Will Two Worlds II Defy Genre Expectations?
The original Two Worlds was a game brimming with promise. Hot on the heels of Gothic 3 and Oblivion, Two Worlds promised a massive, open world, deep RPG-style customization, and loot diverse enough to make Diablo fans drool.
Upon the game’s actual release, however, the fever pitch of anticipation that had built in the months prior all came crashing down in spectacular fashion. Although the world was as massive and varied as promised, it was crippled by shoddy visuals, an antique engine that sputtered during the most intense action sequences, and a host of unforgivable, save-game annihilating bugs.
Cue Two Worlds II, developer Reality Pump’s high-budget shot at redemption. But can the sequel live up to the original’s unfulfilled promise, and more importantly, can it expand and evolve some of the systems that made the first game sound so exciting?
The most striking difference between the original and Two Worlds II is immediately apparent to anyone who has seen pre-release footage of the sequel’s gameplay. The engine has been completely overhauled, and the game now looks like a properly modern release. Gone are the jagged edges, the chugging frame rate, and the unappealing character models, replaced by lavish visuals powered by an all new engine dubbed (appropriately) Grace. Grace is the sophisticated product of a design team that’s double the size of the one responsible for the original game, and the upgrade is immediately apparent; improved lighting, convincing weather effects, realistic physics. Two Worlds II looks less like a sequel and more like a brand new IP.
Though the fresh coat of paint is striking, the improvements aren’t merely aesthetic. Two Worlds II also promises a deep crafting system by which basic ingredients and artifacts can transformed into powerful weapons and armor. Reality Pump promises that every item in the game can be broken down into components, which can then be fashioned into new gear or added to existing gear to upgrade it. In the grand tradition of Diablo and its army of clones, some equipment will be slotted for jewels that add magic or elemental properties.
The magical counterpart to the crafting system, DEMONS, allows players to customize spells by combining up to six spell cards, each with unique effects. The depth of effects and combinations is enticing, opening up a broad range of possibilities like balls of lightning that explode into spheres of ice, or ricocheting fireballs that spit corrosive acid on contact. Of the new systems, DEMONS looks to be the most innovative and exciting, in the way that the effects of customization are immediately apparent in the gameplay.
Supplementing the item and magic customization is the PAPAK alchemy system. PAPAK calls for players to harvest materials from plants, animals and minerals and use them to brew potions to buff or heal their characters. Though we’ve seen alchemy attempted in RPGs before, the quest to fly out into the world in search of rare or specialty ingredients could be a compelling facet of a lively game world if handled correctly. In reverse, if not carefully implemented, it could mean hours of drudgery and farming monsters for elusive drops or burning precious time sorting through inventory screens thick with detritus.
That balance is the hinge on which Two Worlds II will swing. If the new systems get too mired down in menus and inventory management, all that depth and complexity could quickly turn from a virtue into a liability. After the luster of the shiny new visuals have faded and it’s time for the game to be tested in the crucible of gameplay, those new mechanics could be the make-or-break factor that determines whether Two World’s 2 is a tale of redemption or another black mark on a young developer’s rap sheet.
Genre breakout? Modern classic? Or another sad tale of shattered promises and spoiled ambition? We’ll find out in October, and frankly we can’t wait.