by Stefanie Fogel
previewed on X360
What it is
The general consensus around the Internet seems to be that the original Two Worlds just wasn't very good, a pale Oblivion-esque RPG full of bugs that somehow sold well enough to warrant a sequel. Now, Reality Pump Studios and SouthPeak are hoping to erase the bad taste of the first game from gamers' mouths with Two Worlds II, a game that has been built from the ground up with the console crowd in mind.
In Two Worlds II, players will return to the land of Antaloor five years after the events of the first game. In that time, the hero (the player character) has been getting acquainted with one of the Dark Lord Gandohar's prison cells. He is rescued by a group of Orcs - a race that has always been at odds with the hero - who believe he will play a role in Gandohar's downfall. So, the hero embarks on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord and reunite with his sister.
How it looks
Two Worlds II sports an all-new graphics engine called Grace and the developer who showed the game to me at E3 wasted no time in singing its praises. The engine's lighting effects are certainly eye-catching. Bump into a lantern and it will sway and cast shadows realistically. Sunlight filters through the trees in outdoor environments. At night, moonlight reflects off of water. The environments are interactive as well. Bump into a barrel and it will roll away from you. Bump into chains and they will rattle and sway. Even the walls, the dev told me, are textured and rendered in 3D.
The game's many cut-scenes are rendered in-game as well and players will be able to pan the camera around as the characters speak if they choose to do so. According to SouthPeak, Olympic fencers were brought in to choreograph the fighting moves on display during the scenes, and they are suitably flashy and dramatic (Olympic fencing really has nothing to do with historical fencing -Ed).
How it plays
Perhaps even more impressive than the new graphics engine is the sheer amount of customization options available. Customization starts with character creation. As in many other RPGs, players will have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to their character's physical appearance. Armor and weapons can be customized through a crafting system that allows you to break down unwanted items in your backpack and use the components to improve your gear. Dyes will allow you to alter your armor even further.
Two Worlds II has three core character classes - warrior, mage and ranger - but players are not confined to any one role. Skill points, gained as you progress through the game, can be spent in whatever way you desire. Want to be a spellcaster in heavy armor? You can do that. Want to be a ranger who can also lob a mean fireball? Go for it. Or play a pure vanilla class. It's up to you.
During my brief time with Two Worlds II, I had the chance to play around with all three classes. The warrior was my least favorite. I futilely chased a lone skeleton around a dungeon for many minutes, unable to land a blow, although that could just be a sad testament on my gaming skills and no fault of Reality Pump or SouthPeak. The ranger was my favorite and felt more powerful than the warrior. I quickly adjusted to the ranger's controls and happily kited enemies through the game's pretty outdoor environs. If you're the type of gamer who hates to kite, however, the ranger might not be for you.
By far, the most interesting character class in Two Worlds II is the mage, thanks to what is being called the DEMONS magic management system. By collecting component cards throughout the game, the player can custom build their own spells. The player can choose what element the spell should be (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), how powerful it is, how long it lasts, whether it's a direct damage spell, an area-of-effect spell, a buff or a summon. The player can choose the have the spell ricochet when it hits objects or seek out enemies like a heat-seeking missile. Spells can even be stacked. For instance, you can shoot a fireball that summons scorpions to assist you in battle whenever it hits something. The more powerful and complicated a spell is the more mana it costs. Still, the amount of combinations available is simply staggering.
Two Worlds II's main storyline should take about 25-30 hours to complete. There is also a multiplayer component to the game that includes 2-8 player co-op, dueling, and a competitive mode that has two teams battle to collect the most crystals. Co-op will be completely separate from the main game, with its own storyline and quests, and players' characters from the single player campaign won't carry over into multiplayer.
Two Worlds II looks like it has the potential to hurdle the admittedly low bar set by its predecessor. Sporting a lovely new graphics engine, console-friendly controls and the fast-paced action of other recent RPGs, gamers who love to tweak every possible facet of their characters will find a lot to like when the title hits store shelves later this year.