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Page 2 of 5Open World, Linear Story & Cut Corners
Unfortunately, the story highlights one of Two Worlds II's biggest internal contradictions: that while it's billed as an open-ended game with freedom to explore, the reality is that the game is actually quite linear. Part of this is due to the focus on telling its story, but that only tends to highlight that the open world gameplay itself is rather wasted. It might be tempting to compare Two Worlds II to other popular games featuring open-world gameplay, but truth be told it has far more in common with The Witcher and other more structured RPGs.
This might sound like a good thing at first - a compelling story, but freedom to explore - yet it becomes clear that this is actually a hindrance. Open-world games revolve around sandbox-type gameplay, exploration and a player-driven sort of experience. However, Two Worlds II doesn't really reward exploration. Almost every cave or dungeon to explore is locked until its associated quest is provided, and thanks to map markers, you'll rarely be lost on where to go or how to get there. This means that, rather than strike out on your own in search of adventure, you'll need to rigidly follow the quests provided.
Another issue that reveals itself after a while is that Two Worlds II is simply too big for its own good. Like many sandbox-style games, it provides a massive world and hundreds of quests. The bad part is that this world is mostly empty of anything but enemies to kill and randomly generated loot to grab, and despite the inclusion of teleport pads to zip between, travel, especially early on, can sometimes take a very long time. There are horses to ride and boats to use, but the horses in particular don't control very well, and it's easy to lose them if you go wandering off, so I stuck to going on foot most of the time.
This also becomes a problem with the quest design. Two Worlds II is stuffed full of dozens, if not hundreds of fetch and kill quests, and most of them aren't at all interesting. Many of them seem purposely built to make you run into remote territory, back and forth, just to waste time. While other "hiking simulators" like Skyrim can be criticized for being mostly devoted to traveling the world, the key difference is that Two Worlds II largely lacks any interesting locations to stumble across, random encounters to take part in, and so on. The point of these simple travel-based quests in open-world titles is to give incentive for exploration, and Two Worlds II pretty much has none to make doing those quests worthwhile except for the experience and loot.
Last, Two Worlds II is quite clearly rushed. The first continent you visit, Erimos, is a massive savannah-type location that's bigger than the entirety of many open-world games - I spent about 25 hours in it. The second continent, Eollas, isn't even half the size, features more corridor-like areas, and has significantly more filler combat, especially in the Swallows area. The massive final continent, Eikronas, is teased on the map, but you only visit a tiny fraction during the endgame, where the open-ended gameplay changes to a short and linear (albeit well-executed) story sequence, which is marred by even more filler combat around every corner. There's also various elements that are introduced halfway through and abandoned, like boats the player can sail, which have literally no use in the game at all. While Two Worlds II is not lacking for content, it's clear that a lot of corners were cut and they become more and more apparent as the game goes on.