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Two Worlds II


Around three and a half years ago, Two Worlds limped out onto the Xbox 360 nearly a year after Oblivion dazzled audiences with an epic tale set in a land of fantasy. It was met with much disdain over buggy visuals and poor gameplay, even though the story was relatively entertaining. Iím just guessing that SouthPeak wasnít too happy with the release and set out to correct many of the problems that plagued the first with Two Worlds II. The narrative follows up on the original story and is also set in the land of Antaloor. Our trusty hero is dealing with the tyranny of the consistently evil Gandohar and his sister, Kyra, is also in peril. With the help of a former enemy, he escapes the clutches of Gandohar early in the game and is forced to form an uneasy truce with the mysterious Dragon Queen. Unfortunately, the developer failed to produce a captivating story on this go-around. Instead, thereís only a smattering of character development and you are forced to fill in the blanks yourself with stilted conversation and wooden characters.

two worlds 2 landscape grass

The gameplay structure of Two Worlds II is very similar to the first or fantasy RPG games in general. Much of your time will be spent traveling from point to point and slaughtering anything in between. Just like the first game and similar to the Fallout series, you can unlock the fast travel system by uncovering nodes on the map. Frankly, this is a better solution than using horses as they still control horribly. You are building up a character during the game, specifically an assassin, mage, archer or warrior. Leveling is done in a traditional manner, allowing you to assign points to your characterís core strengths and base skills. Combat is still stiff, dated and lacks the intensity of other fantasy RPGs. However, the quest lines (both main and side) are interweaved fairly intelligently and you often wonít realize that youíve completed portions of the main quest if you are a wanderer like I was.

One of the clearest improvements to the Two Worlds series is in the area of crafting. All the little ingredients / components that you gather after battle or in the wild can be used in crafting new items or improvements on current equipment. You can also take old weapons, armor, etc and break them down to their core parts; if you have an iron axe, you will be sitting on a stack of iron and wood. The entire crafting system works extremely well in the design of the user interface, mostly because it highlights items that can be used for your current crafting job. The same kudos goes for the overhaul on the alchemy system. Itís much faster to create potions; extremely helpful for the traveling mage and even useful for the warrior needed a health fix.

two worlds 2 armor archers arrows

The multiplayer component returns in Two Worlds II, co-op missions and adversarial matches. Character building during multiplayer is a completely different character than the regular game, so donít expect to build experience during matches. I found the co-op mode to be the most entertaining and allowed me to play as a supporting character rather than a sword swinging hulk. Itís fun to use supporting magical spells with 7 other co-op players while working through a quest. The adversarial multiplayer was likely designed by a mentally challenge goat. There are no restrictions on classes or player level. That means my starting archer can enter a match with your veteran warrior and you can kick my butt within seconds. Perhaps the developerís should just swing by my house and punch me in the face if they disliked me that much. Gee whiz. Beyond the multiplayer, there are 46 achievements to sink your teeth into. The vast majority are related to finishing up the single player campaign, achieving levels, or doing X number of things. Thereís little creativity here, but the sheer length of the campaign will require a large chunk of your time to get all the achievements.

Graphics

The single fact that the game runs without sending your Xbox 360 into a freezing fit is a plus to the series. The first game looked great, but the Grace graphic engine locked up the 360 frequently due to the terrible port job. Topware has improved greatly on the performance of the engine, but be wary of nagging graphical glitches, namely tearing, and the occasional slowdown issues. Character models are more grandly decorated five years in the future, but their lips donít match the words coming out of their mouths. They are also poorly animated. Landscape design is improved and there are some truly sweeping environments in the game. You can often just gaze at the breathtaking scenery for a while during a quest. On a final note, beware of the extensive load times. Sometimes I think 20% of my RPG gaming time is stuck in a load screen and Two Worlds II is no exception.

two worlds 2 warrior giant tree

Audio

The voice work in the game has definitely gotten better since the last outing, but the amount of recorded audio pales in comparison to other RPGs on the market. You will frequently hear repeated lines while wandering the countryside. However, the writing improved over the last title. Musically, the developer does a better job of implementing the right type of tunes based on location and current scenario. The sound effects are passable for a fantasy RPG, nothing exceptional.

Conclusion

Two Worlds II suffers from a handful of the same problems as the original, but the improved graphics engine and deeper gameplay are positive steps forward for the series. However, Southpeak hasnít been able to keep up with the competition in terms of other features, a continual morality system for instance. With Biowareís Dragon Age II hitting shelves in just under 5 weeks among the huge lineup of fantasy RPGs coming this year, Two Worlds II has little chance of succeeding as itís barely up to par for a game released two years earlier in the Xbox 360Ďs lifecycle. Add in the complete lack of a truly moving narrative and we have a game thatís likely destined for the bargain bin within weeks rather than months due to the bad rep of the original. If you are willing to look past the faults of the game and enjoy spending your time crafting / questing, then Two Worlds II can manage to eat up 30 hours of your RPG gaming time; vastly more if you are a side quest fiend (60 hours). But if your gaming budget is the slightest bit tight, you are likely much better off waiting for Dragon Age II next month and renting Two Worlds II with Gamefly.



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