Monday, 28 January 2013

Two Worlds 2 - My Impressions

Two Worlds 2.  A game that is very underrated and has given me more enjoyment and infinitely less frustration than a more AAA title like Skyrim which I have to force myself to play nowadays, if at all.   My views are my own though so I don't care if people disagree with what I have to say below.  I take a game on more than face value and as far as I'm concerned Two Worlds 2 delivered, especially since I'm playing it all over again.

It may not seem like it but I'm very picky about which games I play and to me are worth replaying, which is why I don't play everything that's released, and because I can't afford to do so.  A lot of games that are popular either don't interest me, have game mechanics I don't like (turn based combat being one) or I played for awhile and lost interest.  I'm also not an apologist for any game or it's developers.  There are enough of those.  I just tell it like it is in my eyes, like it or not.

I'm on my second playthrough of Two Worlds 2 in as many months and I have to say this game is very good.  After the debacle when the game was first released and never made it to my country which I was more than a little peeved about, I'm happy to be able to play it now. 

Yes, there are flaws as with pretty much any game these days, but the positives more than make up for it.  A huge consideration here, for me, is that Reality Pump who developed the game, are not a multi million dollar company and yet they can still produce a game of, in my opinion, good quality.  There will be some comparisons with the TES games here, in particular Skyrim and how I think Two Worlds 2 does a lot of things much better.  So much so that I've lost nearly all interest in Skyrim, even with the plethora of mods available.

As I said I'm on my second playthrough of the Two Worlds 2 Game of the Year Edition which includes the excellent Pirates of the Flying Fortress Expansion which is a whole game in itself.  First playthrough was around 60+ hours and this will be many more I imagine.  This time I'm playing with the awesome Worldmerge (overhaul and balancing, plus much more) mod by Youngneil1.  As much as I would like to thank him on the forums I'm not registering just for that, plus he hasn't been active for over a year and the forums themselves are very quiet.  So, I will say a big thank you here.  This mod makes a good game even better, not to mention it was all done without a proper SDK so the amount of work must have been tremendous.

More on that later.  One thing I will say here is the way this game and others like it are compared negatively to TES Oblivion or even Skyrim is very unfair considering the difference in experience and resources art Bethesda's disposal.  Oblivion was a very poor game without mods and Skyrim at it's base isn't much better.  As much as I did like Skyrim for a good while, it has no depth, no real choices, is railroaded and lacks emotion and coherence.   It's pretty, but that's about it.   Most of my vanilla playing time was sorting out bugs and retreiving corrupt save games from broken patches and that was before I used any mods.   It was only mods that kept me playing especially the ones that fix things Bethedsa won't fix.  Suffice to say I don't care about any of the DLC's and the bugs that will never be fixed by Bethesda and won't buy them unless it's in a Game of the Year Edition on DVD some time in the future.  By that time since they've taken so long, and dragged out the Microsoft exclusive crap, not to mention the PS3 fiasco I doubt I'll care as more and better (one hopes) open world games are coming.  Competition Bethesda.  Watch out.

Now to Two Worlds 2 and the positive things I like about it.

Two Worlds 2 has a sense of wit, irony and humour and even sarcasm at times.  It's not all doom and gloom.  The main story isn't particularly startling in originality, but then I have yet to come across true originality in a modern RPG, or at least the ones that interest me.  It does the job though and there are plenty of good twists and turns to keep me interested.

The quests are well thought out and in general well written, although some of the translation to English, particularly in the subtitles could have been better.  That's neither here nor there really.  It's something that should have had more attention, but it's a minor issue at best overall.

A big consideration for me is the choices you have, and their consequences in many quests.  A number of side quests are quite detailed in themselves.  There are "fetch" quests, however most are interesting and are not all they seem when accepting them.  They are more than "go here and kill this person or fetch this item" and return to quest giver.  Many of these are on bounty boards with a story given as to why this or that NPC wants something done.

There is a large variety of animals, monsters and other assorted enemies all with their own resistances and combat techniques.  One may not think so in the first chapter (the Savannah) which is more of a lead up to the real danger and challenge, but the things change in following chapters.  This is why it's so important to plan your character and ensure you play to his strengths.

On the subject of planning the player character, if you feel you've put points into skills that aren't working for you or you've spread your skills too thin for survivability, you can go to a Soul Patcher and respec, for a price.  I've always liked the way European RPG's (like Two World 2 and the Gothic series),use the XP system where you get XP for doing things and solving quests instead of the way it's done in TES games.  Solving a quest should mean more than receiving a purse of gold and maybe a thank you if you're lucky. There's more satisfaction in getting XP for a job well done and using those points to improve the character over time. Once again it's my opinion but increasing skills by using them, especially the skills you don't want increased leading to leveling up, is flawed.  In the case of Skyrim, smithing and enchanting in particular are exploits that lead to artificial leveling and potentially weak characters.  Then there's the Perk system.  Suddenly you apply a few Perks and you're an amazing sneak thief, warrior or marksman and even a master blacksmith, but you didn't actually train or work for it except to grind those skills ad infinitum.

Many Skill require Skill Books gained either via quest progression or buying them which is very expensive in the beginning.  However, later money becomes easier to get although there is plenty to spend it on and everything is expensive until you gain reputation in the Guilds.

The Alchemy system is good, however, at least in the first chapter one can find a lot of common potions so there's not a lot of need to make them.  However, later it can become a necessity and special potions can be made to overcome some situations.  The layout of the alchemy screen is a bit of a mess though as ingredients aren't labeled accordinng to type or usage and it gets to be a drag hovering the curosr over each one to see what it does which can be annoying when you need a potion immediately.  Experimenting can lead to very potent potions though, so it's worth it most of the time.

The magic system is the best I've seen in a game.  Some very imaginative and powerful spells can be made using a spellcard and amulet system which does take some getting used to, but pays off immensely.  With experimentation the types of spells that can be created is incredible.  Basically, if you can imagine it, you can probably make it, up to a point of course.  You can choose cards for homing missile spells that chase the target, have them richochet and spray or use AOE effects.  The defensive spells actually work and favourite at the moment and totally necessary for my mage with the Worldmerge mod. 

There's no restriction on numbers of summons except that you put skill points into it which isn't necessarily as easy as it seems because there are several other factors to take into account as with all schools of magic. 

My summoned werebeasts.   I'd hate to be on the receiving end of all of these and that's only a few I can summon.  Fighting the actual beasts as an enemy is difficult as they are very agile and hit hard.

Crafting.  You can break down weapons and armour and use those resources, ie steel, fabric, wood, iron etc to improve others you want to use.  However, something that I think should have been impelented is being able to buy them at vendors even if only rarely.  Some things like chainmail are almost impossible to obtain without buying the armour pieces and breaking them down or finding them in loot by a roll of the dice.  Buying pieces to break down, especially armour is an expensive and redundant way to do it really.

You can socket armour, clothing, rings, amulets and weapons with gems which range from skill increases, to protective and damage.  Gems of the same strength and level can be melded to make stronger ones and you can also use a Sealing Gem which increases the benefits of the originals.  However, once a weapon or whatever is sealed the gems can't be removed.  Items have to impoved however to use gems and that depends on crafting skills so it has to be worked for.

There are no annoying and overbearing NPC's wanting to tell you about their day and pushing quests on you, or more importantly for me, no jabbering every time you get in their range. I choose who I talk to not the other way round, except in main quest situations and some side ones.  The cities and towns are populated with generic NPC's to give the illusion of actual living towns.  They have basic schedules and go home at night, actually shop and look at wares at the markets and even berate you if you bump into them, which is tied to the crime sytem which I mention further down. 

Other activities you can take part in are playing instruments in real time in the town square and if the crowd likes it they will pay you.  Not easy though as it takes dexterity I don't have these days.  You can play dice, listen to Town Criers, go sailing with your own boat in real time, and horse riding.  Sailing your boat is awesome and is an easy way to get from island to island, you can take part in horse races, albeit not with other NPC's.  One quest related to this gains you a house as a prize.  It's a dilapidated old ruin, but it has storage.  You can also buy a mansion in the main city and later another house to store gear.

As far as I'm aware all containers are safe though so the expense isn't really necessary unless you have money to burn.

This game also has a good lock picking system and you can actually bash open a chest with your weapon risking the weapon breaking though.  I suppose a way out of that is to keep a crap weapon to use for this and not good ones. 

I nearly forgot to mention combat which is pretty good overall.  Weapon animations are excellent.  Each different type of weapon has it's own animation from two handed to maces and daggers.  Combat is OK, not ground breaking but not awful, and stands out a bit more with the extra skills that can be used, ie Dirty Trick where you kick dirt in the opponents face, or Block Breaker where you can break an enemies block.  These are active skills and not all apply to all weapons.  Some things like Dirty Trick don't work on creatures and monsters though.

The graphics are beautiful.  The game has god rays, grasses and bushes that move when you pass through them, sound effects that are very immersive and fitting to a situation.  You can fail quests, important NPC's can be killed and choices and consequences are very important. 

As far as I'm concerned there are more positives than negatives, but I don't usually nitpick games over minor things, unless there are other glaring and annoying issues that are the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Like crashing and corrupt saves, instability and other staples of the TES games that just make me want to pull my hair out.  Two Worlds 2 has none of these.

Now to the negatives.

In general the voice acting is faily Ok, but some is atrocious using strange accents that don't fit well, volume levels from one to another vary drastically in a few instances and sometimes subtitles don't match what's being said.  However, in the Pirates expansion it's improved immensely as with a lot of other things from the base game.  The main character is sarcastic and droll and I quite like that, but at times he sounds uninterested in what's happening.  Overall it's not that bad considering the huge content of the game and something I can forgive.  There's also the fact that the game wasn't English to start with and had to be translated.  Not justifying it, just giving a possible reason.

Leveled loot.  Annoying as hell but nothing new in this type of game and not exclusive here.  If I open a Master chest though I want to find something more than leather gloves or other useless clutter.  In the base game some items from lower levels are impossible to find particularly when they are things need for crafting, ie chainmail for example.

Probably one of the biggest flaws for me is psychic guards.  I can be out of visual range behind a brick wall and if I take out my weapon or sneak with dagger in hand they seem to know and come running to warn me or attack if I'm not compliant.  However for mages or alchemists that can be overcome with invisibility spells and potions as it seems guards aren't omnipresent when you're invisible, but it's still a big fault.

Caves and some of the dungeons are poorly done and there's not enough of them, however more of the same would be overkill.  Lack of a proper local map without even the name of the dungeon on it, too generic cut and paste, they all look the same and most, except for quest related ones, are just full of monsters with no reward chest or loot or reason to go inside except for the XP for killing said monsters.

The main game end sequence.  In my opinion that was a big failure and actually worse than psychic guards.  I won't add spoilers, play if you wish or not to find out, or watch a Youtube video, however all the time I spent carefully crafting my character meant nothing in the end.  It was the only time I resorted to using a cheat out of frustration because even resistance potions had no effect and there's no saving during this part, not even auto saves.  It's long and annoying.

There are a few other tiny negatives that don't really rate a mention and I probably missed some positives, but I think I got the main ones. 

In conclusion. 

As I said I'm replaying the game with the magnificent overhaul, Worldmerge by Youngneil1.  It re-balances the game, adds a new overarching quest as well as new bosses and enemies, items, locations as well as much more character customization including tattos and face and body enhancement.  You can also play as female as the female armours and body models are in the game but not previously used, but the voice overs will still be male which doesn't appeal to me and would lose the whole effect of the story.

It also combines the main single player game, the Pirates of the Flying Fortress expansion and all the multiplayer maps into one huge single player experience.  A massive and excellent endeavour.  I'm not going to detail everything though as that would be another huge post, but you can read about it here if you're remotely interested in this game.  It transforms an already good game into a great game.

I'm only 23 hours in and expecting at least 100 hours this time through.

Fighting the demon.   A revenge fight.

At the Undead pub.

Trees attack!

I've also played a lot of Far Cry 3 which is excellent thus far although I'm not a fan of quick time events, but I'll write about this game at a later date.   Also played through Dishonoured for the 4th time and probably will again.  I absolutely love that game.

Lethe the Game - I'm No Longer Involved.

I've deleted all posts related to Lethe, an Indie game that I was writing for.   All I have to say is there were personal and creative differences that I felt uncomfortable with and I felt unable to continue so I left the team a couple of months ago.     There's nothing further I want to say about that except to wish them well and hope it's a success.