Two Worlds II initial thoughts

Last week I picked up Two Worlds II for the Xbox 360. A few of my XBL friends saw me playing and asked how I was liking it, so here’s my answer.

In case you aren’t familiar with the title, TW2 is an open-world RPG. I bought it because I really wanted to play Skyrim but it isn’t November. I just had the itch to basically play an MMO that wasn’t an MMO and it turns out TW2 is pretty close to that. It has quests and leveling of course, but it also has rudimentary crafting and alchemy systems. In the former you destroy gear to get raw materials to use in improving other gear, and in the latter you harvest bits from the landscape and the corpses of things you kill and combine them to make potions. TW2 also has a big enough world, and enough stuff in it, to keep your attention if you just feel like wandering around exploring. At least, so far.

The combat system is action based but not really frenetic. You have 3 “equipment sets” that you can switch between on the fly. I set up one for melee, one for archery and one for magic. The system takes some getting used to. There’s basic 1 button to attack, 1 to block combat, but also more complex things like a multi-arrow attack that lets you ‘tag’ several enemies and then shoot an arrow at each one.

The magic system is quite interesting. You have a couple of “spell amulets” and you collect various magic cards in your travels. By combining cards in the amulets you can create a spell. It’s kind of similar to Magicka, of all things. So you might combine a Fire card with a Bolt card to make Fireball spell, for example. I don’t have a lot of cards yet but I’ve read about some pretty crazy spells people have put together. I don’t usually play Mages but in TW2 skipping the magic system just seems like too much of a shame, so I’m trying.

I’m only 5 hours or so into the game (though I’ve played longer than feels enough like an MMO that I keep forgetting I have to save my game. Doh!) so can’t pass any comprehensive judgement on it, but I will say the game feels pretty rough in spots. The interface can be really awkward to use and at times the engine will stutter or hitch for a second. None of it, so far, is game-breaking but it makes me think that the full $60 price I paid was too much. It didn’t help that Direct2Drive had a sale on the Windows version this weekend: $25, and according to the various forums I’ve poked into, the company is much better about patching the PC version than they are the console versions. If you decide to play I’d really point you at the PC version.

I considered PC, but I was really looking for a couch-title. I wanted to stretch out and relax and explore a world and honestly TW2 is giving me that. One quick example. Your very first location to explore is a small island. You’ll have a couple of quests but soon enough you get access to a teleporter that takes you to a 2nd, larger island. I got there and started questing and things felt a bit tough. After dying a few times I headed back to that initial smaller island and started wandering around. I found lots of stuff I was never sent to in a quest, including some caves full of mobs that were actually still too tough for me to take on. I know now I’ll have to go back and explore this area further. To me, this is exactly what I was hoping for… a place to explore where I’ll find un-marked caverns and lairs to fight in.

The game has some kind of multiplayer but I haven’t tried it yet.

Don’t buy TW2 at $60 unless, like me, you’re really hankering for an open world RPG on console and you have nothing else to play. If you can find it for $20-$25 (like the Direct2Drive deal) and you’re looking to roam a fantasy world, then it’s probably worth it.

15 thoughts on “Two Worlds II initial thoughts

  1. I may pick this up if another sale rolls around. I tried the demo of the first Two Worlds but the voice acting was so jarringly bad that I couldn’t get into it. I suppose, though, that I could’ve turned off the sound and just played with subtitles. (Of course, I think of this in hindsight, years later. :P)

  2. I’ve heard the voice acting was equally bad in TWII but I only played the demo for TW. I’d heard too many negatives and didn’t enjoy the demo enough to spend cash on the real game.

    Could you elaborate on how it feels like an MMO without being one? That one threw me… 🙂

  3. @Scott – Big world, people standing around with icons over their heads waiting to give/take quests, crafting systems to level up, skill trees, towns to explore that are populated by NPCs that don’t do much other than add color, ‘zones’ that parse by level but are otherwise more or less open (come and go as you please).

  4. mmm when you say the zones “parse by level” do you mean similar to themepark MMOs where a zone is for a given bracket and once you’re above that it’s time to move on?

    The icons over NPC heads sounds like a turnoff to me. I know when I tried the Gothic 4 demo, I loaded it up, walked a few feet and saw a glowing ! over an NPC. Exited the demo and uninstalled it on the spot.

  5. So it’s the first (to my knowledge) single-player game that uses the (yeah, I’m going there) broken Diku(-esque?) RPG system? That right there was enough to keep me away. Guess I’ll just wait for War of the North for a good coop RPG then…

  6. You must not play many RPGs.

    The concept of increasing bad-assery in opponents to present an on-going challenge to characters which gain in levels is pretty damned common in my experience with RPGs. And to facilitate that mechanic, designers usually group these opponents geographically so players have some concept of what locations will provide a fair fight, which will result in insta-death and which will be trivial.

    Bethesda does the scaling stuff but in my experience they’re one of the few exceptions rather than the rule.

    That said, I’m not suggesting that this title would be a good fit for you; I don’t really think it would be.

  7. “The concept of increasing bad-assery in opponents to present an on-going challenge to characters which gain in levels is pretty damned common in my experience with RPGs”

    This is true. I’m actually playing an old C64 game through DOSBox that I absolutely LOVED back when C64 was current, and the difficulty by zone concept is there as well. Same with JRPGs for time immemorial, and I don’t know how influenced they were by DIKU.

  8. Of course it could very well be argued that MMOs borrowed the concept from single player games, but really it all goes back to D&D, doesn’t it?

    BTW Scott I’m 99% certain War in the North will also have zones with increasingly tough opponents to maintain challenge as you level up. That said, I’m very much looking forward to the game. 🙂

  9. No, you misunderstand. It’s not “leveling” that I have a problem with. It’s vertical leveling where a level means POWER! but the world doesn’t scale (not exactly what I mean but I’ll use term anyway) with you. Without some form of leveling *mechanic* it’s not an RPG.

    I’d say “most” single-player RPG’s I can go back to earlier zones and the mobs aren’t “grey” like an MMO. I don’t “out-level” a zone. BioWare is an exception off the top of my head but that’s because they save the state of each zone you’re in; ie. if I “clear” a zone, it’s permanently cleared, there are no respawns that I recall in the few BioWare games I’ve played. But even JRPGs dating back to say, Final Fantasy VII or even some I might have played on a SNES I *don’t remember* that happening.

    Bethesda quite literally scales the world around you, which works well enough in a single-player game. They didn’t do it well in Oblivion because if you level too high, you could gimp yourself depending how you did your skills to the point you couldn’t continue. Fallout 3 did it much better. As I leveled, I learned more abilities which gave me more options when it came to combat, but if I went back to a “starter area” I wasn’t automatically a super-badass walking tank (unless I had uber gear and min/max build). It felt more like a single cohesive world rather than a mosaic of incompatible zones, if you get my drift?

    When it comes specifically to MMO(RPG)s — the reason I bash DIKU so much is two-fold:

    1) Vertical progression is incompatible with having what I would consider a “true” virtual world for the game. Outleveling zones and grey mobs who don’t know you’re there anymore? That’s fine for a solo-only player (or a static group, and within this context, that’s the same as solo) who doesn’t care about feeling like they’re in a world, but just being lead by the nose from zone to zone until they reach level cap where they roll and alt and do it again.

    2) Segregation of players. If you have to be within say, 5 levels of anyone in order to group with them, that limits everyone’s ability to find people to play with. I know you prefer to solo, and because of my job and normal play hours, I end up being forced to solo a lot too. But when I want to group it’d be nice if I could simply join up with people instead of having to see if there is anyone within my level bracket.

  10. Sure, I get your gripes when it comes to MMORPGs and I don’t even argue with you about them because …well to a certain extent you’ve convinced me. 🙂

    But Two Worlds II is a single player game (ok it has some weird deathmatch multiplayer mode or something but it isn’t worth mentioning) and you’re bashing it for being DIKU-like when to me it’s just RPG-like. (And it’s kind of an academic argument because I’d be very hesitant to recommend the game to anyone other than die-hard RPG fans.)

    I think if you go back and play some older RPG games you’ll find that *if* you went back and revisited areas, monsters would be effectively gray to you. But most RPGs don’t give you any good reason to go backwards. So maybe you don’t remember it happening because you never had a reason to retrace your steps.

    I sure do remember spending plenty of time going backwards to ‘grind’ on easy random encounters in order to level-up! And if you go too far back you wind up getting 1 xp per critter, but sometimes you’d do that for loot so you could buy stuff.

    I just don’t see this mechanic as unique to “DIKU” though.

  11. I was going to say, attempting to clear my fuzzy memory of those early RPG’s I’m not even sure a lot had the tech to “go back” to earlier places.

    As for D&D — it was also a problem there, but one that was not typically noticed *because* the average D&D player had his little static group of friends who played every week together, got the final XP together and we therefore always within one (two tops) levels of each other. When the “problem” reared its head was conventions where suddenly you have DMs running games for a set level bracket. If you brought a character of your own within that bracket, and the DM allowed it, fine. Otherwise you had to use one of the DM’s pre-made characters that was within that bracket. You couldn’t just stroll into someone’s level 9 module with your level 14 mage…

    I’ve always had this silly habit of applying logic to things (still gets me in trouble to this day) and even back in my AD&D years (roughly ’85 – ’89 before I grew out of D&D into other tabletop RPGs) and almost immediately D&D’s vertical progression didn’t make sense to the world surrounding my characters, so I scaled my world with them. You’ll notice that was years prior to Diku being written! 🙂 I wanted their new abilities to be just that, and to be something that gave them more options to think about for very cinematic combat scenes — something like you’d read or watch — not simply walking up to a lower-level boss and flicking him with your pinkie finger for a one-shot kill.

  12. Yeah but D&D is a multi-player game.

    Going back to the topic at hand. In playing Two Worlds II I was in an area doing quests where I was dying enough that I was getting frustrated. So, I retraced my steps to an earlier area where the mobs were easier (I had partially out-leveled them). I stopped dying, earned some loot, earned some experience, found some cool spots that I hadn’t seen on my first visit, then moved forward again.

    To me, that’s a GOOD experience. Instead of banging my head against a frustration level that wasn’t at all fun, the game allowed me to choose my challenge level and rewarded me for wandering around exploring.

    I understand your multi-player issues of players getting strung out along the leveling curve, but in the case of a single player game, I think this system works wonderfully:

    1) I want to level up — I love the process of leveling up characters. If I didn’t I would’ve been an adventure gamer, not an computer-RPG gamer.
    2) I don’t like being overly frustrated

    One of the reasons Bethesda’s earlier “scale the world” games never stuck with me is because I never had that satisfying moment of going back to the rat-man village where I’d died so often as a noob and slaughtering everyone in sight now that I was over-level for that spot.

  13. Oh I can definitely appreciate the frustration part. Not sure if it would even occur to me to go to a lower level zone in a single-player RPG, though but honestly I just don’t play too many of those anymore. They have difficulty keeping me interested unless they have a good story, good characterization and hopefully good action. Dragon Age didn’t. Mass Effect did. Oblivion… ooh… I keep telling myself that someday I will finish that damned game but is it boring as hell. Not to mention fugly. But mainly boring. I was at least keyed in ahead of time about the leveling “problem” with Oblivion and I have no intention of doing someone else’s min/max build so I’m pretty much playing the game with as minimal leveling as I can get away with.

  14. Yeah but D&D is a multi-player game.

    Buuuuuuuuut… this is kinda why I tied in single-player with D&D static groups a few replies ago. It’s effectively the same thing. If D&D were a CRPG your companions could be human or AI but they’d all be your level because that’s your little permanent band of adventurers so either way you’d never notice the “problem.”

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