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Two Worlds 2 review: One world of difference

Justin McElroy

"Uh, hello, Two Worlds 2 is it? Please, come in, have a seat."

"Oh, thank you so much, and please, call me Tee Dub, all my friends do. I can't tell you what an honor this is to even be considered for a Joystiq score, especially considering what an unmitigated disaster my predecessor was."

"It's our pleasure, Tee Dub. Now, I'm just going to address the elephant in the room here. I'm looking over your resume, and I keep coming back to this line right here: 'I am, in many respects, not a very good game. In fact, some parts of me are actively bad.'"

"Uhh, yes, that's correct."

"We try to keep an open mind here at Joystiq, and heaven knows we're suckers for fantasy action RPGs. But I have to ask ... if you'll fully admit to being crummy in many regards, what are you doing in my office?"

"One word, Mr. McElroy: Heart."

Gallery: Two Worlds II | 25 Photos


"Now, don't get me wrong, I have my failings, my combat chief among them. Attacks almost always feel underpowered, hit detection seems almost random, there's no sense of weight behind attacks ... and that's just melee. Magic has its own problems, like how you're supposed to be able to use area-clearing spells when you get surrounded -- yet enemies attack so quickly you can almost never finish casting them."

"That sounds ... bad."

But it's in there, and I think people who take the time to understand it are going to be absolutely hooked.

"You think that sounds bad, I haven't even gotten to my stunningly unintuitive UI. Get this: When you look at equipment statistics, things like 'Attack' and 'Defense' are represented by inscrutable symbols that I never explain, not even in the instruction booklet! Luckily, I have an option to change those symbols to text buried in my Settings menu."

"So why have the symbols in the first place?"

"I'd ... I'd rather not talk about it. What I can talk about is my almost endearing level of graphical weirdness, everything from levels very obviously loading around you as you stand frozen in place to a running animation that looks like a bad improv student instructed by his teacher to embody a constipated duck. Oh, and your scalp spends a lot of the cutscenes popping up through your hair texture and making it look like you have a tonsure."

"Wow ... did you ... leave anything out?

"Uhh ... I have a whole paragraph of my manual that's inexplicably in German?"

"Tell you what ... let's ... let's skip to the good stuff."

"Oh, okay, great. Well, my best feature is probably my crafting system. At any time, you can break weapons and armor down to their material components, like wood, leather and steel and then use those components to upgrade your more powerful weapons. How far you can upgrade them depends on how high your crafting skills are. You can even specialize in weapon, armor or shield crafting!"

"Wow, that sounds really robust for a console RPG."

"Yeah, no kidding, and you don't know the half of it. Upgrading weapons and armor opens up slots in them that you can fill with stat-boosting crystals, which you can also craft in an entirely separate system. Then there's alchemy, which lets you experiment with the hundreds of components lying around the world (and inside enemy corpses) to make your own potions. I even save recipes you like for later use."

"You know, as addictive as all those systems sound, I'm having trouble understanding why Reality Pump would put so much time into developing them when there are so many other ... failings to address."

...Sure, why not?

"Yeah, don't ask me. Oh, but wait, I didn't tell you the best part: Spell crafting. You get these spell amulets, right? And inside them you place an element like 'fire' or 'poison' and then a delivery system like missiles or a summoned creature. Then you can modify it with additional cards that you collect throughout the world like damage improvement or a ricochet effect, all of which increase mana cost and casting time."

"That sounds amazing. And this is all really well explained and easy to understand?"

"Oh God no."


"But it's in there, and I think people who take the time to understand it are going to be absolutely hooked. In fact, that's me all over.

"I know I have my faults, but I'm also incredibly likable with a lot to offer. I've got a great symphonic soundtrack. I've got some funny writing that tweaks the fantasy genre. I've got a bizarre array of missions that range from defending townspeople from a mutated umbrella, to settling a sexual abuse scandal at the local university ... and that's just in the campaign, which you could easily spend 30 to 40 hours on. I haven't even mentioned my online mode, which lets you create a persistent multiplayer character and subject him to deathmatches, duels and a co-op campaign that's better than it has any right to be.

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"There are parts of me that are objectively bad, yes. But there are also things that are just obtuse or antiquated, and if people can look past that stuff or even embrace it, there's absolute merit to me. We live in an era where so many of the biggest hits are cynical, soulless affairs squarely targeted at the lowest common denominator. But what of those special souls who just love taking apart swords and putting them back together in a different way? Should they really be warned away from me just because I can't string together a decent fight to save my life? Don't they deserve something of their very own?"

"Very well. I'm convinced. Now please, get up off your knees. We're prepared to go three stars, Two Worlds 2. Congratulations."

"Wow, that's really flattering. But I'd love to get that up a little higher ... did I mention my spell crafting is actually called DEMONS or Dynamic Enchantment, Magic, Occultism and Necromancy System?"

"...Don't press your luck."

This review is based on the 360 retail version of Two Worlds 2 provided by SouthPeak.

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