Two Worlds II (Console) Review
When Two Worlds was released in 2007, it was almost impossible not to compare it to the open world fantasy juggernaut that was Oblivion. Sure it shared many similar gaming conventions, but in the end, Two Worlds was a complete mess of bugs, terrible voice-acting (which is even mocked in the second game by an NPC) and unresponsive controls. Three years later and we have a sequel from the same developer, but rather than compare it to the five year old Oblivion, the main question is whether or not the sequel is an improvement.
The start of the game has your custom character (male only) breaking out of prison with help from a band of orcs while your sister is unfortunately left behind. The dark lord Gandohar was attempting to channel a demon housed deep within her, and was using your body as a conduit so she wouldn't die. After successfully breaking out, you are sent off by the Prophet on a grand quest to stop Gandohar and rescue your sister.
Your quest will take you all across the expansive land of Antaloor, which is split up into three continents and some smaller islands. Each has its own distinct look, such as themes drawn from middle eastern and Chinese architecture. The fast-travel feature returns for teleporting to previously visited areas. Although extremely convenient, you must first find the fast-travel nodes on your own, and they are not marked on a map. Sometimes, they're so well hidden that you might walk past them without even knowing. Horses are also available, but controlling them is so painful that I used them only when necessary for quests.
You can accept myriad of side-quests, but, since enemies don't scale to your level, you'll find that side-quests are mandatory for strengthening your character. These tasks are nothing out of the ordinary however; a simple go here, kill that, talk to this person, sneak into this house, retrieve item and come back formula that repeats in one form or another. The mini-map is helpful, but the quest log is quite confusing. Instead of separating quests into groups (i.e. main, side, complete, active, etc.), they are all mashed together on one page, separated only by location. Completed quests do turn gray, but I would rather not have to scroll through them every time I open my log.
Two Worlds II has a nice variety of baddies to slay, but the combat is less than stellar. You can play as a warrior, archer, mage, or assassin. There is little strategy outside of spamming your main attack, which always takes a split-second to execute. I often noticed that my attacks went straight through my enemies instead of registering as hits. Whether this is a glitch or the result of invisible 'dice rolls' and stats is difficult to say. I wanted to leave The Elder Scrolls out of this, but the series still has one of the most engaging systems of skill-progression; the more you use a skill, the better it gets. Two Worlds II is far more traditional and allows you to distribute skill points at each level. It works, just as it has for years, but it isn't nearly as immersive.
I greatly appreciate the streamlined systems for crafting and alchemy. You can turn useless loot into raw materials and use them on weapons and armor to strengthen them and give them augmentation slots. This is not only handy to improve your stats, but it also helps when you're carrying too many things and want to ease your load a bit. Plants and meat can be combined in various ways to create different healing or stat raising potions, which can be a lifesaver when you're low on health, stuck in a dungeon, and you need to brew up a quick potion.
The game looks great, even beautiful at times, like when the sunshine bounces off the grass and mountains or when you look off into the shimmering ocean. The same praise can go for the soundtrack that has fitting themes for every location and situation. Although the voice-acting has definitely improved, most noticeably when engaged in a one on one conversation, enemies are fond of repeating the same lines like, "You can't hide from me!" over and over in the same voice. It just makes me want to put them out of their misery even quicker.
Two Worlds II is hands-down a definite improvement. The game runs smoothly (except for occasional hiccups when the world was loading), the environments are far more detailed, and the voice-acting is a huge step in the right direction. The gameplay lends itself to be enjoyed with a controller, but falls flat due to its button layout. It still suffers from some setbacks and odd design choices, but unlike the first game, it is actually playable and, most importantly, enjoyable.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]