Lets start this off by being honest. The first Two Worlds was terrible. So much so that even Southpeak Games themselves has made fun of it in the follow-up sequel. The first game was a last minute rushed port that had poor graphics, a cumbersome interface and some of the worst voice acting and dialogue Ive heard in a long time. You know when things are so bad they are good? It wasnt even good, it was that bad. Somehow, I plodded my way through and I actually finished the first game as I saw it as a challenge. There were some great mechanics that I really enjoyed (item stacking) and some of the characters were instantly memorable (Sordahon!).
Here we are a few years later with the sequel to a game that didnt do very well for many reasons and that few people played. My first gut reaction was nervousness, as I had already committed myself to playing through the second game since I did it with the first. I mean, it couldnt get any worse right? Delay after delay and now Two Worlds II is finally here much to my nervous anticipation.
A sequel has nothing but potential as long as it has some great mechanics under the hood. Just like the first Two Worlds, part 2 has some great ideas and mechanics that may keep you interested in it long enough even if the story itself doesnt.
Two Worlds II continues off shortly after the first game. Didnt finish the first game? Well sadly, you wont really have any idea whats going on other than youre in a prison being sprung out by some orcs, the same kind that were your enemies a few short years earlier. (As a side note, Two Worlds II also continues off the first games bad ending for some reason).
Five years have passed and you are a prisoner in Gandohars castle; youre sister Kyra is still under his control and hes attempting to gain the power of Aziraal by breaking her will. To find a way to defeat Gandohar hell need to shed light on his past to find a weakness that can be sued against him. Essentially Gandohar still needs to be destroyed and Antaloor needs saving once again.
While this is the main plot, there was no real sense of purpose or urgency once you are left free on your own. Yes you are working to find a way to save your sister (again) and defeat Gandohar (again), but aside from that you wont feel like youre making much progress until much later on. Everyone seems to need the help of a hero and before you can get what you want, youll need to prove yourself and do some errands for them before theyll tell you what you want to know. The story doesnt really get interesting until more than halfway through (though at that point I did quite enjoy it, but Im also one of the few that finished the first game and can relate to all these characters) when you start to make headway in the campaign and start to unearth information about Gandohar.
With many fantasy RPGs, youre stuck into a set role you choose at the beginning of the game. Instead, you are given freedom to spend your skill points when you level up in any fashion you choose. You can improve your combat skills, magic, stealth, crafting and more all based on how you want to play. Theres a substantial amount of flexibility and strategy that go into picking the right skills for your hero. You can focus on one set type of skills and boost those for massive damage, or have many skills for more versatility (though I suggest boosting your skills for later on). I had two characters, a melee and a magic user. Both play completely different and it almost felt like a completely different game.
If you choose to be melee, youll constantly be very active using skills and defense moves. Youll eventually get a handful of skills to use and its up to you to decide when the best time to use them in combat is. You can be an archer too if you wish in which youll also have a bunch of tricks to defeat your enemies and its just as straightforward as playing a melee based character.
Being a mage though is a completely whole different experience. This is because of the mechanic given to players to essentially create their own spells. While its difficult to explain (it even took me quite some time of playing to understand it all) Ill give the basic rundown of how the system works. Spells are created in amulets based on whatever cards you put in that amulet (which is then mapped to one of your buttons). First you have the type of spell you want (Fire, Water, Stone, etc) then what its going to do (Summon, Buff, Shoot, etc). From here you have a whole other set of cards that toggles many different aspects of the spell such as damage, time, projectile type and more.
Its incredibly complex and the in-game tutorial doesnt do a good job at teaching you, but youll eventually have the epiphany with enough time and then understand it. You can combine almost any set of cards which makes for a near endless numbers of different spells that can be created and cast. Some examples of spells I tried making: a summon of 10 pets to aid me, a fireball that shoots multiple times and ricochets off walls, a regenerating buff, stone armor that literally circles me, traps on the ground that act as a force field and vaporize anything that runs through it and a homing poison bolt. Its daunting trying to figure it all out but once you get the hang of it, you can make some incredibly powerful and unique spells.
The crafting system is almost as versatile and gives you the option to almost create and boost your own weapons and armor. The big feature in the first game was the item stacking to make them better. This new crafting system is what replaces it and is better in my opinion. Any item you pick up can be broken down to its basic ingredients such as wood and metals. With these components, you can buff up any item you have in your inventory whenever you wish. Should you find a better item, you can then break down your old item and the ingredients reused again. I never even sold anything at the stores because of this and used all my broken down items to buff up the ones I was using instead. This is a fantastic way to solve the inventory problems that many of these games face and it was quite fun to see my weak sword turn into a monster after I socketed some gems into it (which you get back when you break down your weapon afterwards!).
Just like the first game, youll eventually gain access to a horse to use during your quests, but youll also unlock teleports in areas you explore which can then be used for fast travel between any areas youve previously been to thus not ever needing a horse (that and the fact that I lost or killed mine very early on). While Antaloor is huge in scale, it never feels too daunting and is quite manageable on foot if you take advantage of the teleports.
While there will be no shortage of quests, many though are mundane and not very exciting. Sadly, youll most likely have to do some of these to level up as youll sometimes hit a brick wall of difficulty in the main story at times that tries to force you to level up beforehand. Speaking to people can be skipped completely and you can just follow the quest marker from area to area if you wish as well.
Multiplayer again returns to Two Worlds but its definitely been improved since the last time. Sadly your single and multiplayer characters are still separate though. The multiplayer side does have a campaign to it which I found interesting as its actually telling the bad side of the story where you are helping Gandohar. Just like the solo campaign, there are quests to do but now you can take these on with 7 of your friends alongside you. Make note, if you have a high level person helping you, theres no penalty and you can level extremely quickly this way.
You can continue to level up and replay missions to gain more xp and loot or you can try a deathmatch with friends or a duel. You can even do a Village Mode where you try and create and in-depth village to gain money and items. Make note though, many high level players online have found ways to cheat and get items that shouldnt be available (such as +endurance items that give millions of hitpoints) and there are a few spells that can be created to simply grief other players and kill them.
I found this game hard to judge for a few different reasons. Yes, there are many smaller bugs and hiccups, but nothing I couldnt deal with for the most part. Usually the main character in a game is the best voice actor and the others are the ones that bring everything down; its actually the opposite here. Your heros voice will make you hope you can read quickly so you can skip his lines.
It takes quite a while for the story to become interesting (if you know whats really going on) and once I figured out why I was dying so often, I corrected it and the game become quite entertaining once I stopped dying to every enemy. It so happens that to block you need to hold the Left Trigger, which I was doing, but I was still getting hit every time. Turns out I was hitting the trigger too early while doing one of my attack animations and because of that I never really turned on my block. Once I figured this out about 8 hours in, combat become a blast for me as I could take on any amount of enemies with ease.
Is the game perfect? No, not by a long shot, but after a few hours of learning how to do everything like creating my own spells and chaining my combat moves together, I really started to have fun with it. It will probably mean a little more to fans that finished the first game as it doesnt do a good job at explaining much about the characters (youre just supposed to know), but once I started to learn more about Gandohar and seeing the return of another bad guy, I had that ahhhhhhhh epiphany.
Two Worlds II has some great mechanics that I would actually love to see incorporated into some other games such as the crafting and skill selects. Its not perfect but it is fun once you figure everything out after a very steep learning curve (certain things like map markers arent even explained in game and you need to reference your instruction manual). Im really glad I stuck with it and completed it and I just hope others will have the patience to give it a chance to get to that turning point of the game. Its much better than the first Two Worlds, but that wasnt hard to do. Theres some real hidden charm lying underneath the shortcomings when you look hard enough.