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Two Worlds II Preview

By Jeff Buckland, 8/30/2010

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Two Worlds was such a strange game. Released a few years ago on PC and Xbox 360 by Polish developer Reality Pump, it skirted the edges of parody at times but took itself way too seriously at other times, often taking even jaded gamers by surprise with its massive highs and crippling lows. The game gained a mild cult following with the type of people who enjoy movies that are so bad they're good. It did help that Two Worlds often felt like a pretty full and satisfying game - other than the bugs, horrible dialogue, ridiculous Olde English phrases, and a bunch of other issues, it still delivered an expansive, open-world RPG experience that was fun to play (at least most of the time).

With the sequel, though, Reality Pump and publisher SouthPeak are planning on fixing what was wrong with the first and delivering an entirely new experience with the fantasy action-RPG style we have been craving since Bethesda's Morrowind was announced a decade ago. With plenty of combat options and a bunch of new ways to customize your character along with his armor, weapons, and spells, Two Worlds II is looking like it might just be worth the price of admission - even for people who don't regularly buy campy sci-fi and horror flicks from the three-dollar DVD section at Wal-Mart.

It starts with a new engine, one that can show expansive areas of the game world (which is now significantly bigger than in the first game) with a solid amount of detail, smooth frame rates, and no loading screens when moving around the outdoor world. There are new enemies, a continuation of the game's story and battle between the hero and the main villain, Gandohar, and a third-person combat system that includes dual wielding, mage spells of all kinds, and new abilities like the Oculus that will let you pilot a little flying eye as a scout. These Oculi are limited-use items, but you'll get different abilities depending on what monster's head you plucked one out of, and you can even use them to set traps or bombs as well as scout out the next room and such.

You start in a prison, which seems to now be considered the stereotypical only way to start out a fantasy RPG nowadays (admittedly, it was a precedent set decades ago by games that have gone down as some of the best in history). You'll be broken out of - stop me if you've heard this one - prison as part of the intro and will have to stop the big baddie Gandohar and save your sister, the convenient damsel in distress, to boot. Your character comes through from the first game mostly as a blank slate, and as before, you won't be forced into a particular character class, so once you build up your character enough, you'll be able to switch gear and spells out to swap from being a warrior to a wizard very quickly.

But the most interesting feature would have to be the customization options. Now, you won't have to constantly peddle old bits of armor to some vendor for piddly change, and instead can break those pieces down into component elements. From there, you'll be able to use these components to build new items or upgrade ones you've already got, and you might need several sets of armor with different properties in order to deal with the full range of enemies to fight, too.

Then there are spells. There was a rarely-used feature in Oblivion that let you custom-create your own spells with any of the magical properties you already wielded in other magic, and the system here in Two Worlds II expands that and adds some interesting stuff. Now, you'll pick up dropped items to unlock these properties, and can stack them together when building a spell and customize the strength (and, of course, increase the cost of casting at the same time). But the added use of a full physics system and the ability to do more things at a distance means you can summon a bunch of heavy junk and make a whirlwind out of it surrounding you, toss out a fireball that summons skeletons wherever it explodes, or pull out any combination of the pretty standard stuff you expect out of a fantasy RPG spell system.

The openness of all this is there to keep you thinking about how to better your character in the way RPGs do it best: by forcing you to make tough choices about how to improve, and challenging you to unleash your unique abilities, weapons, and tools that gives you the edge in a fight. That's key for any RPG for me, and Two Worlds II looks like it'll have what we expect out of a serious effort in the genre.

All that said, I don't see this game actually staying 100% serious. The promotional videos leading up to the release directly poke fun at the first game, and while I didn't see anything deliberately weird or hilarious in the hour and a half I've seen Two Worlds II in motion, it's almost certain to be buried in there somewhere. As long as Reality Pump can balance that alongside their attempt to make a game that's more fun for the rest of us - and not just those who love B-movies - then this could be a surprise winner. Two Worlds II is set for release on the PC, 360, and PS3 on October 5th.



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