First Impressions: Two Worlds II

by: Ben Berry -
My two overall favorite games that I've played since the Xbox 360 came out are Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Mass Effect (I & II). Admittedly, I haven't had time to play Dragon Age: Origins, but I have tried most of the sandbox-style RPG's of all different genres in that time. And while there may be better games, I can't remember having much more fun than I have had playing Two Worlds II.

The term "spiritual successor" is a bit overused, but it seems appropriate to give an overall impression that Two Worlds II is very much a spiritual successor of Oblivion. It;s interesting that with the announcement of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim releasing this year that a game with so much the feel of the Elder Scrolls series is released. 

There's a lot that stands out about this game. The first thing that stood out to me is that it's helpful to at least understand a little bit of what happened at the end of the original Two Worlds. Two Worlds II starts off not long after the end of the original, and to be honest as someone who hadn't played the original it was a big jarring of a way to start a game. The team did a pretty good job of getting the player up to speed, but there's a bit of head scratching that goes on in say the first half hour of game time. There's a decent synopsis of the back story in the game manual, so if you read nothing else, make sure to read page 4 of the manual. With the scores that Two Worlds received, I'm guessing that page will help a lot of people. It's definitely worth it to stick through that first half hour as the game gets going. 

Once you get away from your captors with the help of your unnamed hero's unlikely allies, you get a chance to start exploring what by any account is an enormous sandbox world. It's just seems absolutely huge. For fans of games where you can really sink your teeth in and explore, you're going to get your moneys worth and more. You have miles (or should I say KM's as the games is on the metric system) of open space to explore.

Did I mention all of that open space is gorgeous? Reality Pump, the German developer on the game, spent several years developing GRACE, the engine used in the game. Graphically, it's simply phenomenal, in terms of the pure visual appeal. The environment, the lighting, and the camera are all terrific. I found making my way through the game easily and highly enjoyable. 

The only problem with all that space is that it takes some time to cross. You eventually can earn a horse, and most importantly there are a series of teleporters throughout the entirety of the land. As you explore, you find more teleportation sites, earning faster travel the more of the map you uncover. I still find running across the land easiest, as I haven't been able to teleport my horse.

While you're doing all that running, your character is on the screen the entire time, and you spend most of the game looking at the hero, so it's nice that you can customize him. Aside from the standard appearance changes, you can also dye your clothing/armor as part of the crafting processes, which can be a big part of the game. You can buy upgraded weapons and armor, but you can also put skill points towards learning abilities that will help you make your armor and weapons better without spending any money. I have to say to this point, this is my favorite part of the game, and I like the rest of it a good bit.

Combat, is much the same as in a majority of RPGs, a mix of hack and slash with ranged combat. One of the problems with the game is that the monster AI isn't that strong in working with obstacles in the environment, so you're able to take advantage of this to stay safe and slowly whittle down the power of strong opponents. I've taken out more than one giant scorpion this way. It takes a bit of the fun out of the game to make use of this exploit, but I would have died several more times until I figured out the summoning spells without it.

The primary and side quests don't seem too repetitive yet, especially considering there are only so many ways you can write "go kill this" or "fetch that" quests. The rewards seem commensurate with the risks, though sometimes it may take finishing a string of quests to get a quality reward.

I've talked a lot about everything that's good about Two Worlds II, but there are a few things that could have used some polish. First, the autosave takes longer than it should and happens regardless of what you're doing, including combat. It was really frustrating to desperately need a heal only to be interrupted by an autosave that takes at least 10 seconds, and interrupts the flow. Yes, you can turn it off, but I'd prefer it simply not engage until combat is completed. Similarly, calling up the map, or changing some segments of the map while running can cause the game to pause longer than you'd expect. I've also seen a couple of times where coming in or out of a building that objects didn't all appear right away, and show as black boxes. 

I'm about 16 hours into the game that is expected to have between 20-60 of game time, and I'm not close to half done. I'm hoping to get my review completed in the next couple of days, but as the game launches today, my initial opinion is that this game is a buy. 
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