Two Worlds II

When Oblivion was released for Xbox in 2006, it was proof positive that console gamers were finally willing to embrace the open-world action RPG. It also provided a mighty big pair of shoes for Reality Pump’s also-ran Two Worlds to fill, but the overstuffed, under-polished third-person fantasy game suffered from unconvincing voice-acting courtesy of programmers and art directors, and floaty combat with maddening collision-detection. Now, with a few more experience points under its belt, Reality Pump promised it could work out the kinks for Two Worlds II.

So did it follow through? Not exactly. Yes, the voice-acting is now performed by people who get paid for such things, and the game’s West-meets-East look has been given a bit of a spit-shine, but the land of Antaloor is still plagued by glitchy, choppy graphics; monsters that fail to recognize that arrows are hitting them in the face; and quests and plotting that are standard-issue, whenever they aren’t given to tongue-in-cheek ragging on RPG conventions. Two Worlds II is sloppy, often clunky, and features one ugly interface. It’s also pretty damn fun once the training wheels finally come off.

As in the Fable franchise, the combat can shift gears between ranged, magical, and mêlée in the middle of a bout, although instead of simply holstering one weapon to draw another, you switch entire gear setups with a click of the d-pad. Health begins to return as soon as you sheathe your sword, and free teleportation speeds quest completion. It’s clear that Reality Pump wants a minimum number of roadblocks between you and the game’s bountiful side and main quests. Same goes for the crafting system, which forces players to delve into those poorly explained, somewhat awkward menus, but rewards them with a robust, engrossing eddy of customization in the otherwise mainstream gameplay.

A card-based system for building spells is similarly head-scratching—then addicting, as it allows you to combine elements with effects until you’ve built your dream mana-hogging pyrotechnics. The separately tracked multiplayer returns in this installment, and even though you can’t bring your powerhouse of a main character into the action, there’s a MMO-like appeal to the co-op mode, in addition to a deathmatch option that’s in severe need of balancing. It’s just another weakness in a game full of them. But flawed fundamentals and lackluster presentation are buoyed up by surprisingly PC-like depth and endless questing opportunities. Maybe Two Worlds II is just a stopgap until the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but the field of deep action RPGs for the console isn’t exactly cluttered, and this one makes good on its second chance.

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