Two Worlds II Review

03 Aug 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:TopWare Interactive
Developer:Reality Pump Studios
Release Date:2011-02-04
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person,First-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
The original Two Worlds debuted back in 2007. Billed as an alternative/competitor to the colossally popular Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Two Worlds was unfortunately a victim of its own marketing and its lower-budget production, as it was perhaps better known for its poor voice-acting than anything else. Nevertheless, Two Worlds endured thanks to some solid open world RPG gameplay, and went on to produce a sequel.

Two Worlds II was released in 2011. Created by Reality Pump, a Polish developer previously known for the Earth 2100 series of games, Two Worlds II offers a similar open world experience. Two Worlds II is, in some respects, literally a game of two worlds. On the one hand, it has some of the best visuals I've seen in an open world RPG, it has a fantastic soundtrack, it's mechanically quite sound, and when the game tries for it, there are some surprisingly involving sub-plots and quests. On the other hand, the lack of polish and several design flaws become evident immediately, and never let up throughout the entire game.

At its heart, Two Worlds II is an enjoyable open-world RPG that has several good ideas and entertaining sequences; whether it's worth putting up with the game's many shortcomings and frustrations, however, will come down to personal preference more than anything else.

Clichés Upon Clichés

Two Worlds II is a direct sequel to the original game, but doesn't require much in the way of background to understand what's going on. As the unnamed hero of the first game, your protagonist is imprisoned in the dungeons of the dark lord Gandohar, along with his scantily-clad sister Kyra. A rescue attempt by some orc rebels leads to the hero's freedom, but Kyra is left in Gandohar's clutches. Naturally, this is a bad thing, especially as Gandohar wants to use Kyra as a vessel to summon the imprisoned god of fire, Aziraal, and use his power to (what else?) take over the world. Working with the orc rebels, the hero travels throughout the "central" continents of Antaloor to research Gandohar's history and put a stop to his reign of terror.

If this is sounding like the most generic setup imaginable for a story, that's because it is. Two Worlds II is hardly original, but unlike some games that take their fantasy worlds completely seriously, it's clear Reality Pump intend Two Worlds to be at least a little tongue-in-cheek. Despite the satire, as the story goes on, it becomes surprisingly self-serious, and there are a lot of late-game twists and turns that managed to maintain my interest.  It's a pretty odd mix, and it's hard not to feel like there were two different stories being written at the same time, then were mashed together at the last minute.

I was also taken aback by some of the game's moral ambiguity. While some other RPGs bill their moral choices as a big selling point, Two Worlds II actually has quite a few situations without ideal solutions, or parties that are happy to manipulate you to their own ends. One section of the game, for instance, revolves around a string of murders committed by rebels to Gandohar's regime - is it right to support the rebels, even if they're violent criminals, or is order brought by the guards more important? While there's little in the way of consequence, these choices are still often quite interesting. The writing itself is not always great, having been translated from Polish from what I can tell, but it's generally good enough to get the characters and plot events across clearly.

Still, Two Worlds II's story is more a framing device for its huge selection of quests and content, and save for the bizarre, self-. The entertaining parts of the game come in the smaller moments, and much of the game's satirical bent comes out in these moments, ranging from simple tasks like saving a saleswoman's clients from killer umbrellas, to a full-on parody of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade's final sequence (complete with arbitrary Monty Python references). At times, it breaks the fourth wall, but this is also when the game is at its most enjoyable.