Two Worlds 2
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7.5
Thine devine scripte of courseth!

Two Worlds 2 picks up a few years after events at the end of the first Two Worlds, which means... actually, the first game was so crud that I only played it for 3 hours, so I have no idea what it means. And, to be honest, I can be bothered to find out either - let's just say blah blah blah instead. It's bound to be generic RPG tripe, isn't it?

What I do know though, is that Two Worlds 2 is such a VAST improvement over the original, and such a good game in its own right, that I've played this for far more than 3 hours.

Perhaps I do know a bit more of the plot than I was letting on. It's tripe: evil man; sister in danger; land under threat; one man to save everything. That man is you. Man. Not lady. You can't pick your character's sex without a mod. In fact, all you can do is choose what you look like - no invisi-dice rolling for stats here. Hell, you don't even get to choose a name for your protagonist. Nevertheless, mine is called Keith.

Facial structure all sorted, out trots Keith, with the aid of some Orcs, into the big, wide world - Antaloor - on his Generic Fantasy Quest. And what a world!

Two Worlds 2 is huge. No, that doesn't even begin to do it justice: Two Worlds 2 is massinormously hugegantic - you can play for hours and hours and only scratch the surface. And it's not just some barren wasteland, devoid of population; it's a living, breathing world, with real character and atmosphere.

Antaloor's many towns are heavily populated. People milling about all over the place, vendors tout their wares on every corner, and the various military groups strut around pushing you out of the way for just smiling funny. I love the towns and cities - in fact from now on, if any open world RPG doesn't match these bustling hubs, then I will shout loudly at my monitor until someone listens. The wilderness outside the cities it thriving as well, although there aren't many human travellers out there. Vicious wildlife is so abundant you can't run more than 100 yards without encountering a flock(?) of blood-crazed ostriches or some other demented beast.

The world looks great too. Not jaw-droppingly, "Oh, sweet heavens my darling, would you pop over here and take a gander at that" great, but eye-catching nonetheless, and a pleasure to get lost in. Each area has a distinct look - from the starting savannah area with its heat-haze covered grasslands, to the dark and brooding Swallows and dense marsh lands of the later game.

The music adds to this atmosphere - it's nice. Albeit typical role-playing fare, but very atmospheric and pleasant. Each area has a different musical score, appropriate for the setting - the plinky-plonky, Eastern style music in the heavily Japanese-influenced New Ashos adds greatly to the ambience of the place. It's just a shame the voice acting doesn't match up to the music - it's truly God-awful.

In a land this big you need lots to do, and Two Worlds 2 doesn't skimp. There's obviously the fairly long main quest, but there are literally tens of millions (not literally, despite what some people may tell you) of side quests to occupy you. Yes, they're often just "run here, fetch that, have this ring" quests, but there are a few interesting ones and you can't complain there isn't enough to keep you going. And away from questing, there's always plenty for Keith to be doing: horse races; dice games; sailing his yacht.

Levelling up is the trad RPG kind - fill your XP bar up and then spend the resulting skill points. The stat point distribution is basic: Health; Strength (determines the power of your biff); accuracy (how much pain your arrows rain); and willpower (the mages best friend). The real character diversity comes from the skill points. Do you pour them into stealth and be a sneaky, back-stabbing thief, or do you beef out your sword swinging prowess and tank it? It's not exactly a Dragon Age skill tree, but it enables you to specialise. Keith is a ranger, don't you know? Ice and fire arrows from range, before some quick slashing to finish them off.

Talking of finishing them off, the combat is... well, I can't make up my mind. The ranged combat is as you'd expect: fairly dull. The melee though, is, or can be, satisfying. It looks fairly poncey but still feels weighty. However, it sometimes descends into just clicking the left button and activating a special move now and again, with no real tactics.

I really like Two Worlds 2, although it isn't without faults. The voice acting is, frankly, shit, and it might be worth muting it (read the awkward subtitles instead). The interface is also a bit of a clunky mess and not very customisable. The controls suffer from hideous consolisationismitis - far too many functions mapped to single keys (block, sprint and crouch all default to the right mouse button. Madness!). I spent ages re-mapping my keys.

And there are bugs - sometimes Keith won't stop running at full pelt after I've pressed the sprint button, and only bringing up the menu stops the poor bloke. It's an admirable trait - he's just enthusiastic - but it's darn irritating. I've also smacked quest-specific baddies through walls during fights, making them unkillable and therefore the quests unwinnable. Reloading is your only salvation in this instance.

So it's not perfect, but it is highly enjoyable. So much so in fact, that I'm going to say this: all RPG fans should give it a go. And I didn't even mention the crafting and magic systems, which are both satisfying and fun. See? Give it a go.

 

Every area looks unique