Top critical review
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An enjoyable exercise in tolerance
on 23 May 2011
I remember playing the original Two Worlds on 360 years ago... and also remembering turning it off again pretty soon after due to it being a bug riddled, ugly, wretched and unplayable mess of a game. So you can imagine it was with some hesitation I decided to try it's sequel after being pushed to by people whose opinions I trust telling me it was "excellent"... Gotta say... it is pretty god damn fun and really quite addictive once you get into it, but there are technical issues with this game that threaten to destroy the entire experience at the drop of a hat, so it can be fairly nerve wracking.
Starting off with some confusing nonsense about your character (Who MUST be male and actually speaks and has a set back story... you CAN alter his appearance though... a bit) being thrown in a dungeon by some mad wizard/tyrant who has captured his sister with plans to use her for some dark ritual. It is then your character is rescued by a squad of ORCS(!?!) who are acting on the orders of an oracle who believes you will save the world. From there, you set out on an epic quest to free your sister and kill the mad emperor guy in doing so. Most original plot EVER! It does what it needs to though I guess... the story is not where this game's real strength lies however...
If you've ever played Oblivion, then you'll have some idea of what to expect here, just in third person rather than first. TW2 actually came off as a bit of a cross between Oblivion and Red Dead Redemption for me. The game uses a persistent sandbox world and boy is it a BIG one. The world map is pretty considerable in size and there is a HELL of a lot to see and find throughout it but much of it seems to be made up of open 'empty' space with nothing of interest, so it won't be unusual for you to... say... spend half an hour or more working your way through valleys and forests just to reach a tiny village at the opposite end of a country to finish off some piddling little quest. Once you get a decent number of fast travel enabling 'teleport stones' activated though, this becomes much less of a problem. You can also make use of horses to get around faster, but I found the beasts to be somewhat unwieldy and hard to control. The combat is much easier to handle thankfully, with three main forms of combat for you to master in the form of melee, ranged and magic, as per usual for games of this type. Each of these combat types works well enough, but the best part of it is the 'dynamic' equipment swapping you can perform, where you can set completely different armour and weapon sets to either the left, right or up buttons on the d-pad, so if (For example) you are about to attack a camp filled with Werewolf men or something, you can switch to an equipment set optimised for magic and summon a squad of skeleton warriors to attack the camp while you immediately switch over to a ranged equipment set and pin your enemies down with arrows as your skeletons keep them busy and if any manage to rush you, you switch instantly to a warrior equipment set up and smash their skull in with a mace. It's this kind of large scale, on the fly strategic fighting that can make TW2 such a great game at times and while most battles will pretty much just be you running in and braining a rhino or family of apes to harvest their organs for alchemical purposes, the occasions when battle can actually be a challenge is well worth it. It is unquestionably a satisfying game to play, if not the most polished... but then, when are Western RPGs genuinely polished experiences? Unfortunately, I have yet to try the co-op campaign so I can't speak to it's worth... but considering it took me the better part of 40 hours to do just the single player mode and if the co-op mode is even half that length and plays as well then I see no reason it shouldn't be likewise good.
Technically, the game is the proverbial mixed bag. The surface visuals and texture work are very pretty to look at, with intricate details in armours and weapons and some nicely grotesque creature designs coupled with large scale cities bustling with people across a vast, streaming world. It looks great... HOWEVER... the performance is nowhere near as impressive sadly. There is a lot of framerate dropping in this game, sometimes to a fairly extreme degree. I don't recall it ever being bad enough to affect gameplay while in battle, but when you're doing something like running along the rooftops of one of the larger cities it can turn into an absolute slideshow. There are less severe, less regular issues with texture pop up and visual glitches like getting stuck in scenery and disappearing walls ans such which aren't as bad but still happen on occasion, adding up into one big ball of 'problematic' and thus leaving the entire experience walking a very fine tightrope between flawed gem and broken mess. Your tolerance for recurring minor issues and occasional major ones is going to be what ultimately determines how much you enjoy this game though. It definitely isn't 'broken' in the same way as something like the first Two Worlds or Alpha Protocol would have been, but it IS an extremely iffy affair on the tech front. So be sure to brace yourself going in. The sound front also has occasional glitches where voices will go all wonky or music will get stuck in a loop like a stuck CD, but for the most part it's competent. There's nothing spectacular on the voice acting front, but I have to say I loved the main character's persisting deadpan sarcasm throughout the game. True, it's possible that the voice actor was just sounding bored doing the role, but when your character's every line of dialogue sounds like it's supposed to be the dryest of sarcasm, you won't care, because it makes an otherwise mostly bland storyline a lot more amusing.
If you play a lot of Western RPGs, then you've problem come across a broken one or two, but never have I seen one that comes so dangerously close to being broken without QUITE going all the way into the abyss as TW2. It is a patchy, patchy game to see in motion but it is pretty and it is fun to play so your enjoyment is entirely going to come down to a question of tolerance. Can you live with massive slowdown and the odd glitch? If so, then give TW2 a try if you can actually find a copy anywhere, it really is quite superb.