After the monumental failure of Two Worlds, Polish developer Reality Pump have a taken another shot at ultimately trying to create a worthy rival to the Elder Scrolls series. Everything about Two Worlds oozed "Oblivion clone" but, unfortunately for Two Worlds, it was absolutely dire. The script was laughable, the plot nonsensical and the game so riddled with bugs it resembled a decrepit house in the forest. It can't really be hard to improve upon that can it? Not at all, and Two Worlds II shows that, but Reality Pump still haven't gone far enough to bring it out of the tank of mediocre Oblivion clones.
Two Worlds II is set in the same world as before, Antaloor. Five years after the world was nearly destroyed and the hero's sister still remains kidnapped. Only this time, she is being used as a conduit for an evil demon summoned by Gandohar, who has gained control over the entire land whilst making the hero look like the bad guy. The hero is being tortured by Gandohar after his last failed attempt to rescue his sister but is sprung from the dungeons by a group of orcs, who were known for being very anti-human. As always, the hero becomes The Chosen One and must free the world from the clutches of evil and rescue his sister. The story is all very humdrum and typical fantasy RPG fare but at least this time the dialogue makes some sense. The voice acting and script have significantly improved over the first game, making the plot somewhat enjoyable, but the whole "been there, done that" aspect of the story just makes it seem so bland and uninteresting.
In fact, the entire game feels very "been there, done that" except done in 2006. There are none of the innovations brought to RPGs in recent years present and it really lets the game down. Dialogue trees are there but they are extremely rudimentary consisting mainly of "What shall I do?" and "Who is that?" There is no impact upon the player regarding what actions they take. Characters don't react differently towards you unless it is in the story, the scenery doesn't change unless it is in the story and there is no form of karma whatsoever. For an open world game, Two Worlds II seems extremely linear. Everything is done as the game wants you to do it. There are side quests but these feel little more than regular fetch quests jazzed up a bit. It's disappointing that there is an entire world here, which is truly impressive in terms of scale and what is in it, but there is not much freedom within this world. It's interesting to explore and hunt down treasures but the game will constantly remind you that you need to carry on with the story as soon as possible. Quests are nicely organised in the journal so it is easy to tell where and what you need to do next however.
Combat has slightly improved over Two Worlds but not by much. The hit detection is a lot better in that you can actually tell when your weapon has struck an enemy and caused some damage. The problem is, this new form of combat is essentially a button mash fest. Be that with using the sword or the mage's staff, it just seems like you need to get out as many hits as possible in quick succession. As you explore the land more, you can upgrade certain skills to add more flourish to the combat but it doesn't really enhance things that much. Blocking is quite effective, and ranged combat with a bow and arrow is pretty fun too, especially since you're able to queue up bows in order to hit multiple enemies at once. But ranged combat is used very sparingly, with most of it consisting of sword play.
The menus are still as complicated as ever. Nothing feels smooth or coherent and the customisation screens are the most difficult to understand. Two Worlds II allows you to customise the effects of a spell as well as create potions and tonics, using things found along the way. The menus used to do this, the spell one in particular, feel like you've been tasked with disarming a nuclear weapon. It took me a good five minutes to put together a simple spell, even with the help of the vague tutorial.
Whilst the voice acting has been improved, the graphics haven't really made a jump. There's still a hell of a lot of pop-up, and noticeable pop-up at that, even when just in a town nevermind in the countryside. The animations feel stiff and almost puppet like, which is especially noticeable in combat or when trying to ride a horse, which is near impossible. Everything just feels so dated.
One significant difference that sets Two Worlds II apart from other RPG titles is its inclusion of a multiplayer aspect. And there is plenty to do here. It's probably the best part of the game, if you're any good at it. You create an entirely seperate character from your single player one, with the ability to choose a class and a race, and from there you venture into a number of different game types. The most interesting one is the co-op questline, which really allows you to effectively use each class to their advantage. Having a melee guy charge in whilst an archer or mage covers them from the rear makes battles so much more exciting. There's also the standard deathmatch modes in which you pit your character against others. Unfortunately, everyone else playing online were beefed up high level characters which meant my weedy level 1 character was no match. Once you've gained enough points in other areas of the multiplayer, you can jump into "Village mode" where you can build a village from scratch, taking on quests to improve your village and your multiplayer character. It's not perfect but with a few tweaks, this could be a really interesting online mode.
Two Worlds II is a significant improvement over Two Worlds in that it is actually possible to go for more than twenty minutes without wanting to bash your head against a wall/table/floor spike (if you have one handy). The problem is, it's not so much of an improvement that it is worthy of a recommendation. Dragon Age and Oblivion both do the same thing much better, with the latter being about four years old now. Two Worlds II just doesn't feel new or original in anyway. It has a fantastic world but it doesn't utilise it enough and gets bogged down in all manner of other problems. It's better than Two Worlds but that's like saying it's the better looking skunk. It still smells funny in the end.
[Note] : This EU review is based on 7-8 Hrs of gameplay, with little online play within the game (50+ Hrs combined is recommended). Although our score remains at 45% for Metacritic. On reflection of further online play and proposed tweaks in the UK/US version we would score this game 60%.