If you played the original Two Worlds, you might not be surprised to learn that its sequel does not represent the role-playing genre at its most refined. What may surprise you, however, is that Two Worlds II’s clumsy features don’t greatly diminish the impact of its big, busy world. Here is an expansive third-person role-playing game brimming with fearsome monsters to slay, colorful spells to cast, varied quests to perform, and murky swamps to explore. The game lacks the fine points that adorn the greatest role-playing adventures–distinctive characters, a compelling narrative, and memorable plot reveals. But this is an entertaining journey nonetheless, due in no small part to intriguing but accessible systems that let you create your own magic spells, concoct potions, and upgrade your favorite weapons and armor. If you’ve been looking to lose yourself in a fantastical kingdom, and don’t mind some clumsy combat and some nagging interface issues, Two Worlds II is a fine way to escape the rigors of the real world.
Like its precursor, Two Worlds II takes place in the land of Antaloor, where (once again) your sister is in trouble and where (once again) the evil wizard Gandohar is up to no good. It’s a suitable framework, but the game fails to build on its foundations. Through a series of good-looking flashback sequences, you eventually learn more about Gandohar, but the personal touch is conspicuously absent. The game devotes little time to giving your sister a personality, making her a simple MacGuffin to help put the story in motion, but nothing more. Nor do you meet many memorable characters. While much of the voice acting isn’t bad, some of it is lifeless (your own character), ridiculous (a drunken local), or stiff (a student in need). The tomes you collect contain some fascinating tales and tidbits, but much of the dialogue sounds forced and unnatural–like something an author would write, but not something an actual person would say.
That isn’t to say that Two Worlds II’s quests won’t draw you in. Sometimes, it’s the bits of humor that keep you interested. A one-armed man threatens you, but as it turns out, it’s a two-handed weapon he hangs on his wall. The dialogue’s little jests may put a grin on your face, but you might actually guffaw if you explore this abode later and discover that the treasure chests within all contain two-handed bludgeons. An encounter with a black knight recalls a memorable scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while a character involved with the quest is a Sean Connery soundalike (a clear reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). If the humor doesn’t inspire you, perhaps the chance to drive the outcome of the quest will. In multiple cases, you choose how to proceed. This kind of decision-making isn’t unique to Two Worlds II, and you won’t see the exciting flexibility you may in a game like Fallout: New Vegas or Dragon Age: Origins. Nevertheless, quests involving the element of choice stand out in Two Worlds II because there is not always a clear “bad” or “good” path. A witch accused of crimes against nature; a professor accused by a supposedly innocent student: these characters may or may not be who they appear to be, and choosing to follow one path may result in unforeseen and occasionally heartbreaking circumstances.