Two Worlds II Preview
It wonít be long now before the sequel to 2007ís most ridiculously amusing game, Two Worlds, is released. The epic, sprawling action-RPG channeled a hell of a lot of Oblivion, but it also did it in a haphazard way, gaining the attention of gamers in much the same way that subsequent survival horror game Deadly Premotion has - as a game that in many ways, is so bad itís good.
Two Worlds II is a more serious attempt to do a sequel right, and in many ways, this game is succeeding on that front. Itís a third-person fantasy RPG with action-based combat, and the main character can gain stats and skill points to fill out a skill tree as a powerful warrior, sneaky rogue, fast-firing ranger, or one of several types of spell-flinging mages. With the ability to respec and/or spend points in any combination, itís easy to become a jack of all trades, a powerful dual-class type, or a master of any one particular discipline.
What impressed me most in my first hour or two of Two Worlds II is that this attempt to make a serious RPG has had many successes that other developers havenít really done right in the past: the crafting and upgrading system of making and upgrading potions and gear is interesting and unique, the magic creation system reminds me of Oblivionís spell building but with some fun twists, and the world itself looks fantastic with a solid engine powering it. Sometimes itís just the little things like the realistic-looking water or the way that waist-high plants are dynamically pushed out of your way as you walk through fields, and other times the game can put on huge, epic vistas. The detail on any one object or texture isnít always top-notch, but the overall picture is usually pretty grand. On the other hand, the voice acting is passable at best, the quests and missions youíre sent on are only mildly amusing, and the story is not exactly of the highest caliber, but none of these things are actually that vital for an open-world RPG like this to succeed.
Youíll start out with the usual linear intro in a dungeon that we see in so many RPGs like this, but you will quickly break out and get to a small island off the coast of the gameís huge mainland. Once you get off of it and into the ďmainĒ game, the world is wide open, but youíll quickly find that picking a direction and going off-script wonít serve you as well as it did in Oblivion. Unfortunately, only trial and error can determine what monsters you can realistically fight and kill without getting destroyed, as the world seems hard-coded with levels for every monster you encounter, even if theyíre just higher level versions of monsters youíve already easily killed. That can actually be a good thing for reasons that have been rehashed many times with regard to Oblivionís odd system of dynamically matching every monster and opponent in the world to your level, but itíd have been nice to have some way find out how difficult itíd be to take on an enemy before you just give it a shot (and in some cases, get one-shotted by him).
TW2 includes an interesting multiplayer mode, too, where you can do eight-player cooperative gaming online along with separate competitive deathmatch-style games, too. I spent a good amount of time with the coop mode, and while it has an entirely separate campaign than the original game, this is actually quite helpful: itís mostly linear so you and your group stay together, and the whole thing is broken up into bite-size chapters so that you can complete one and end the session if you wish. The difficulty of the enemies is dynamically ramped up (mostly in damage and health numbers) as more people are added to your party, and while you can go off the beaten path here and there in both the outdoor world and in dungeons, itís mostly a short detour to find a quick hidden cache of items or a few herbs out in the field.
While itís doubtful that Two Worlds II is going to be winning any GOTY awards, it does present a solid, large fantasy world to explore, level up, and kill monsters in, and the multiplayer is actually surprisingly fun to jump into. The PC version is of course the most visually impressive one, but having played the 360 version as well, I can say that it captures every important element of what makes the game fun. Two Worlds II will become available in the US on January 25th on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, and OnLive.