Despite the generally negative reviews, I rather enjoyed the first game, though that may be in large part thanks to the fact that I only played it fully patched and stayed well away from the broken mess I heard it was on release. Unfortunately, not even the latest patches can hide the fact that its successor not only failed to improve upon the original recipe but actually represents a step back in most aspects.
Finding redeeming qualities is difficult and none of the few that can be found have much to do with gameplay, but I’ll probably start by saying that the writing has some good moments, if you look for them. This applies mainly to the books and messages you find, which can occasionally be funny or witty, make some good points or even provide interesting information that’s not necessarily restricted to the game world. There are also a few twists in some tales and some references in quests that may bring a small smile to some faces, perhaps the most notable such case being Last Crusade. And there’s something to be said about the general idea and feel of chapter three.
Otherwise, it is of course nice that there are still no class restrictions and you can develop your character as you wish, the equipment crafting system is all right, and better than in the first game, the spell crafting is actually very cool, even if the vast majority of the available options will likely be no more than curiosities, and the final battle is a nice change. I’ll also add that the gear comparison comes in very handy and, since I’m really trying to find some more positives, that it’s a nice touch to see different coins according to their value, all the way up to those worth 10000.
And now that I did my best to be nice, let me move on and say that its predecessor’s strongest point, namely exploration, is probably the worst element of Two Worlds II. The areas are significantly less diverse, there are far fewer enemy types, there’s little to no reason to even visit many parts of the game world, especially considering the annoying chapter one respawns, and a significant area is actually inaccessible. Perhaps worse, go through a few dungeons and you’ll see perfectly identical center rooms, or perfectly identical large chambers, with perfectly identical little paths that go nowhere off to the side, and in a fair number of those dungeons there’s nothing to make it worth your while. Sometimes you may find locations clearly meant for quests that don’t exist or apparently secret areas with difficult to reach locations inside them, but not as much as a single chest, item or any other element of interest. And, of course, with the content, and also the locks, of chests always adapting to your level, there’s no reason to pick one particular place over another even if you do find something.
And yet somebody craving to explore a large, open world badly enough might find a way to put up with all of that… If only the world would be open. However, if the first game did a wonderful job of allowing you to go wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted, in fact encouraging exploration before quests, now you’ll find yourself held back every step of the way. Need to “open” locations when the game wants you to, impassable mountains and cliffs block access to large areas, and half the doors and even some chests are barred until you get a quest sending you there. And don’t think that you can still find a way through anyway, like in the first game, because the character can barely jump, will take fall damage even if climbing off corpses or running down slopes or stairs, and is next to impossible to control precisely, largely due to carrying far too much momentum with every action. Plus that riding, which worked so beautifully in the first game, is now only available in chapter one and has been turned into a chore that you’re far better off staying well away from.
If you’re still struggling along, you’ll find yourself plagued by many area loading times, frequently having the game freeze for seconds at a time while you’re running along, or perhaps even in the middle of fights if you happen to move out of the currently loaded little piece of the map. And in between those, you’ll notice terrible animations, including some unnecessarily long ones for common actions, and uncountable graphical and placing anomalies, such as the character’s hair vanishing when putting on even head gear that shouldn’t be able to hide it, NPCs sitting on invisible chairs, plants and even at least one chest inside rocks, a fair number of broken textures, and enemies floating in the air, stuck in the ground or the ceiling.
When you do get to combat, I imagine that the control issues make it a real pain for warrior characters, but I had a mage and what I clearly noticed myself, on top of the bad enemy AI, was inconsistent targeting for spray or ricochet spells, some issues with spell effects, and the fact that my character kept insisting on moving towards the enemy on his own when one was nearby, even though I was trying to go the other way to be able to cast.
As for non-hostile NPCs, you’ll quickly notice that, while everybody seems to hear you even if you’re sneaking and even sleeping NPCs or fellow thieves will notice and stop you if you’re trying to pick a lock in what should be their line of sight, there is an obvious lack of reaction to your character otherwise. This is particularly obvious if you’re a mage and still, for example, get warned that mage opponents are “something else” when fighting them in the Arena, or more notably can wander around without a care in the world, wearing your robe and hat and wielding your staff, even calmly stopping to listen to the town criers announcing that, by order of the emperor, all mages or possible magical activity must be reported and stamped out.
Like I did when I reviewed the first game as well, I must make a special note about the voice acting, which generally ranges between poor and atrocious, not to mention that Cassara’s lines are almost always cut short, so you’ll often have to read the subtitles very quickly if you want to know what she says. But by this point it must be obvious that there are so many other things wrong that this can already fall under miscellaneous annoyances, along with the stupid prologue, the segments of the questing system that’d be more at home in a generic free-to-play MMO, the messy map, some interface issues, and the problems with the archpriests quest, which could have been really nice but seems removed from the rest of the game, plus that the tombs were the only places where I experienced crashes, and many of them at that.
In the end, the save timer said that, not counting reloads, I took some 45 hours to complete the game, still exploring just about as much as I could and completing all but a few quests. That’s not much when you compare to the over 100 hours recorded by the last save for the first game, but they sure felt longer this time around. Two Worlds II feels like a game released well before it was completed, but also one determined to “fix” almost everything that wasn’t broken in its predecessor, while doing little to nothing about what was.