This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Reality Pump's action-RPG sequel Two Worlds II, which reviews describe as being "better than Two Worlds, by several thousand miles." Two Worlds II currently earns a score of 75 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Destructoid's Jim Sterling gives Two Worlds IIan 8 out of 10. "Reality Pump had perhaps one of the most enviably easy jobs in videogame history -- create a game that was better than Two Worlds," he begins. "All Reality Pump needed to do was to be better than the worst roleplaying game created this generation."
Fortunately: "Two Worlds II is a great game," Sterling claims. "Its animations are awful, its combat loose, its voice acting ludicrous and its story inane. Yet somehow, it manages to become a rewarding, engrossing, absorbing experience at the same time, and the most amazing part is that you'll never see it coming."
Sterling explains: "The first hour or so of Two Worlds II is downright terrible. The game starts with a tawdry prison breakout mission, as your nameless Hero escapes from the clutches of Gandohar, the series' sister-kidnapping, stereotypically tyrannical villain. The game is slow, the Hero is weak, and the enemies feel imbalanced. Not to mention, the combat is a dire case of random button-mashing with a targeting system that only works when it wants to."
"It is rare for a game to start out terribly and then become great," Sterling admits. "Two Worlds II bucks this common trend and only becomes more delightful as it opens up. Once the player learns a few fighting skills, the combat becomes a lot more involved, and the variety of eccentric missions, while still relying on fetch-quests and backtracking, each carry their own strange and often humorous narratives."
This humor proves to be one of the game's strongest elements. "The game's sense of humor is one of its most endearing traits, with Two Worlds II never quite taking itself seriously," Sterling says. "While some of the voice acting can be genuinely bad, a vast majority of the performances are almost knowingly silly and over the top. The game is full of strange in-jokes and dry wit, and the overall story is lighthearted, despite being about a kidnapped sister and a quest to save the world.
"Two Worlds II has a very strong sense of individuality about itself, and that's more than can be said for many games with twice the production values," Sterling notes. "Two Worlds II is better than Two Worlds. By several thousand miles."
Phil Kollar at Game Informer scores Two Worlds II at 7.8 out of 10. "Ever since Jeff Cork and I fell in love with the endearing-but-broken survival horror game Deadly Premonition last year, we've discussed whether there is a place in our industry for B-games -- the interactive equivalent of low budget, badly acted (but strangely enjoyable) B-movies," he says. "Two Worlds II presents the latest argument in favor of this new style of game."
"Like its 2007 predecessor, this sequel has significant problems," Kollar continues. "Though it features a new and improved game engine, slowdown occurs frequently, especially when you or enemies start slinging spells that put the in-game physics to work. The core story is generic, and the sloppy writing sometimes fails to explain what's going on or why characters are acting a certain way.
"Unlike the original, though, Two Worlds II is playable, with an improved user experience that shows how Polish developer Reality Pump has grown."
Kollar praises Two Worlds II's surprising depth. "Two Worlds II's various mechanics weave together in a complex but enjoyable pattern," he writes. "If you want to stick to cutting down enemies with giant blades, you can. Gamers looking for more depth can employ the crafting system, which allows you to break down and build up almost every weapon or piece of armor you receive.
"The spell system is even better; as you level up your various skills and collect spell cards, you can build your own set of insane, overpowered abilities. Reality Pump made the wise choice of letting players break the game's balance for the sake of fun."
"The art design also impresses," Kollar continues. "Where the original Two Worlds was mostly based in generic medieval fantasy motifs, the Two Worlds II environments draw from Middle Eastern, Egyptian, and Asian influences. Even if the story and the process of cutting down hundreds upon thousands of beasts is the same old thing, at least you're doing so in a lively African savannah instead of boring grasslands and forests."
"Like other games that could fit under the B-game label, not everyone will embrace the elements I enjoyed in Two Worlds II," Kollar warns. "If you're looking for a lengthy and humorous (if somewhat unpolished) hack-and-slash RPG to tide you over while you wait for Dragon Age II or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it's worth giving Reality Pump a second chance."
Eurogamer's Al Bickham rates Two Worlds II at 7 out of 10. "As fantasy action-RPGs go, 2007's Two Worlds may have been a bit shonky, but it certainly had a lot of heart," he writes. "The sequel goes one better."
Bickham finds the alchemy mechanic to be particularly compelling. "Absolutely everything is worth looting, as the game's superb crafting systems enable you to repurpose every piece of trash in your backpack to useful ends," he claims. "The entire process is affably simple, too. Looting can be done from a distance, and a single click sucks everything into your backpack. You find yourself running at breakneck speed through the countryside, snatching indigenous herbs without pause and emptying foes' pockets."
"A similarly elegant system applies to weapon-modding," Bickham continues. "A bag bursting with looted weapons doesn't necessarily mean a trip back to town to offload at the vendor, as any weapon or item of apparel can be broken down on the fly to its base components. Through the metallurgy skill, these can be used to improve the stats of your favourite weapons and armour so they grow with you."
Bickham admits that Two Worlds II has its share of faults, however. "The inventory is pretty awful. Items are displayed too large, in a grid format, upon a translucent background, and the whole thing is just a confusing mess," he writes.
"The map follows suit, and the way it tracks quests is next to useless. Click on a quest in the log and it brings up the map, but doesn't give you a nice clear marker, just a bunch of identical points of interest. You find yourself scouring it continuously, looking for the relevant marker by its hover-over tooltip. It can be infuriating."
"There is real innovation here, and there are some ballsy forays into game-styles that are way outside the standard tick-list of features for the genre, both online and off," Bickham concludes. "There's also a great deal of absorbing content to enjoy, not to mention consistent, meaningful progression, creative quests, and empowering customisation systems that let you craft your own rewards form a plethora of resources. If you can live with the lo-fi elements, there's an awful lot to enjoy.
"I sincerely hope it does well enough to fund a bigger-budget sequel. Because at this rate of improvement, Reality Pump could be snapping at the heels of the big RPG developers next time."