Two Worlds II review
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Although an improvement on its predecessor, regular glitches and frequent bugs continue to impede an otherwise enjoyable title...
Two Worlds II was always going to have a tough time. Its predecessor - Two Worlds - was a buggy and unpolished game, defended by only the most diehard RPG fans. Overshadowed by this unimpressive pedigree, Two Worlds II certainly has a long way to go to convince sceptics to part with their money. Set in a world that will be a little too familiar to anyone who has played an RPG before, Two Worlds II is a third person romp around a vast and fairly diverse game area. You complete quests, craft items and spells, search for loot and perform all manner of other tasks in typical RPG style as you progress through the game. The basic story is that the evil ruler of the land has your sister, and you embark upon a quest to rescue her, getting sidetracked by the usual things along the way.
At this point you may be forgiven for thinking that this all seems rather familiar; and that’s largely because it is. With a few notable exceptions, Two Worlds II does very little to break away from the standard format of the RPG. There are times when the similarities between Two Worlds II and its competitors become so complete that you’ll get a hefty sense of déjà vu, particularly if you have Oblivion in mind.
Right from the start there are problems with the gameplay. The controls feel spongy and unresponsive, and the button mapping is confused. Too many buttons are given too many jobs. The L2 is particularly bad, managing running, sneaking and aiming down the sights of your bow, making it a confusing sequence of presses to perform some very simple actions. These problems persist throughout the game, with few actions unhindered by the clunky and unresponsive controls. All too often I found myself blaming them for particularly frustrating deaths.
The poor controls are reflected in your character's movements too. Even walking around can be challenging, as the unresponsive buttons and jerky camera bump you into almost every available rock or tree. God help you if you even try to run through a city. Every time you bump an NPC (non-playing character) your infamy goes up a notch; do this a few times and the guards will relentlessly chase you down and hack you to pieces. The combat is also flawed; button presses often feel like they are having no effect at all, and the ones that do have a noticeable delay. Character animations look decidedly outdated too, with swords and hammers being swung around like featherweight toys. Ranged combat is no better either, with arrows landing miles from where you were aiming for no reason at all.
By far the worst issue with combat is the AI. Two Worlds II seems to have catalogued everything that was bad about AI and inserted it into a game. Enemies run blindly directly towards you, only to then stop and stand motionless if you retreat too far. Their path finding is horrible too; they get helplessly stuck on lots of the scenery, running on the spot until you put them out of their misery. Often the easiest way to take out an enemy is to simply stand on a rock and pepper them with arrows.
However, the saving grace of this game for many will be the upgrades and spell systems. Two Worlds II is typically loot-heavy, but you are not limited to simply collecting as much as you can carry and selling it all. Every item can be broken down into its component pieces, and these can be used to upgrade, repair and craft your existing items. Gems and effects can also be applied to weapons and armour in a host of different combinations, letting the player create a personalised and unique weapon to suit a particular situation or playing style.
Spell crafting uses different combinations of cards to create spells from scratch. The cards are broken down into three types; carriers, effects, and modifiers. Effects govern the type of magic the spell uses, carriers control how the spell behaves and modifiers add things like more damage or homing abilities. With this system it is possible to create some really unique and powerful spells, from fire sprays to summoned golems, even a whirling vortex of electrified anvils. All in all, there really is a huge amount of possibilities, which is sure to appeal to fans of a RPG nature.
The quests in the game will also seem very familiar. Rarely will you stumble across any originality, with the majority of quests involving going somewhere, finding or killing something, then returning for your reward. While most work fine, certain quests have some bad glitches or simply refuse to work - much to the annoyance of the gamer. A number of times I was forced to teleport out of a bugged-out mission, my character unresponsive and frozen firmly in place. The main story is poorly explained and as a result leaves the gamer feeling both confused and frustrated. More than once I had simply no idea what I was doing, completing a number of unrelated and tiresome ‘fetch’ missions for no real reason. The plot itself also does little to draw you in, leaving you uninterested in the results of your actions.
Graphically Two Worlds II has some nice touches. Water reflections and shadows look good, and there seems to be quite a lot of detail put into some aspects of the game's design. But, while the environment looks good up close, it all too quickly becomes a faded blur, a distant memory if you will. As you move around the world, random items suddenly spring into view from nowhere; a hell of a problem if you were trying to retrace your steps. NPCs have this problem too, jerking into view or disappearing without a trace. These bugs can be a real problem, and are very noticeable in the game when they happen.
The camera has real issues, moving around much too fast, blurring your view and bordering on a nauseating sensation. Unfortunately, these problems get even worse when trying to aim a bow, as the camera and the crosshair seem to have some kind of disconnection issue, resulting in arrows landing nowhere near where you were aiming. Furthermore, edges of scenery and characters in the game usually appear fuzzy and pixelated and, while there are scenes in the game that are both well polished and nicely put together, other areas feel unfinished and forgotten, mirroring the problems of Two Worlds.
The menus and inventory screens are cluttered and unwieldy. The unresponsive buttons make navigating them a chore, and the visual style of the game appears to be to have as many fantasy references on screen at a time, with gold dragons applied wherever possible. These gaudy menus and HUDs have a big impact on the look of the game, ultimately making it feel tacky and cheap.
Cut scenes are painful to watch, as the badly animated characters move their lips totally out of sync and make large and unnecessary gestures with their rigid lobster hands (Imagine if you will a flip-book animation of Futurama's Zoidberg). The voice acting is barely worth mentioning which is a shame, because some of the script is actually quite funny, but is rendered unlistenable by the staggeringly poor quality of the voices. Very early into the game I was forced to turn on the subtitles because I couldn’t understand the characters.
As feared, Two Worlds II really hasn’t escaped the flaws of Two Worlds, even developing some new ones. But what has changed is that, despite its flaws, there is now a lot to like about it, ultimately drawing attention away from its flaws. The world is huge and varied, and the number of creatures and enemies is high, so the game rarely becomes stale. There are also loads of plants, items and skills to find and collect, and you can use your alchemy to create hundreds of different potions to aid you in your quest. In regards to originality, Two Worlds II is unlike any other of its type and - if you can turn a blind eye to its regular stumbles - has the potential to provide endless hours of unique gameplay.
There is also a multiplayer mode, something that has certainly become rare in RPG games. You can play a smaller, separate co-op campaign or death matches, and there is even a strange RTS-type village builder where you create and maintain your own small town. These features do provide some enjoyment, but they suffer from the same problems as the single player game and, in some cases, are even worse. As I played more and more of the game, I found myself getting used to some of its niggles and quirks, and began to enjoy the experience of looting and exploring. There is a real feeling of satisfaction to be had in finding and creating a powerful spell, or unique weapon, even if the process of doing it was riddled with jerks and collision detection issues.
Two Worlds II is probably not a game for most people. But, for a forgiving RPG fan, Two Worlds II could provide the hours of endless gameplay they have become accustomed to amongst other RPGs. The issue most people will have though is just how shabby and unfinished the game actually feels. You can’t help but think that maybe they overstretched with their ideas, and didn’t have the time - or possibly the budget - to apply the level of polish that the game deserved. This is a shame, because what we are left with is a game with a lot of potential - and some great features - but is heavily let down by its controls and lack of finish.
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