect a decent enough challenge in some of the larger encounters with tenacious enemies.
The sound suite for the game is pretty good. There are a lot of nice day and night ambient effects, village life goes on around you and if you listen in some of the dungeons you get a nice spooky effect from echoes and other sounds. Weapons clash nicely, spells sizzle or crackle with great effect and there are no complaints regarding sound design. I detected no errors either when it came down to sound loops and so forth.
Two Worlds 2 has a nice stirring fantasy theme that evokes the power of many of the Lords of the Rings soundtracks, along with the majesty of the world itself. It changes to match the on-screen action and has various key moments that kick in from battles to exploration. It's good stuff actually and I wouldn't mind an official soundtrack release for this one.
Voice and Dialogue
It isn't going to win any prizes for the best voice acting, since some of it is passable and a few performances are dire. It is much better than Two Worlds and the main hero is fairly likeable enough. The script writing is so much better than the first game though, they've ditched the awful attempt at fantasy English from the first game. There is even an NPC that shows up that lets the writers riff off that old style of speech as a bit of a joke, with the main character expressing his disapproval of the guy in question. I can't grumble overly much this time around and it's nice to see writers learning from their mistakes. Keep Shakespeare to his plays and never try to shoehorn him into a fantasy game - Forsooth!
I could write a separate review for this section of the game; since it's broken down into two main modes...there are various special game types that you can play in Two Worlds 2. These range from Duels against other players, Deathmatches, CTF style and so on...to the awesomely addictive Village mode (requires 10,000 Auras to get going) and the 8 Chapter co-op campaign that serves as a prequel to the main story. You can play with up to 8 people in the multiplayer and the Adventure and Village modes are excellent additions that can be played/replayed time and time again.
To put it simply, you can adventure with 8 people across 8 campaign maps. Many of these will take a good hour or two to complete, especially if you're farming gold, equipment or levelling up. You have a separate multiplayer character, who can be male, female, dwarven, elven, human and so on. There are several core classes to play out of the box and you can further customise them like you can in the main game, in terms of looks and of course attributes and skills as you progress through multiplayer.
The multiplayer has a very Demon's Souls or MMO feel to it and it works really well, with various classes working in synergy together and creating a fun adventure. You gain a reward in XP regardless and share money, equipment is a free for all so make sure you're with a group you trust or you have devised a fair-loot system before hand.
There is very little lag over Xbox Live and we've had a blast with this mode so far.
Then there's Village Mode, once you have 10,000 Auras you can buy a Village. Then you build it up to be a successful economy (there are tutorials around the web) and basically use it to make awesome weapons for your character, or other people (since again you can run it as a mp server for 8 players) to buy. There are simple kill quests in Village Mode that let you rack up XP and loot which you can sell in your shops. You get gold in per tick (6 minutes) online based on the kind of village you have made...and every 6 hours offline...
It's fun and it's addictive.
I like Two Worlds 2; I didn't like the first game at all. This one is worthy if you're waiting for Skyrim or you just wanted to play some pretty decent 8 player quests with a few friends. It does have some niggles here and there and it's not the best or greatest RPG ever made. It is however fun and that is the bottom line right there. I recommend it for Village Mode and the various multiplayer aspects. It doesn't have a massively deep story in singleplayer but it has a lot of hours waiting for you to sink your teeth in exploring.
If you like Oblivion-style games, you can't do much worse than grabbing a copy of this and experimenting with the various sub-systems in the game. It is HUGE though, one look at the world map tells you that and you can lose hours to Village Mode.
In fact, that's where I'm going right now...I need to see how much I've made and what new equipment has rolled in since I last played.
Check out the game.