The saying "If at first you don't succeed, try try again" doesn't really fly in the video game world. Whenever a game fails both critically and financially it usually fades into obscurity, only to be heard by the most knowledgeable of gaming advocates. Developers Reality Pump never got the memo about that, apparently, and here we are with Two Worlds II, the sequel to the failed RPG title that was filled with many bugs and complaints from gamers around the world. At first glance it would seem that Reality Pump didn't learn from their mistakes, but once you get deeper into the game you might find that Two Worlds II is quite a fun title in many cases.

The sequel starts off right where the first one left off: our nameless hero and his sister are in the evil clutches of the lord Gandohar, until a force built by former enemies breaks him out and back into the land of Antaloor. Once out the hero must travel to distant lands, discover the secrets behind the evil lord and find a way to defeat him. It does not come easy for our hero, however, and at every turn there is a task to be had in order to get closer to ridding the world of the evils upon it. Will the hero's sight soon lay its eyes on the freedom of Antaloor, or will he be blinded by the villainy cast upon Gandohar and his minions?

Let's get the first thing out of the way: the graphics are subpar, at best. As you may recall I had praised the outer appearance of Two Worlds II in a preview I wrote a month back, and in some cases I stand by those comments. However there appear to be glitches in some areas of the game, especially when you are in battle mode. I think I counted a dozen times while battling against orcs or the undead where my attacks wouldn't hit my opponent, even though it was clear I sliced them. On top of that the human/orc/other race of beings don't look as realistic as they could be. (So much for the GRACE Engine.)

Despite the characters' appearances the worlds of Two Worlds II are gorgeous, and whether you are walking around in the Asian-inspired Veneficus University or running errands in Hatmandor your eyes will be amazed by some of the sites you see. Heck, even the sewers and underground mazes look wonderful. Most impressive, however, are the animal characters, such as the poo-flinging baboons and the pouncing panthers, who react in the same manner the actual animal would; and I can't talk about the animals without mentioning the creepy Crushers and Gargoyles, which seemed to be made from our darkest imaginations and fears. Trust me: you're going to want to (nay, need to) run away from these creatures when they attack you, as they will kill you after a couple swipes.

This brings me to my second complaint of Two Worlds II: the A.I. is ridiculously too smart. Even on Easy Mode I found myself being sliced, stabbed and murdered by the evil creatures. Let me give you an example: the boss at the end of Chapter One (dubbed Reaper) took me almost two hours to finally defeat. Its difficulty was unbelievable (even more than the ghost of Sordahon in Chapter 2), and its thrashing was finally completed after I had tried to hurt it with all of my bombs and traps. Again your best strategy against most of the powerful foes is to run, but when you're faced with boss battles that you can't get out of your only strategy is to strike and save your game.

The controls in Two Worlds II are massive, thanks in part to the multiple weapons and items you can use. Holding down the Left Button will let you attain access to your bombs and traps, and arming yourself with a sword/axe/big pointy stick will retrieve various striking commands and combos. What's good about this setup is that while the controls sound complicated, they are not. Maneuvering, aiming, striking and even arming your character comes at a relative ease; in fact this is one of the finest control schemes I've ever come across in an RPG like this.

In regards to the weapon system the folks at Reality Pump went in deep to make sure you could be as creative as possible with your weapons and magic skills. Using swords and updating them is ever-so simple, but it's the magic portion that can get complicated in regards to what you can do. By combining various cards dealing with the primary elements and motions such as blasts and shocks you'll be able to create an unlimited amount of different spells to cast upon your enemies. Speaking of creating things, the alchemy mode will either make or break your hero. Use the right mixture of ingredients you've found throughout the levels and you'll find yourself in possession of some potent potions (which you can also give some creative names to).

Let me be blunt with Two Worlds II's weakest point: its voice acting is very rough. Half of the time I cringed hearing some of these characters' voices, nonesuch more than the hero's itself. I get that they were going for a Christian Bale's Batman approach with the voice, but they could've at least added one emotion to him other than, well, having none whatsoever! The female voice actresses were okay, to say the least, and the villains had the necessary power in their voices; but in the long run its the male voice actors that just sounded so bland, as if they were forced to play the roles. Plus is it me, or do these characters just talk too much? (You might find yourself skipping some of the dialogue more often than not.) The game's soundtrack is well-done, although there are places such as battle sequences where it gets kind of repetitive.

The main story campaign in Two Worlds II will take you at least twenty hours to complete, which will give you a good amount of gameplay as you battle it out against your enemies or partaking on much-needed tasks to complete your goals. During the game you'll also be given the chance to go on some side quests, which will range from delivering packages to slaughtering massive creatures in the city's sewers. This will leave you coming back to Two Worlds II more and more, thanks to its reward systems that can help you upgrade your weapons and items. By the time you finish with everything you might find you've clocked in well nearly 40 hours of solid gameplay.

In regards to the Xbox Live modes, there is tons of funs to behold in the Adventure mode. You and your fellow gamers partake in various quests, deathmatches or duels that have you slashing away at foes throughout the many kingdoms and villages. Once you've earned enough coin you can buy your own village, and as you continue through the journey your personal it will continue to grow. In these modes there was no lag to be found, and had some of the smoothest gameplay I've ever bore witness to in an RPG setup. You will not be disappointed at all with what you, your friends and other gamers will be able to accomplish live in Two Worlds II.

But the question on everyone else's minds still remains: has all the stuff that made the first Two Worlds game bad been fixed? To be frank: kinda/sorta. There will be a couple moments in the game where the frame rate does drop a bit, and it will sometimes load the level a bit too slowly. However what makes Two Worlds II stand out from its bigger brother is that it has enough good qualities in it to be considered a nicely-played RPG. Granted it's no Elder Scrolls or Tales of Symphonia, but it's far better than any role-player that Square-Enix has come out with for the past couple years.

PROS:

  • Many quests and side quests to go on
  • Fun and fluid online play
  • Massive weapon/spell combinations, great control system
  • Worlds and scenery look gorgeous

CONS:

  • Voice acting kind of sucks
  • A.I. can sometimes be too high in difficulty
  • Human and orc characters don't look so great

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Two Worlds II may not be the blowout RPG of this year, but it's certainly surprising how far along they've come since its awful predecessor. While the graphics and voice acting aren't Grade A, the gameplay has shown much evolution and diversity. Plus there's tons to do in this game, so you can bet that you'll be getting your money's worth in that regard. In short: while Two Worlds II has its downsides it has enough good points to make this a game worth trying.

FINAL GRADE: 7.5 (out of ten)

Press copy provided by Aubrey Norris and the folks at SouthPeak Games.

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