Two Worlds II: Pirates of the Flying Fortress Review

17 Aug 2012

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:TopWare Interactive
Developer:Reality Pump Studios
Release Date:2011-09-20
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Reality Pump's Two Worlds II, like the first game in its series, had a lot of heart, but was let down by a rushed production schedule and a general lack of polish. Its first and only major expansion, 2011's Pirates of the Flying Fortress, is an odd thing to see - a traditional expansion pack in the days when bite-sized DLC add-ons reign. Like the main game, Pirates has its share of flaws.  However, a much more consistent story and tone, more imaginative quest design, an interesting world to explore, and more, all add up to make this add-on a significantly more enjoyable experience than the original game was.

Setting & Story

Pirates of the Flying Fortress is a stand-alone story completely disconnected from the main Two Worlds II plot, and takes place during the first chapter of the game. The nameless hero is intercepted on the road to Hatmandor by a pirate, who tells him of a great opportunity for adventure and riches, and is quickly threatened into joining an eclectic and ragtag band of pirates in search of a legendary treasure - one which provides what its finder most desires.

Throughout the expansion, you'll be spending time in a brand new environment - a chain of islands and the mysterious flying fortress that floats above them. These islands feature a new, evergreen forest look, and breathe a lot of life into the game with their rich foliage and clear atmosphere. Each of them is fairly varied as far as the set-piece locations go, and there's some lore that comes out during the story that explains quite a bit about them.  The fortress itself is... well, not quite what the name implies, but it's also got a unique twist to it that makes it stand out from the original game's environments as well.

What starts out as a simple and predictable treasure hunt plot quickly transforms into a much more complicated story, with a surprisingly large cast of characters and convoluted backstory. This only becomes more engaging as the expansion goes on, and unlike the original game's story, Pirates rarely meanders, instead using its new quests to add more and more layers. The pirate theme and the central characters actually end up dwarfed by larger things very quickly, and I was impressed to find that it was more than just a gimmick in the end.

Where Pirates also shines is in its choice & consequence. While not as extensive as other games, there are a few big choices to be made during the story that can lead to fairly different story outcomes, and certain quests will be made available or cut off based on the things you do and say. There are even a few opportunities to lie, misdirect or backstab different characters; in the hands of some developers these could have come off as simple good/evil choices, but Pirates has quite its share of morally ambiguous situations and characters to make these decisions interesting.

Gameplay

For better or worse, Pirates of the Flying Fortress plays more or less the same as the original game, albeit with a few tweaks and some substantially improved scenarios that make it a more enjoyable experience all around.  The improvements are less about the details and features and more about the content itself.

To start with the good, Pirates splits its rather large land mass into five distinct islands, with a few smaller ones, and gives you a boat to sail between them. Each of these islands has a mini-narrative and place in the story, so not only is the game better paced overall, but each island tends to have distinct enemies and locations. They're all just the right size to be manageable, which is a welcome change from the sprawling, oversized and rather empty world in the original campaign. Unlike the original campaign, there's also more reason to explore, with more optional dungeons to delve into and more unique loot and random side-quests to find (though many areas remain inexplicably locked until you advance the plot sufficiently).