Friday, May 1, 2015

Review: Two Worlds 2

Last night I played three hours of Two Worlds 2, which I think is enough time to come up with a fully formed opinion about a game.  Well, okay, usually I say you can't just a book by its cover or the first chapter or two, but in some instances I think you say.  Say the book is riddled with typos, or the chapters are listed out of order.  Perhaps the first fifty pages are stuck together by spilled ketchup, or it has the words Fifty Shades Of Grey on the title.

Speaking of, how is it there hasn't been a huge outcry about the fact that Fifty Shades Of Grey is clearly a rip-off of Secretary?  Except, of course, the latter was nominated for awards, and I'm pretty sure the former is still sporting a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Where was I?

Oh, right.  Two Worlds 2.

Man.  You guys.  This game.

Let's get the good stuff out of the way early.  The game has a pretty good hook to pull you in right off the bat.  You play as "generic guy #85" with stringy hair that's either supposed to be in braids or just has a bad rendering engin- no, Erik, bad.  Bad.  Focus on the good.

You start the game trapped in a tower by the Great Big Bad himself as he channels your life force into the body of your also-captive sister, currently acting as the host of some ancient powerful evil.  This is a great hook, because it shows conflict, drama, and immediately gives you the stakes for what will be your fight in the future.  I was intrigued.

When your captive butt gets tossed back into the dungeon, you're suddenly sprung from captivity by a group of orcs.  You're pretty quick to point out that orcs should be extinct, and they confirm that, yes, they're pretty much all that's left of their race after some recent epic huge war that probably happened in the previous game.  Now, however, this small band of "last of their kind" are on the side of right, saving you on behalf of a being calling itself "The Prophet" so you can help save the world from not only the Big Bad, but also from the destruction your sister might unleash if that evil force inside her takes over.

I have to give the game some major props for taking classic fantasy ideas (elves and dwarves good, orcs bad) and turning it around.  In those brief moments where I learned about the orcs I was teaming up with, what they had been through, and why they were doing what they were doing, I felt they had a deep culture that few other sources have bothered to explore.

The game doesn't have a class feature (you know, fighter, thief, mage, cleric, bookkeeper, debutante, etc.), but instead teaches you the basics of each of the primary combat systems (melee, bows, magic) and then lets you build up the ones you like and let the rest sit unused.  Melee is pretty basic, having different power levels of attacks and a parry/attack system that relies on combos and swinging right after your opponent finishes a group of attacks.  Archery allows you to target multiple enemies at once with trick shots or simply automatically lock on to an enemy and fire a stream of arrows at them.  Magic involves combining spell "cards" into groups that allow you to unlock different abilities.  There's fire, water, air, earth, and a few other types of magic, and depending on what "adjective" cards you attach them to (homing, area, shield) you gain new abilities.

It's all the earmarks of a truly great game, especially when you look online and see screenshots of your character armored up and fighting dragons, werewolves, and even dinosaurs.

And then you play it.

During the first hour, there were enough clipping issues that I wasn't sure my game disc was sold to me with all the required "1s" and "0s."  Characters will blink out of existence when they get too close to a wall and then reappear a short distance away, entire sections of buildings don't appear until a few seconds after a cut-scene begins, leaving you wondering how it can be so hard to escape from a tower when it was clearly built without walls on certain floors.  Your character's movements are sluggish and awkward, my character frequently refused to begin any type of combo in melee against an opponent unless they both agreed to let all attacks miss and swing wild so he could show off his fancy steps without anything's head getting in the way of his weapon.

The magic combat isn't much better.  The game proudly lets you destroy swarms of undead by standing in a magic pentagram they aren't allowed to enter and unleashing waves of area effects against them.  You don't actually get to see the spells strike the enemies, you just wave a staff in a certain way, there's a "poof" of energy around you, and then other energy "poofs" appear on your foes, either killing them or simply irritating them.  When I finally got into combat against real enemies, I drew up my magic staff, channeled forth primal magical forces, and promptly swapped out all my elemental powers for "cotton fluff" based on how much damage I did when the spells struck.

I was then, of course, left standing there going "hey, guys, look, I know we're all trying to kill each other, but these spells take five seconds to recharge before I can cast another, could you hold off stabbing me with swords until it comes baaaaaargh."

Getting away from terrible game play, let's talk the voice work.  Overall, I was really impressed with the voices.  It's obvious the actors were never shown the finished product before recording anything, because the quality of the voices is much higher than the rest of the game.  I actually recognized one voice, as your sister Kyra is voiced by Freya Ravensbergen, which is not only a Scandinavian name I would make up for a completely awesome Norse character in an RPG, but also the voice of Ginchiyo Tachibana from Samurai Warriors 2, one of my favorite games.

There is one major fly in this quality ointment, however, and that's the voice of the primary character (read: the person who does the most talking).  Sounding like he's desperately trying to channel the voice of Will Arnett after fifteen years of a "six packs of cigarettes a day" habit, he sounds to all effect like someone trying too hard to be a "bad-ass."  It also doesn't help that occasionally, when he kills a monster he giggles in that same raspy voice like a crazed psychopath, making you wonder if the world might not be better off under the thumb of an ancient horror instead of this guy.

The game also has as much subtlety as an exploding volcano, particularly when it comes to gender roles in the game.  Let me introduce you to the first three women you meet in the game.

Keep in mind, one of those is supposed to be your sister.

I'm not going to tell you which one.  Let that feeling of creepiness wash over you.

The game is glitched and bugged beyond comprehension, and while it is, in fact, "playable" (the highest praise I believe I saw Game Informer give it), it carries a sense of apathy towards what it wants to do and towards gaming in general.  If a game's attitude towards progress is to have a "the game will not continue until you do this" instruction appear behind the "this game is now autosaving" message and then vanish before the save is complete, why should I be bothered trying to make any more progress?

This is a game that needed another year of development, and while I've been told it's a huge step up from the previous game in the series (which wasn't even "playable"), it still feels like a game that was rushed from development start to finish.  Some decent voice acting, some great ideas to set up game play foundations upon, but it takes those solid foundations and builds a game built entirely out of dried pasta and wet cardboard.

In other words, it sucks.

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