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Two Worlds II – hands-on

Next time you’re listening to a Kate Bush album, imagine her singing in the voice of an East European who, through no fault of his own, isn’t very good at English. Then, imagine that the lyrics to Wuthering Heights were “Your hungry and warm temper resembles my jealousy”. That was the first and insurmountable obstacle that stood in the way of Two Worlds gaining any serious mass appeal. That and the fact it was released at the same time as Oblivion, which – in stark contrast – had Patrick Stewart coughing up thespian velvet into your lugholes.

Topware and Reality Pump have learned their lesson. The Polish devs are now focusing where their peculiar strengths lie – the development of the Grace Engine. Mirek Dymek is the technical director, and the Americans at Topware talk about him in awed tones. From the reverential talk of his extreme coding skills, you’d expect an emotionally reclusive savant – so when Mirek finally enters the room, it’s a relief to see a smiling, big-faced gentlemen with a charming line in self-deprecation and a down-to-earth attitude to prostitution (“While I can get it without paying for it, I will.”)

So, there’s plenty of eye-glazing talk about dynamic light sources, 3D surfaces and polygons – but even a casual glance at the screen confirms that considerable work has been done on the old girl. Stone walls look like they’re made of tangible rocks, and they like to flout Health and Safety by suspending flaming torches from chains, at a height that allows you to bump into it. “Look!” you can almost imagine them saying, “that’s dynamic lighting and physics ON SCREEN AT THE SAME TIME!”

Meanwhile, the script and plot has been moved completely to America, where producer Scott Cromie commands his team with eloquent passion. Quizzed on his own gaming preferences, he cites emotional twists like Aeris’ death in Final Fantasy VII, and Sony-exclusive button-tapper Heavy Rain as being his areas of interest, and promises similar shocks and engaging storylines in store for players of Two Worlds II. His Hollywood movie sensibility and gaming passion can’t hurt the Two World’s storyline – although, in the case of Heavy Rain, we’d hope for a little more interactivity.

The story takes place as the villain of the first game, Gandohar, returns to the world. A battle rages outside the castle, as you’re thrown into a dungeon. As Gandohar is ignorant of the fact that dungeons are famous settings for escape tutorials, you promptly break out with the assistance of a female Orc called Dar Pha. Fans will know that Two Worlds is named after the conflict of Orcs and Humans, so this is an early sign that the old boundaries are soon to shift – not only that, but you’re taken to meet an old enemy.

One thing that’s looking easier to grasp is combat. Another weak point of the original, it’s looking more tactile now, with your development along the three classes of Mage, Archer and Swordsman open as you progress, and you can quickly swap between three outfits to suit different tasks, which encourages you to take a balanced path. Purists can still specialise, but reassign their points later if they’ve levelled down a blind alley.

The stacking system of the first game, which allowed you to bind a hundred daggers together to make a really kick-ass dagger, has been replaced by a system of disassembly into raw materials that can upgrade your favourite weapon. It still doesn’t make physical sense, but in terms of gameplay, it means everything you find could have a use.

Meanwhile, a lot of the fundamentals of the world are the same – spellcasting and potions are still a matter of combining items you find in the world. Spellcasting involves placing cards into an amulet, and Cromie describes the deep flexibility of the system. Add the projectile properties of a missile card to the elemental fire card, and you’ve got yourself an everyday fireball. Add heat-seeking, and it’ll become a homing fireball. Add multi-blast, and the effect will multiply. Then it gets weird: add necromancy, and you’ll conjure a zombie who spits out loads of heat-seeking fireballs. The only limits are your ability to cast complex spells and your mana reserves. Can it work as well as they say? Well, if you can’t imagine how something might work in a game, there’s always a possibility that it won’t.

Still, there’s so much positive progress on display that Topware and Reality Pump should get the benefit of the doubt. They’ve not only acknowledged their mistakes, they’ve taken huge and identifiable steps to fix them, and Two Worlds II is looking like it deserves serious attention.

Feb 18, 2010

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13 comments

  • CaseD - March 28, 2010 3:54 p.m.

    Bit late here, but I wasn't really interested in this article until now. I never could enjoy the 2 biggest console RPG's, Oblivion and Fallout 3, despite spending alot of time trying. Even though I could see what made them so popular, I simply found it impossible to immerse my self in the world. I could only concentrate on it's flaws, some of them being personal to me (for instance, not finding the VATS system in Fallout engaging at all). Overall they just didn't feel like the RPG's I had known, they were too improved (If that's possible). Although I looked at Two Worlds when it was released I ended up buying Oblivion, for obvious reasons at the time. Lately though I downloaded the Demo, along with about 15 others, on a particularly slow day. I found it to be almost everything that Oblivion was not. The combat system is simple, along with the animation, yet variable enough to be enjoyable. The graphics are in no way up to Oblivion's standards, however I have always been one to see good graphics as a pleasant addition to gameplay; Realsport tennis which I've been playing in Xbox Live Gamesroom is just as enjoyable to me as top spin 3 (or whichever you want). Anyway tl;dr I'm wierd, didn't like oblivion and much prefer Two Worlds as it feels more like a traditional RPG.
  • thochaos - March 5, 2010 8:17 a.m.

    Two Worlds is the best bad game I've ever played. Despite it sucking in just about every respect, I still play it more than any other Xbox 360 game I own. Definitely interested in a sequel.
  • GwaR - February 22, 2010 8:23 p.m.

    Alpha Protocol, if it ever gets released, is supposed to be set in the modern world -albeit a spy world. Maybe someone will mod in orcs and wizards after the fact...
  • TheBoz - February 22, 2010 4:14 p.m.

    Will have to keep a look out for it Dexsus. I got thinking last night, the idea isn't that farfetched, look at Hellboy, demons and goblins and elves in the modern age, although most are underground. I prefer my RPGs on the PC to the Xbox, just prefer a mouse and keyboard to play them.
  • Dexsus - February 21, 2010 5:08 p.m.

    @TheBoz I've heard someone is doing something similar to what your talking about. I think its called The Secret World, it might be PC exclusive though I've heard rumors of a 360 version.
  • TheBoz - February 21, 2010 1:42 p.m.

    @Jackthemenace, the techonology is here now to have a good stab at a modern era RPG. Look at FPSs, you only need to play with the dynamics, alter the style, and instead of coming across a Nazi with a machine gun, come across a wizard, they just have fancy firearms and give the game a good dosage of RPG, Borderlands is a FPS with RPG elements. Years ago there was Deus Ex, a brilliant game that dared to be different. Imagine if half the characters were goblins and ogres, buildings and computer terminals designed for a being twice our size. A truck designed to be driven by an orc which is parked up, depending on the character we choose, would decide if we can use that or not. It just needs a creative mind to implement it. This game looks awesome though.
  • jackthemenace - February 21, 2010 12:10 p.m.

    i never played the first game, but i've heard really good reviews. i'll be on the lookut for it. whens the release day? @TheBoz- people have tried that before, but it generally ends up going all screwy. but it would be cool.
  • Dexsus - February 20, 2010 6:18 p.m.

    Despite its obvious and numerous faults, Two Worlds kept me coming back for more. I dunno what it was. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this, it sounds great.
  • JohnnyMaverik - February 20, 2010 4:49 p.m.

    Eh... I'll certainly keep an eye on it.
  • TheBoz - February 20, 2010 2:07 p.m.

    Wouldn't it be awesome to have an RPG with ogres, orcs, wizards etc set in the modern world. Why stick to the rule that it has to be medieval times. Just imagine instead of horses, cars, which in turn would be designed for each of the races. A Ferrari designed by an orc driven by an orc. Closest we have is Fallout 3, but forget the post apocolyptic story too. I would love an RPG like Oblivion set in the modern era.
  • oryandymackie - February 20, 2010 10:39 a.m.

    This looks good...the spell-multiplication looks fun.
  • banjokazoozie - February 19, 2010 12:36 p.m.

    this better be better than the first one
  • Hobojedi - February 19, 2010 4:06 a.m.

    Homing fireball spitting zombies? Awesome. Glad to see the game is still being worked on.

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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