Most helpful critical review
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Inomplete (formerly titled "We're loving it")
on February 6, 2011
Sadly, my review (see below) has to be downgraded down from the initial 5 stars (I love it) to a neutral 3 star (meaning "It's Okay").
Everything I wrote below is still valid but, as I kept playing, it became increasingly clear that 2W2 was rushed to market before it was finished:
- About half of the land mass is out of reach. You simply can't get there, the makers made sure to surround it all with tall mountains.
- As you progress through the chapters, and each chapter is loosely associated to one of the world's 'islands', you move from densely populated, quest-rich lands to increasingly empty, more barren landscapes with few quests to complete, the last islands, the largest of them all, being 90% off limits.
- Neat features such as 'sailing' go largely unfulfilled. Strangely, there is no commerce between the several islands and, once you find the only boat you can actually sail, there's really no place to go.
- My 60 hours of play (I play slow so expect a 40-hour run for most) produced a most powerful character, armed with the most fearsome and cool-looking weapons, wearing a near-impenetrable armor. Sadly, it also produced an empty world. Everybody and everything that I could fight other than a couple of cats and ants is dead now so there's nothing to do other than kill 'guards' which gets boring fast.
- I will not discuss the plot but I will say that end-game could have been scripted better.
And, finally, the online mode is unplayable. It's extremely frustrating to learn that, after all this 'work' developing your in-game character, making him powerful, skilled and well equipped, to learn that you can't use it online. You are supposed to create a 'new' character or several characters 'from scratch'. Why? Nobody knows but I didn't feel compelled to even try 'online'.
So, it's 'goodbye TW2. It was a nice game for the first 30-40 hours but I expected more. Overall, it's not a bad game but it could have been A LOT better. The way it is now, only mediocre. If I knew what I know now, I would not have bought the game.
MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
As I am playing Two Worlds 2 (TW2 for the rest of this review) and enjoying every minute of it, I can't help but compare it with similar past and present RPGs. I'm thinking of Oblivion, the Fallout series, Demon's Souls and keep dreaming about the 'perfect' RPG. And the reality of TW2 seems to suggest that, given the technology and the reality of a budget, this is probably as good as we are likely to get, at least for a while.
Two Worlds 2 is far from a perfect RPG. It follows the open world RPG conventions and expectations in many ways but, clearly, some of its features could be called 'steps back'. At the same time, other features can be called brilliant innovations and stunning as far as RPG conventions and technical advances go. TW2 is clearly at or close to the top, considering whatever else is available today for the current generation of consoles. Without a question it is a playable, most intriguing, addictive game. I know this because the 3 RPG players in my household, me and my 2 teenage boys are keeping the PS3 up almost non-stop and reserving time to play nothing but TW2 for hours and hours and sharing tips and stories at the dinner table and at breakfast.
I don't want to do unfair and biased comparisons but it's a fact that TW2 is nearly all we play at this time, meaning that we stopped playing 'New Vegas', I plated GT5 on a temporary hold at level 35 and two 24-hour races short of the ultimate trophy and Little Big Planet 2 is barely acknowledged by the kids these days. So, let's go into some specifics.
THE TECHNICAL MERIT
When compared to the 'older' great Bethesda RPGs such as Oblivion and the 2 Fallout releases - and I call the Fallouts technically 'old' because they are built with basically the same tools used with Oblivion - TW2 shows significant and in some cases revolutionary improvements. And here they are, probably not a complete list.
- Bugs-free. After over 100 hours of TW2 play (me, and the kids together) we haven't experienced one single 'freeze' or crash. Not even one. Other than one Baboon, floating 6 feet up in the air, no bugs I'm aware of.
- Quick saves/load. There's no such a thing as 'near-instant' saves or 'loads' but, when compared to the Fallout titles, Oblivion or even the great Demon's Souls, TW2 load/saves times are fast. On a PS3 it's probably 1/3 the load/save time you would experience on New Vegas. And, unlike it, TW2 does not bother saving your game every time you enter a new house or cave which makes for a significantly smoother gaming experience. The 'auto saves' do slow down the action for a few seconds but it's up to you whether they happen every minute or every 10 minutes or every 20 minutes.
- The savanna. The only comparison can be made with old Oblivion because Fallout's desert didn't require such a 'live' environment. If Oblivion's landscapes were stunning and I thought they were so at the time, Oblivion couldn't handle 'water' and 'fire' very well - game would slow down to a crawl and sometimes crash whenever there you had fire, lava or flowing water in the background. TW2 thrives on showing us what open plains look like. Walking or riding through TW2's great plains is almost a National Geographic experience. As for fires, waterfalls? No big thing.
- Water. Probably one of the most stunning advances in TW2 is the Ocean. I showed TW2 to a couple of friends and the two things I showed them first was a Safari and then we went for a swim. After the Safari, with Cheetahs waiting in ambush in the grass or motionless and blending with the environment on top of boulders bringing 'ooos' and 'ahhhs', the swim experience left them speechless. I can't think of any other game in existence that does it better. Try it.
- AI. Not all is brilliant and some of it is dumb but, whomever did the AI for the Cheetahs and the Warthogs and the Baboons should be congratulated. It's simply beautiful. The savanna animals and the rendering of the ocean are hints of what 'next generation' RPGs could be like.
On the not-improved or 'not implemented' category that clearly fall under the technical/technology category, I was disappointed that something like Havoc's engine, so well integrated it Demon's Souls and to some extent in Oblivion and Fallout is nowhere to be found in TW2. With some few, well marked exceptions - swimming is one - you can't interact/change the environment much. Yes, you fight your enemies and there's blood (or green goo) splashing all over but you can't, for example, cut an arm or squish a but or push a boulder. Swimming looks great but, once you come out of the water you're as dry as you were before you got in it.
Another little technical quirk is the 'voice' part. Not the acting which is good but, more often than not, the beginning or the end of statements appear to be cut off. It's like if you are playing a small sound file and whomever cut the clip did it in a hurry and missed a fraction of a second from at the beginning or at the end. It's probably what happened so, whomever did the sound editing did not do a very good job and it can be distracting.
I'm nowhere hear finishing the game (just reached level 26 and entered 'chapter two' at the time I'm writing this) but it's safe to say the the world is 'large' and there's plenty to do. I've mentioned already the great plains but, of course, there's a lot more in TW2. There are mountains to climb, deserts to explore, oceans to sail, caves and dungeons to... survive, farms, towns and cities to visit. TW2's underground features and its towns look a lot more organic than Oblivion's and Fallout's. In Oblivion it was easy to identify the Lego-like components used to build the dozens of dungeons and other structures. It's possible that TW2 has a limited number of building blocks but it's either so many we don't notice or there's some custom layer superimposed that's hiding them and everything feels a lot more realistic. You find individual houses, winding streets, commerce plazas and crowds of people going about their business in the towns and they really seem to resent you if you don't mind yours and bump into them so if you hear screams of 'were you raised in a barn?' or a girl giggle when you don't control your walk too well, it's not personal.
There is a lot to explore and experience on your errands. Once you visited a certain area, you can 'fast travel' after that if a teleport could be found and you can ride a horse if you don't mind missing the opportunity of doing a little hunting for beasts or 'monsters'. And, talking about beasts and monsters, there's plenty of them and you can make it your mission to rid the world of them. Some of the animals tend to respawn but most of the entities that fight back with weapons appear not to. Which is okay because there must be thousands of them.
The 'people' are either of the kind that mind their own business and expect that you mind yours but, of course, there are merchants, artists, individuals that will interact with you in connection to one of your quests as either friends or enemies or bosses and the members of the several leagues: fighters, thieves, mages, merchants and so on. Your reputation or notoriety plays some part in the way people interact with you but it's the various leagues that tend to keep track of what you do for or against them and afford you some preferential treatment on that basis.
Oh, the story. But, does it really matter? We like RPGs because the reward of completing quests and solving puzzles we become increasingly more powerful, get to wear cool armor and weapons, cast awesome spells and, as we progress, can successfully fight and defeat enemies that would have blown us to pieces with a sneeze at the beginning of the game. In that respect TW2 meets the expectations. You start weak, you learn about the world around, you do the quests and solve the puzzles and, as you do, you level up and get to wear the cool armor and use the cool weapons. Hopefully, you'll be able to save your sister and beat up all the bad guys - the Emperor - eventually but... you don't want THAT to happen too soon because RPGs are about the thrill of exploring, fighting, looting, learning and growing. I haven't finished the game so I'm not quite sure what the story is exactly about but... I can't say that I'm dying to find out at this time.
THE RPG CONVENTIONS
It's not essential but it's probably interesting to mention the way some of what we call the RPG 'rules' or expectations are implementing in this game so, here they are, in a list format.
- You don't eat, drink, sleep. Or you don't have to. And you never get tired, hungry or sleepy. Sure, there are potions and useful plant remedies but you could finish TW2 without ever taking a bite or drinking one drop of anything liquid.
- Your apparel/weapons/armor don't wear out, don't break. Once you acquire a sword it will always be 'as good as new' for as long as you use it, no matter what you do with it. One of my kids says that you could mess up your weapon if you swing at a locked chest but I have to check that.
- You don't tire while fighting. There is 'stamina' but it appears only to apply when you run or swim. During combat, you can swing your big half-ton battle hammer for as long as it takes and you'll never break a sweat.
- There is no compass. There is a way to follow you path on the big map or the on-screen minimap but only the big map tells you which way is North. In-game, what you get is a GPS-like view.
- There are no set classes. This has been much discussed and it doesn't bother me a lot. You are going to naturally pick a mage-like or a fighter-like path and I doubt it's possible to build a powerful character unless you pick one. Trader, necromancer, thief... these are secondary past times but you probably must specialize in either brute-force or spell-casting.
- Skill reset. This bothers me a lot more than the above. TW2, or one of the NPCs in it will allow you to basically reconstruct yourself and redistribute nearly all of your skill points. In other words, you can spend dozens of hours to build yourself as the fiercest sword fighter in the land and, for a small fee, you can turn yourself into an arch-mage.
- Health regeneration. This is something that we've seen in the older RPG but not in the more recent ones. In TW2 your health comes back and even you 'poisoned' status goes away for as long as you are not in combat with your weapon drawn.
- No weather. There is some day/night transition and what seem to be 'morning mists' but that's it. No rain, snow or wind experienced so far.
- Anything other than weapons and armor is weightless. You can carry 1,000 potions, bags full of medicinal roots, mutated hearts and giant scorpion poison glands and a one hundred volume library on your back and it won't slow you down one bit.
I enjoy the way TW2 did leveling. Each new level grants you a few more attribute and skill points. You get more skill points for doing 'things' like killing lots of animals or picking many locks or brewing a number of potions and so forth. Your level and your skills decide which weapons/armor you can wear. Skills must be first taught before you can assign point to them and skill books are either offered to you or you find them or you buy them if you can afford it.
Weapons, armor, staffs, shoes can be upgraded if you have the proper skills, can be sold/bought or you can break them (again, if you have the skills) into their components to be used when updating other items. Depending of how upgraded your equipment is, you can attach to them various crystals and improve either attributes (strength, accuracy, will power) or skills (lock picking, blocking).
Spells are cast with staffs which can be broken apart and upgraded as described above and are build each on separate spell cards where various spell modifiers interact to produce some very customized ones. Of course, you will need the skills. And, as a mage, you need to specialize in air/water/earth/fire or necromancy and acquire the related skills or maybe try to master them all.
Combat is not as realistic as I hoped. Demon's Souls will continue to be the best and smoothest combat RPG I'm aware of but it's a great improvement over the Bethesda games. There is thrust, swing, block, block breaking and the game is quite responsive to controls. However, as I mentioned before, you never get tired so it's quite easy to stun an enemy and almost never give it a chance to fight back if you keep spamming your best move. The enemies do block you and they do try their own tricks so combat is good by comparison but it could be a lot better.
It's clear by now that, with all its shortcomings, this is a 5-star game for me because Amazon's 5-stars mean 'I love it'. Which I do. Clearly, there is no perfect RPG yet and TW2 comes with major shortcomings. However, overall, TW2 is a superior game which I expect to play for quite a few hundred hours, and I am not aware of anything compelling in the PS3 pipeline probably until Skyrim launches in the fall of 2011. Which is why I'm saying 'buy it' because these are big budget products and if the talented people who are giving us these great games can't be paid, no one will hire them to do the next great RPG.
Nothing on the 'online' features yet because we've been too busy with the story mode part so far and had no time for online. So far, the best online (combat) RPG I am aware of is Demon's Souls.
Not part of this review but, here's my brief, head-to-head, one-sentence evaluation of the current major RPGs currently on the market.
* OBLIVION - huge world, great story, good humor, major slowdowns on melee scenes involving multiple characters and/or flowing water/burning fires/lava, occasional crashes, lots of huge, mostly cookie-cutter dungeons and ruins, occasional crashes, long load/save times, auto-saves every time you pass through a door.
* FALLOUT - world not as large as Oblivion, great story, great humor, buggy, terrible melee combat, crashes, short main story. Did I mention buggy? Long load/save times.
* FALLOUT NEW VEGAS - world same size as the original fallout, OK humor, feels like a large FALLOUT DLC, even more bugs and crashes, longer load/save times, melee still bad.
* DEMON'S SOULS - the best online integration in any console game so far, incredibly brutal, the best hand-to-hand/melee combat, bugs-free (one crash in over 600 hours of play), the 5 worlds are relatively small but all is polished to near-perfection, load/save times quite long.
* TWO WORLDS 2 - not much of a story but enough quests to keep one busy for a long time, basic humor, incredible outdoors environment, okay melee, large world(s), addictive, open world but player is strongly steered through the plot, extremely good implementation of magic and weapons/armor forging but many shortcuts (see review), bugs-free, short load/save time.
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