When approaching Two Worlds II, there was initially a lot of hope and optimism. The trailers looked promising, the developers had taken a very light-hearted approach to the criticism of their prior title, and the revamped combat system looked genuinely interesting. It looked like it was a genuine fresh start for the series, one which would prove that a developer can learn from its prior mistakes without creating a slew of new ones. However, in reality it ended up with a very mixed bag as many of the things that made the first Two Worlds were dealt with expertly, but the things that mattered most really seem to have fallen by the wayside.
To start things off, the world design is hugely impressive. Those who were familiar with the graphics of the previous title should remember how absolutely terrible they were, regardless of any sort of terrain design. That has changed, and it's clear the developers kept a very close eye on the world design from the very start of the game. Castles, open fields, mountains, equipment and weaponry all look fantastic and really draw you in quite nicely. It's pretty hard to resist getting off track from a quest and just wandering around, or roaming for that matter; the world really looks just that good.
On the same page, combat has been revamped significantly. There is a tutorial that blows through the basics in a relatively simple manner.
Archery, magic, and melee are broken down for each 'style' of player, and though it's easy to find archery as the style with the most situational usage, all three are pretty interesting to use. Magic can be customized to have various spell effects combine into one another, and melee gains bonuses from various weapon equips and the other standard 'fantasy setting' bonuses that accompany most RPGs. Special mention should also go to the camera controls, which are actually one to be one of the best aspects of Two Worlds II. Though it gives the game a little more of an action game feel, the intuitive camera actually makes combat easier and a little more fun to play.
That being said, the game is not without its flaws. First and foremost being the storyline. Picking up right where the last game left off, players find themselves (as a generic male character of their
customization) soon to be rescued by an unlikely ally in order to overthrow a dark lord who has slowly gained an iron grasp over the land. It's a story we've all heard a thousand times before, but Two Worlds II delivers each line with the enthusiasm and energy of an 80s B flick. In fact, the entire game's storyline direction, from dialogue to choreography, is like this. Perhaps this is an endearing quality to some, but anyone who is interested in a more engrossing style of storytelling will find themselves disappointed. It's a shame really, as a game of this calibre has a lot more potential.
Two Worlds II also features a pretty decent array of enemies, most of whom will never put up a decent fight against you. Some limited situations aside it's hard to get any genuine sort of challenge out of the game. This is rather disappointing considering how enjoyable the world is to be in, and how much attention to detail was put into the environment.
It's also worth noting that for as much attention was taken to the design of the world, so many little things seemed to have slipped through the cracks. Such as movement when aiming a bow. Moving forward (or back) and side to side is fine, but trying to move at any other angle is impossible. The melee combat is also very goofy as there are awkward looking animations and strange hit boxes. Character faces are another fine example of where things just simply don't look up to par compared to the amount of detail poured into the rest of the world. Be it laziness, time constraints or something as simple as forgetfulness, these kinds of errors just don't mesh in well with the rest of the experience.
Perhaps you can call this 'being critical' of a game, but it really is hard to focus on an experience when there are so many distracting (and at times deterring) factors at play. The rough equivalent would be picking up a horror game hoping for a genuinely scary experience, only to have a dancing beaver with two maracas appear at random intervals during the game's most terrifying sequences. While that would be hilarious on some levels, the point is still there; Two Worlds II tries so hard to suck the player in, to make them feel a part of the world and the lore, and to get the player to genuinely care about the characters. Unfortunately, the longer you play the game, the more you'll wished the world was filled with more interesting things - like good voice acting and cutscenes that actually look like they're attempting to be realistic.
Replay wise it's hard to say how enjoyable Two Worlds II would be on another go-around. There's certainly three different styles to experience, and combat wise things would vary, but there's very little to the world (storyline or otherwise) that's worth experiencing a second time around. Character interactions are pretty dull to begin with, so there's no real reason to engage in them a second time around, and exploring the world isn't really filled with surprise and wonder; it's just a very well crafted environment. Completionists may find something to enjoy in experiencing the various skills in full, but for most one play through will be more than enough.
Two Worlds II is one of those titles that does a lot of things right, but it also does a lot of things wrong. If you dust aside the imperfections, ignore some of the rougher edges, and are willing to cut the game some slack Two Worlds II could have a lot to offer. There is a lot of gameplay and quite a few side quests. However, the story and some of the game's presentation are real detractions. As a sequel Two Worlds II really is a success compared to the first game, it simply doesn't move far enough in the right direction to be a 'great' game. Good, but certainly not memorable. RPG fans should find themselves at least entertained by this title until something bigger comes along this year.