Review: Two Worlds II

Two Worlds II contains hilariously bad voice-acting, awkward scenarios, and far less polish than similar games in the genre. But so what? The time that I spent with it was some of the most rewarding I have gotten from an RPG this year (and that includes Mass Effect 2’s DLC). From the very beginning of my quest, opting to journey as a blonde surfer-dude look-alike, complete with a cute little braid in his hair (why couldn’t I choose to be female?), I reveled in its thoroughly B-movie atmosphere, which include hilarious one-liners and memorable reactions my traveler could provide when prompted for a response with voice dialogue – all spoken, by the way. While I never got to experience the original Two Worlds, I found its successor a wholly enjoyable, engrossing, and absolutely gorgeous, if not massively flawed experience. It’s a precious stone – one that hasn’t been polished just yet. When and if Reality Pump does so, the franchise will blossom into something truly formidable.

And getting lost in the magic of Two Worlds II is mind-numbingly simple. After the stage is set in Antaloor and all the characters firmly locked in place, your protagonist (imprisoned in the evil Gandohar’s dungeon) is freed by a band of fighters who also quite helpfully provide movement, battle, and magic tutorials, as well as a round of particularly interesting bow-and-arrow combat that completely changed the way I thought about in-game archery – marking multiple targets was a huge draw for me, especially after being a Thief player in my youth. It was then I realized how unintentionally innovative Two Worlds II actually was. Its quick and easy tutorials, tying directly into the narrative, Dar Pha acting as your tour guide, briefed me on the action and how-to of everything far better than a manual could, and without realizing I was learning got me primed and pumped, ready to rescue sister Kyra and get the party started, if you will.

After your real start on a small island which is home to plenty of quests, mishaps, and mayhem, the leash is dropped and you’re on your own to explore to your heart’s content. As you speak to the villagers you’ll discover thieves, frauds, gamblers, and a rainbow of other characters who all have something for you to do, whether it’s delivering a head to a grave robber, forging a pass to enter the next area (the guard calls you “darling”), or helping to cure a sick horse by way of learning how to concoct new materials via alchemy.

This first island was a portal in many ways to the rest of the game, showcasing the many ways players could choose to tackle it: become a powerful spell-slinger as you level up your several different magical abilities, stay a formidable warrior, or craft your own abilities thanks to the game’s interesting permission for you to craft your very own abilities using spell cards. I did find this to be more than a little difficult at first, as the game doesn’t delve too far into the specifics on this, but experimenting and trying new things only enhanced the experience for me. I could certainly see this as a roadblock, however, for players looking for more straightforward instruction. You can choose to play whichever style is most comfortable, though, and in games that enforce structure and playing by the game’s rules rather than your own, Two Worlds II is a breath of fresh air. Craft, combine, and mix to your heart’s content and you will be rewarded.

With an enormous single-player campaign map, there’s no shortage of things to do and people to see. Whether you’re massacring ostriches or joining the resistance against Gandohar, you’ll always be engaged in one quest or another, though unfortunately many of them do happen to be fetch quests. You can’t win ‘em all. Fortunately the reasoning and setup behind said quests always tends to bring a smile to your face. In one of the earliest quests I needed to find a way (as previously mentioned) into the next area of town, which I needed a pass for. I found several ways to do this, though opted for a quick way out – a forgery – and I was swindled with a quickness. This was a hilarious way to me to keep from rewarding those looking for a quick solution, and from then on I was careful to place myself in similar situations…unless it involved lock-picking, which I found was far less cumbersome than methods I had seen before in other games. I fast became a lock-picking pro, and I suspect that most players will find it to be enjoyable as well.

The technical pitfalls (bad voice-acting, slowdown when using spells, movement glitches, etc) are certainly an annoyance, but relatively minor ones and only served as a reminder of how formerly broken the first game was, if trusted friends are to be believed. Even if I couldn’t walk away from a conversation and I turned right back around automatically to the person I was speaking with, or even if my horse tended to throw me off right away in a vicious cycle I still can’t quite understand, I kept coming back for more, for more silly acquaintances, for more tough-guy one-liners from my hero, and to explore some of the richest landscaping I’ve seen in-game in quite a while. The tilted camera angles did tend to throw me off, giving the game an almost seaworthy edge (don’t get seasick!) but the smoothness to which it rotated, the vast expanses of desert, dark dungeons, castles, and village areas teeming with detail got me over it.

Even the simple swing of my protagonist’s bleach-blonde hair (and his braid!) was entrancing, or the simple way when he was running quicker than a cheetah (literally) he’d skid on turning back in the other direction. It’s the little details you don’t see very often that got me.

Two Worlds II begs you to come explore its expanses, giving you plenty of reasons to keep on truckin’ even if you only planned on finishing up one quest. And that’s saying something when plenty of current RPGs with big names behind them make it difficult for me to play past the initial tutorial missions or kill a few rats. Something about this game made me stop and listen to the story it was trying to tell, even if it was often told in a somewhat broken and confusing manner. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially in the fact that it includes multiplayer and co-op missions, something I wasn’t expecting when booting the game up. It’s just different and interesting enough to make me want to revisit and recommend it to RPG fans looking for a new adventure or even something to tide them over until Skyrim. It’s broken beyond belief in some ways, but it’s also a darn fine yarn to unravel, and any adventurer would do well to add this to their collection. Take a chance. You’ll be glad you did.

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