PAX impressions / Two Worlds II

To say that I was a fan of the original Two Worlds would be a lie. A horribly, damning lie that would curse my soul to the deepest depths of hell. So, while walking the show floor at PAX this year, I was reluctant to even come close to the sequel, aptly named Two Worlds II, for fear of bursting into flames. I am glad I decided to check it out, however, and anyone willing to give the game a second chance will be too.

Jake DiGennaro, PR director for Topware Interactive, took me on a guided tour of a playable demo of the RPG sequel. Before even starting out, he freely admitted that this installment of the game was using a new proprietary game engine because the first game’s engine suffered, especially on the Xbox 360, due to the fact that it was a PC engine and the developers really weren’t prepared to make it a title for the 360. However, in order to bring Two Worlds to market in the US, the publishers insisted it be a Xbox 360 title.

“So porting it with an engine that wasn’t designed to be ported, by a team that had never worked on the Xbox before, ended up being a nightmare,” said DiGennaro. “What we ended up with was a product that had a lot of promise on the 360, but had a lot of technical issues and hangups that really left a sour taste in a lot of people mouths.”

This time around, with the new engine, development is simultaneous for all platforms. Meaning that there is no ‘lead’ platform with the others being ports, there is a unified build with a unified design, essentially eliminating hangups and other issues. Indeed, looking at the build on the PAX floor, which was “content complete but not QA’d,” I saw none of the hiccups that were blatantly obvious in the previous game, but that doesn’t mean some things didn’t make a return.

The classless leveling system is back, giving the choice as to where your skill points should go. Whatever I decide to put points in is what my character will become; warrior/mage, mage/assassin, mage/warrior, whatever I want, it’s my class. Also returning is the ability to stack items, but instead of just adding one plus one equals two, in Two Worlds II, I can break the items down into their base elements and then use those materials on other items to increase one of the item’s stats. In the example DiGennaro showed me, he had a spear that he absolutely loved and didn’t want to part with it. So, instead of dropping his beloved spear when he found a sword with five extra damage, he broke the sword down into its base components, added the needed pieces to the spear, thereby boosting his damage multiplier without losing his favorite spear.

Looking around the actual world that Two Worlds II is set in, I have to admit that it is very pretty. DiGennaro says that is because the world is hand crafted and I will find that very little looks similar, so much so that he wants me to explore everything I can from weird angles. I start to protest, saying that I don’t have time to walk around and look at leaves on trees; then he shows me the oculus, the eyeballs of my enemies that turn into a free floating camera that I can use to view differing parts of the world around me. The oculi come in different types, with different powers and ranges that I didn’t get a chance to see, but each one can be used to sneak a peek at normally unreachable and/or dangerous places without putting my character in harm’s way.

The last thing I was shown before our time ended was the vast array of magical powers my character can have. The magic system is set up unlike most others in the videogame world. Instead of unlocking the second level spell at a certain rank, Two Worlds II awards cards through adventures, questing, slaying creatures, and finding treasure chests that allow me to build my own spells. The cards are housed in an amulet, which my character carries, and can be used to build a spell of my liking at any time. Spell type, damage, multiplier, ricochet, and area of effect are just some of the different choices to be made. Watching DiGennaro make spells was like watching a master chef prepare a gourmet meal. Starting out by casting a defensive fire protection spell on himself, he then removed the protection card from the spell, changing it into a rain of fire spell on an enemy. Going even further, he removed the damage card from the spell, turning the once hellish fire storm into a personal light source, then adding in the protection card without the damage card, making a fire resist spell. All of which, by the way, were still active at the same time. Perfect example of why Two Worlds II is currently in consideration for a Guinness Book of World Records record for most player activate-able spells and abilities in a videogame.

At the end of our time together, I came away with a good feeling about Two Worlds II. The appear to have developers understood what caused the previous game to fall short and tried to correct that while listening to their fan base and implementing their suggestions.