Reality Pump Studios
Even though its predecessor was very disappointing, Two Worlds II (TW2) is actually a great game. In case you're wondering, yes, it is a direct sequel and takes after the story of the original game. Thankfully, there isn't much story to worry about from the original game, and you can skip the dialogue anytime you're bored of it or need to rush through something. This game is a lot more fun and a lot bigger than its predecessor.
The game offers three modes of play: single-player story, coop campaign (online), and arena-based battling (online). 2/3 of the game is online-only, so if you're looking to be an online player, you may want to avoid the Xbox 360 version and look at either the PC or PS3 version. PC version is cheaper. The single-player campaign is the bulk of the game, anyway, and that's what I want to review for the role-playing gamers out there.
The story is your cliche, royalty-becomes-mercenary-to-take-revenge-on-evil-tyrant plot. It has some pretty neat moments, though, and in the beginning, that intro is pretty epic.
Unfortunately, after the intro, you will find out you suck at everything, and even the wildlife will be able to easily kill you. If I could compare this game's difficulty level to anything, it would be Gothic II, but in actuality, Two Worlds II is much easier than the Gothic games. The lesser difficulty is dependent mostly on better, more responsive controls.
The gameplay is very basic at first, and everything moves at a very slow pace for the first few hours. Trust me, those first few hours are the worst. Every time you level up, the game gets more fun. Whenever you level up, you get 4 attribute points and 2 skill points. Attribute points can be spent on 4 basic attributes: strength, willpower, endurance, and accuracy. Skill points can be used to make your unlocked skills stronger, but in order to unlock skills, you need to retrieve skill books or learn them from other characters.
The music is pretty boring in my opinion, but it isn't bad. It always sets the mood, but I noticed a few peaceful moments getting battle music for some reason. It may be better to have your own music playing, but I didn't pay it any mind. Like its predecessor, TW2 has absurdly monotone voices, making - dialogue - very - boring. Then again, you can skip dialogue, so if you're not interested in what a character has to say, skip it.
The graphics are pretty, but I have to admit that they aren't absolutely gorgeous. The landscapes are pretty bare, but there is some grass here and there. The enemy animations are smooth but seem a little rushed or sped up. Sometimes, the player character's attacks could be invisible, too, but that is very rare and does not affect the gameplay much. Finally, the character you play as has to wear very ugly armor to get good stats, so there is a trade-off between good stats and good appearance.
Thankfully, the graphical quality doesn't hinder the performance of the game on the Xbox 360 very much, and loading screens are almost not even there. The free-roaming lags every now and then, and once you get to the later areas, lag becomes more noticeable and may make you quit playing. I had to restart the game once because of lag.
The only time you will really notice a lag in the beginning is when you teleport. Teleporting makes the game load a completely new area, and when it first appears, you sometimes notice a few seconds of nothing but a sky or a white screen. Then, the level appears, and finally, the non-player characters load up. It isn't bad, really, but when you have to wait through a lengthy pause, it does get a little disorienting.
The combat is pretty fun, but at the same time, it can be extremely slow-paced. Think Morrowind, take the blocking and rapid hitting of that and mix it with decent third-person animations and more in-depth skills. Finally, take the freedom to brew your own potions and give magic a card-based twist. It is interesting, but it takes a lot of time. It is all stat-based, leaving little room for fast-paced, epic battles. That said, some battles require some finesse or cautionary tactics.
Some of the more fun moments in the game stem from training and leveling up your character. You gain stat points to distribute as you like, and you gain skill points to distribute to specific skills once you unlock them. I like to think of the skill training as something similar to Psychonauts' upgrade system. Each skill has a circle around it, and you can fill part of the circle up whenever you level up. Finally, your skills and stats are permanently changed, unless you pay for a "regression" from one of the few characters in the game who offer it. Regressions don't come cheap!
The economy of the game is unfairly balanced in the non-player characters' favor. Basically, you can buy an item for 40 auras, but you can only get 5 auras when you sell it back. Just an example, it gets a lot worse than that. However, you will notice you collect a lot of junk during your adventures, and you can't use all of it, so making money is definitely not hard. It's all just time-consuming.
Overall, I think Two Worlds II is fun, addictive, yet very upsetting at times. The technical issues really annoy me, and multiplayer did not work for me when I tried it. I give the game a 3/5 simply because it is a huge time sink. Trust me, this game can keep you playing for hours, each day... for months to come.
Can't afford to spend $50 on this game? Still want a decent dungeon-crawling RPG? Already played Morrowind and Oblivion to death? Get Torchlight for $15 or Gothic II for only $10. If you like Torchlight, you'll be happy to know it's available on Xbox Live Arcade now.