Review: Two Worlds II (Sony PlayStation 3)

Two Worlds II
Developer: Reality Pump, Topware Interactive
Publisher: South Peak Games
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 01/25/2011

This past summer, Chris and I had a chance to sit down and have some hands on time with Two Worlds II. I’ve never had the chance to play the first Two Worlds, mainly due to the lack of systems to play it on (I only just got a PS3 this past Christmas). But the first game’s notoriety was pretty pervasive, and seeing this game in action and hearing about how much better it was than the first game made me curious about it and wanting to have more time with it.

So was it good enough to step out from under the ignominious shadow of its predecessor?

Two Worlds II takes place after the first game with you and your sister held prisoner by the villain of the first game. A group of orcs break in and set you free, but the same cannot be said of your sister. After your escape, your aim is to rescue your beleaguered sister. It’s a relatively barebones plot, and it pretty much fades into the background after the introductory parts, as oftentimes you’ll be so caught up in various quests that you forget what your primary goal was in the first place. There’s small references to the first game, such as one NPC that parodies the infamous overdone Ye Olde English in the original, but overall the plot is self contained.

In single player mode you can only play as a male, and there’s only campaign mode to play through. In multiplayer mode you get the choice to have a female character, and you can create up to five characters. There are five different modes of play. Adventure mode is a set of seven quests wherein you complete, well, quests. More maps are unlocked as you play through the single player campaign, though there’s no free roaming like there is offline, and your multiplayers characters are completely separate from single player characters, meaning you can’t take anything you earned in single player mode with you online. Crystal capture involves teams of players running around a map and trying to pick up the most crystals before the other team does. Village mode entails building and maintaining a village (you have to have at least 10,000 auras to start building one, though), and while the potential for profiting from it is high, you also have to fend off attackers and keep the villagers’ morale high. Duel mode lets you fight one on one with other players. Finally, deathmatch mode is exactly what it sounds like. These options do give you more to do, but the lack of free roaming and having only seven quests to choose from in adventure mode feels a bit limiting, and crystal capture mode isn’t particularly exciting.

The environments are rendered well enough and with a decent amount of detail. However, bloom effects and fog are abound, which makes everything seem somewhat hazy and anything at a distance blurry. You could play with the settings to mitigate this to an extent, but the surroundings still look unfocused. I got used to it after a while, but the effect doesn’t do much for visual appeal. The framerate is mostly smooth, though there were times when I would be running around a field or down a road when the action would stop and the disc loading icon would show up. Thankfully, this never happens during a battle, and it doesn’t occur often enough to hamper gameplay. The character models are alright, and they do look fine for the most part. However, the animations are bland, and enemies don’t recoil or give any other indication that they’ve been hit, meaning that the only ways you’ll know is by watching their health bars and if you have the option to display numbers enabled. There’s a good amount of customization options during character creation, though most of the little details you can adjust aren’t visible when you’re playing the game itself, and whether the final result is aesthetically pleasing is up to the beholder.

The music is your standard fantasy fare and is fairly unobtrusive. While none of it is outright terrible, no one track really stands out as memorable. The music does pick up in tempo whenever there are enemies nearby, which is a handy cue to pull out your weapon. The voice acting ranges from mediocre to decent. The vendors’ voices do fit, though they tend to repeat the same lines over and over, and they all sound the same in every town. This can get a little tiresome to listen to if you’ve heard it many times and you’re browsing merchandise or walking around town. At times the voice acting cuts off mid-sentence or says something different than the subtitles. The former makes the dialogue hard to follow if you don’t have subtitles turned on, and the latter makes it more confusing to follow along unless you just read the text and skip past the voiced parts.

There is no class selection at the start of single player mode, though you do select one in multiplayer mode. However, in both cases you can distribute your points freely, so even in multiplayer you could, say, have a warrior who can also cast spells. There are two types of points to allocate: attribute and skill. Attribute points go into the character’s main stats: endurance, strength, accuracy, and willpower. Skill points build up proficiency in skills, both class specific and general. If you don’t like how your character’s build is turning out, these points can be reallocated if you go to a soulpatcher and pay for a regression, which lets you experiment with different builds and combinations of skills. You can learn new skills from finding skillbooks.

The spellcrafting system works somewhat differently than those in other games. Spells are composed of three types of cards: effect, carrier, and modifier. Effect cards affect the type of the spell and fall under either air, earth, fire, or necromanacy. They can also bestow effects that have nothing to do with the actual element, such as an ice effect card being part of a lockpicking spell. Carrier cards determine the form the spell takes and how the effect is carried out and can range from something like a single target missile to an area wide blast. Modifier cards changes the nature of the spell. For instance, it can turn a spell into a homing projectile, a buff or debuff, or increase its duration. All of this may sound confusing at first, and it can be, but with some practice it’ll start to make more sense. It doesn’t exactly help that the game and manual don’t explain all of this in any great detail. This system provides plenty of room for experimentation, and there’s a plethora of possible combinations. At the beginning of the game, it might seem to be all that useful, at least combat wise. However, once you acquire enough spell cards and build up the relevant masteries, a lot of possibilities open up. There’s an extensive guide here if you’re really having trouble.

The controls for combat are functional for the most part, but they can feel clunky when you’re getting acclimated to them. Pulling out your weapon requires only pressing the down directional button. For melee, there’s a standard attack and three different attack, which change depending on the weapon equipped and whether you’re guarding, that require charging up after using. Archery works similarly, though with a fire and ice arrow and a multi-arrow attack lets you aim at and shoot multiple opponents at once. There’s also sniper mode, which lets you zoom in and try to target a particular enemy. For magic, you can have up to five spells hotkeyed (if you don’t put any items on the L1 and R1 buttons). You can hotkey up to three equipment sets on the up, left, and right directional buttons, which makes it easy to switch equipment on the fly as needed, though there is a small delay. For the more discrete, you can opt to sneak behind your opponents and finish them off if you have a dagger equipped, though you have to be fairly close to them before the prompt shows up.

Getting around outside of battle isn’t particularly difficult, though it depends on your mode of transportation. On foot, which you’ll be on most of the time, you can sprint until your stamina runs out. On a horse, you can gallop, though the horse will throw you off if you push it too hard with no reprieve. You can’t fight while on the horse, which is a bit puzzling and annoying when you encounter enemies while on horseback. You can call your horse if it’s nearby, but if you use the teleports a lot and forget where you last left your horse, it usually won’t be close enough for you to use it. When sailing, you have to adjust the sails according to the direction the wind is blowing. You could also create a water walking spell if you’d rather not have to deal with that. It’s generally more efficient to just teleport and run everywhere, especially after you’ve activated all the teleports.

The inventory screen is rather busy, and there’s no way to sort items, which becomes especially onerous once you really start gathering loot. It’s also a bit hard to see how many of an item you have unless you stop in a dark area. The crafting system is more of an enhancement system than one in which you create new equipment. You can break items down into component parts (like wood and steel), which you can then use to upgrade another weapon. You can also fit in fusion stones in equipment with slots for various stat boosts. Weapons dole out either slash or bludgeon damage, and some enemies are more susceptible to one or the other. In alchemy, you synthesize new items by combining items. There’s no chance for failure, though whether the resulting item is useful depends on whatyou throw in. You can save recipes of what you just made in case you want to make more later.

Some tasks are accomplished through minigames. Lockpicking consists of a lockpick rotating in round tumblers, and you have to get the pick in the gaps of each tumbler. If you mess up or let it rotate too many times, the pick will break. You can also choose to have the game do it automatically, though you need a built up lockpicking skill for it to have a good chance of succeeding, and it’s possible to pick more complex locks without really building up your lockpicking if you’re good at the minigame. You can also use magic or brute force on the lock, but the former consumes a lot of mana and the latter has a chance of breaking your weapon, plus you gain skill points from lockpicking manually. Pickpocketing involves trying to get the hand to an object in the middle of three snakes circling around it by finding an opening. It’s tricky to even trigger in the first place (the pickpocket recipient has to be completely distracted), and some luck is needed in finding an opening to slip that hand in. The dice game comes in two variations: lucky throw and poker. In lucky throw each player tosses two die for two rounds and whoever has the highest total wins. Poker is essentially, well, poker with die instead of cards. It’s a good way to make money quickly, especially early on, if you’re good (and lucky) – or if you want to go the more dubious route and save before each roll and reload if you lose. There’s also music games that play much like Guitar Hero, and there’s several instruments you can choose from. Drums are the easiest instrument since you only need to keep track of two buttons and you never have to hold anything down.

There is a lot to do in single player mode, and it’s easy to extend playtime just by doing quests. However, while you’re free to roam the lands after you beat the game, there’s not much else to do other than to do any quests you missed and perhaps grind levels and/or regress and tweak your build. Multiplayer mode does give you more to do, especially if you have people to play with. You can play the dice and music minigames with other people online, and the latter can feel like a medieval version of Guitar Hero or Rock Band. But the adventure mode consists of only eight quests, and there’s no free roaming like in single player mode. You do have the option of building up different characters if you feel so inclined, and you can transfer items among characters by leaving them in a chest in village mode.

It takes time to really get into the game, and there is a learning curve to navigate in terms of the controls and things like the magic building system. Once you adapt to those, the game becomes somewhat easier, though you do still have to sink a fair amount of time into the game to make substantial progress. It’s possible to get so caught up in completing quests, looting chests and dungeons, and crafting items and spells that you look up at at the time some time later and go, “Where’d the time go?”. Plus, this game has me wanting to play other WRPGs as well. You do have to be careful (and save frequently) when meandering about, as you can easily go from an area where you’re one shotting everything to one where you’re the one being one shotted, which is an indication that you’re not supposed to be there yet. The enemy AI is liable to do questionable things, as at times an enemy will suddenly turn around and walk away even as I’m pelting it with ice missiles, while at other times it will stick to me like flypaper for long distances. In either case, it’s not terribly difficult to defeat the enemies if you’re around the right level and are hitting their weaknesses. You do also have to be careful with quest items, as there’s no mark to indicate they are such, making it easy to accidentally sell or trade it and rendering the quest impossible to complete. There’s also areas where if you veer too far off the intended path, the game will warp you back to your original spot, which cuts down on exploration.

The reputation of the first game’s shortcomings hangs over the sequel’s head. As a result, people would probably feel less inclined to give this game a chance with the assumption that sequel to a bad game equals another bad game. While that’s not necessarily an erroneous assumption, it’s clear that they tried to differentiate it from the first game. The spellcrafting system makes using magic interesting, and I specifically built up magic related skills and stats so I could tinker with it. The minigames are a new addition that were not present in the first game. The combat system was reworked, with active blocking put in and more room for tactics other than just slashing repeatedly. Still, it has garnered hype about how much better it is than the first game, so that could (and likely has) help move copies.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Short Attention Span Summary:
Two Worlds II shows that the developers tried to learn from their mistakes and improve on them. The plot isn’t anything particularly new or engrossing, but it’s servicable and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the first game’s story. The graphics are mostly fine, but are obscured by a near ever present haze. The alchemy and spellcrafting systems allow for experimentation via throwing random items in a pot and spell card in a spell amulet. While it has its issues (such as clunky inventory management), it can be enjoyable after you progress past the tutorials and get a hang of the controls. There is a lot to do, both in single player and multiplayer modes, so the game will at least last you for a decent amount of time.


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