Big open world RPGs scare me. I'm one of those gamers that likes to fully investigate the game world, explore all the different endings and avenues of reaching the ending, and this genre can be a total 'time vampire' if you will. I'm easing into it though, having recently played Arcania and most recently I've been playing through Two Words II from Reality Pump, Topware Interactive, and published by Southpeak. While Two Worlds II won't blow the doors off of the genre or seriously compete with the big boy franchises from Bethesda or Bioware, if you have even a casual interest in RPGs, I suggest you give Two Worlds II a serious look.
Welcome (Back) To Antaloor
The original Two Worlds, also developed by Reality Pump and published by SouthPeak, was released for the PC and 360 back in 2007. I never got around to play it, although I'm much more interested to do so now that I've been playing Two Worlds II. In true sequel fashion, Two Words II (TWII) continues the story of the first adventure. The hero is tasked with trying to free his sister from the clutches of an evil sorcerer known as Gandohar who is using the woman as a channeling mechanism to unleash the power of Aziraal. Gandohar intends to finish the eradication of the orc race that he started and plenty of other evil stuff, so it's up to you and your NPC help to stop him.
The adventure begins with a prison break that frees you from the clutches of Gandohar's palace. You retreat to a small orc encampment and establish a home base to store items, talk with your allies, receive quests, and trade and sell goods. You also meet the Prophet who believes that you are the key to saving the orcs and stopping Gandohar.
If a lot of this sounds pretty familiar and generic, well, it kinda is. But, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, although I did find myself stumbling over numerous names used in TWII's world. Never mind that though, the core experience is solid, despite several overhanging flaws both in execution and in design decisions. While there is certainly a core goal, players are free to roam and take on as many side quests as they please, and these of course do have consequences, good and bad. There is a reputation system that you can view from within your inventory and a basic morale tracking system that you can monitor as well. The land of Antaloor is massive, so thank goodness for horses and teleporters as you will find yourself hoping all over the land within just a few hours of play.
I think there's a lot to like about TWII. One of those 'likes' would definitely be the load times and the ability to save and reload your game at any time, and very quickly at that. A 3GB install is required to play, but man is it worth it. Load times are all very brief, usually well under ten seconds. It's great being able to pause, save in any number of save slots, experiment, and then reload if you need to -- all within seconds. That's the type of experience you would expect to see on the PC, the lead platform for this game unless I am mistaken, but that it translated so well onto the PS3 is noteworthy.
TWII offers an interesting magic system that encourages players to experiment with different elements to make new, potent spells. Similarly, weapons can be broken down into their basic elements and reused to bolster the strength of armor or other weapons, and weapons can also be outfitted with numerous magical stones that further enhance their stats. Your ability to lockpick, sneak, craft, wield, create (alchemy) and so forth depends on how you distribute your Attribute and Skill Points. With each new Level, you're a few points in each to spread as you see fit.
For genre newcomers, the amount of information that is thrown at you can be a bit intimidating. As an example, I found the symbols used to describe a weapon's stats to be confusing at first. I also found the character menu system took a bit of getting used to, but it's nothing that some time and experience cannot fully mend. Worse case, just pull out the wonderfully in depth manual that details everything.
Overall, TWII is proving to be a competent and deep open world RPG, but it does have a few problems. For one, I thought the interaction prompts were weird and could have been done better. It's odd being several feet away from a door, for example, and the 'open' prompt suddenly appearing. Sometimes I will enter a room, get a prompt to pick something up, and I won't even see it. I think it would have been better had interactive items been highlighted (like, around their border or perimeter) in addition to the pop up prompt appearing. I also felt the combat felt a bit 'loose' in TWII. This could just be a matter of me needing to level up more, but I found blocking and striking to feel somewhat delayed or not quite as responsive as I expected. In fact, I've seen this input delay on a couple of occasions, such as when opening a box. On several occasions I will press X to open the box, but due to a minor delay (and me pressing X a second time), I would not only open the box, but immediately take the first item in my inventory and put it in the box. This is more of a 'get used to it' thing than a real issue, but I thought it worth mentioning.
The graphics in TWII are pretty good, especially in well lit scenes, but they're definitely dated. I noticed a lot of blurriness and bland textures in use. Water effects look dated and the skyline looks terrible, and when moving around the camera does this sort of weird 'pull back then move in' thing whenever I stop running. I don't think it's unique to the game, but combined with the surrounding visuals it took me a little getting used to; and I still don't like it but at this point it doesn't bother me as much as it did at first. I've also noticed some framerate spikes too. And, in conversation with NPCs, the lips and words are woefully out of sync, which is just one of those polish issues more so than any kind of game breaking problem.
TWII has a significant multiplayer component that I've started to dabble with. Support for eight player co-operative mode in the co-op campaign is on board as well as team based and 1-on-1 battles. Heck, you can even manage your own town in the Village mode which is a pretty cool idea. I haven't spent a great deal of time with multiplayer yet but from what I can tell the community is growing and I have yet to experience any bugs.
To the summary...