Saturday, February 5, 2011

Xbox 360 - Two Worlds II

Two Worlds II by South Peak Games

While I played but never reviewed Two Worlds, I also thought it was unfair to review Two Worlds as it was so unfinished and buggy. In fact, the game was so unfinished, I wasn't even able to complete the game. To be fair, though, I should have at least reviewed that part of Two Worlds here on Gamezelot. So, here's your mini-review of Two Worlds. Overall, Two Worlds is rated 2/10 (Very poor game, very buggy and very unfinished).

With that out of the way, we get to the heart of this review of Two Worlds II, the sequel to Two Worlds.


Well, frankly I haven't been able to make heads or tails of the story. It's a mix-mash of a bunch of RPG ideas, but it's not really that cohesive. Something is definitely going on, but the dialog and voice acting are so bad, I couldn't really keep up nor was it compelling me to watch it. So, while there is a story there of some kind, I really lost interest in finding out what it was. As a storyteller, you have one shot to draw in your audience, Two Worlds II fails miserably at this.

RPG System

So, while Two Worlds failed at just about every aspect of being an RPG game, Two Worlds II has much improved the gaming aspect quite a bit over Two Worlds. That said, the improvements made don't make this a grade A title. No, it's still firmly a grade C game. In fact, the designers should have just skipped the whole lead-in story completely and dropped the gamer right into the character generator. Basically, after the arduous story, you end up in the character builder.

Unfortunately, once in the character builder, the player character is limited to being human (as is nearly every other character in the game, with the exception of the enemies and creatures you can summon). As far as the player character, he's always human and, from what I remember, always male. You can modify your character's looks within limits including height, broad shoulders, and facial features. In fact, most of the alterations deal with facial features and hair and beard shapes and colors. For an RPG, it's really very limited. That is to say, compared with the Elder Scrolls series (Oblivion specifically).

After you create your character, the game begins.


Once the game starts, you will notice several things. First, the controller mapping is completely wonky (see messing with a good thing). South Peak should have looked at other RPGs and decided on a more cohesive button layout. That said, the designers do allow you to remap nearly anything in your inventory to RB, LB, X, Y, A and B buttons. Helpful, but not overly useful. I'd still prefer to have a standard layout with the action keys on the A, B, X and Y buttons rather than using the trigger controllers. Triggers are for cars and guns, not swinging swords and melee weapons. I might accept firing arrows from a trigger, but that's inconsistent when you're already using A or B for melee.


To pull no punches here, the graphics are downright awful. But, it's not just the texture mapping that's at issue. Some objects are textured mapped well enough, others textures just don't work at all. It's the inconsistency that's at issue here. For a game to work, all objects have to be consistently texture mapped. For example, you would never use a 1024x1024 texture map for a large surfaced area like the ground. On the other hand, it's pointless to use 4096x4096 pixel maps on tiny objects like vials. Designers need to be cognizant of the when and where to use the right sized maps. Worse, though, is that the ground surface maps look like photographs of real surfaces just plopped onto the ground surface. That doesn't work alone. It takes supporting bump maps to make a surface look realistic. Yet, no bump mapping is here.

Unfortunately, there is no use of specularity maps here. Since I don't know the engine that South Park decided to use for Two Worlds II, I do not know if it's capable of specularity. However, most game engines do support some level of specularity (i.e., shininess vs dullness). Most objects in the game have a single level of dullness that leads the game to look flat and lifeless. We need to see levels of specularity to make the objects appear 3 dimensional.

Programming Issues

Most console games hold the game in a loading screen until everything has been completely loaded and ready to go. Not Two Worlds II. When you teleport, for example, as soon as you appear in the destination teleport, you see the whole world load. That is, building, textures, plants, trees, etc... everything pops up right on the screen. This is a bad technique. A 'loading' screen should be present until the world has fully and completely loaded.

In addition to the popup issue, which I could live with, there is this 'freezing' thing that happens. It doesn't hang the Xbox, instead this appears to be a conscious programming decision. For example, when you land on the destination teleport, the game is frozen. You can see your character, but you can't move. You're stuck until the game decides to finally let the game start. When you're frozen, so are all of the other characters in the world. It's like you pressed the pause button on a remote control, yet the game is not paused. This issue needs to be addressed a lot more elegantly going forward. Most well designed games think this aspect through.


Again, to be blunt, the lighting is horrible. The daylight lighting overdoes (and overexposes) the scenes so it's actually hard to see much of the terrain when the sun is blinding the player character. So much of the outdoors scenes are overexposed. Sunlight needs to look realistic, yes. But, it doesn't need to blind the player so they can't see the environment. Basically, the sunlight effects are way overdone and need to be toned way back.

On the flip side, in the dark areas it's too dark. Yes, there is a torch, but as a designer you still need to add key lighting in places (shafts of light from holes in caves) to add mood and give depth to the scene. In most caves, it's just not moody enough, just dark. Caves need dark places and need light places to create a mood, provide a realistic environment and reinforce a convincing 3D aspect of the game experience.


The lack of a story leads to a convoluted and confusing questing experience. There is a quest log, yes. The quest log does lead the player through where they need to be to get the quest completed, but the quests are trivially easy to complete. For example, there's a follow-someone quest where they tell you not to follow too close. In fact, there is no need for this at all. You can follow as close as you want as there is nothing to 'notice' that you followed them at all. The only aspect here is that you need to hide behind barrels to allow the meeting to take place. Ultimately, though, you still have to fight and kill the meeting people anyway. So, why bother hiding? Just go in with the sword drawn and get it over with. It's not that it's that hard to kill the opponents anyway.

Leveling up

Gaining experience is strange at best. You have no idea how much XP you're gaining by doing any specific thing. Sometimes you'll see '1 XP gained', but other times you see nothing. In fact, most times you see nothing. So, there's no way to quantify how much XP you'll get by doing any specific thing. This part of the game needs a lot of work.

Unfortunately, leveling up is a mixed bag here. Not so much for the player character, but more for the enemies around you. Meaning, you have no idea what level opponent you're about to fight. You only see their health bar, but not their level. With any long-form RPG game, the game needs to level opponents up at near the same rate as the player character. Don't throw level 30 enemies at level 2 player characters. This is completely unfair and unnecessary. The level 30 enemy will simply pummel the player character in one hit of the sword. Not fair and not necessary. Designers need to understand this aspect.


Like Oblivion, there are guilds. Unfortunately, this is yet another haphazard element. It's there, but not explained. As you play and finish quests, you will gain points toward guilds. Some of the quests are defined as guild quests, while others aren't. I'm not even sure what happens once you gain favor with a guild (note that I haven't gotten that far yet). Still, even though I haven't gotten far enough to get through obtaining guild favor, I'm not sure that it will even give me much when I do.


The combat system is about standard. Swing swords or fire arrows. Once you get the hang of where to be, how to stand, how to corner the enemy and all of the other tricks, you can easily defeat just about any enemy in the game.

Game Maps and Travel

The maps seem very large. So, there's lots of running to be had. However, there is also a teleport system. This system allows you to teleport (fast travel) to any other teleport that you've found on the map. As long as you are outdoors (clear sky above), you can teleport. Inside buildings, dungeons and caves, this is not possible. So, exit to outdoors to travel. Horses are also available, like Oblivion, to move from place to place faster. To be honest, I haven't found a horse yet, so I can't speak to how well this part works.


This game is a mess. However, to its credit I have yet to run into any show-stopper bugs. You know, the kind that lead you into a room that you realize you can't get out of and you have no save to revert back to (so you're stuck having to start over). That's not to say I won't discover one about 75% through the game, but so far I haven't. In Two Worlds, I found bugs (not stuck bugs), but the kind that crash the game dead regularly. Thankfully, Two Worlds II at least doesn't hang the XBox.

That said, the game is designed as though there were multiple teams all completing separate aspects to the game never coming together to create a cohesive whole game. Worse, so many corners were cut to produce the game, the game is missing a cohesive whole story element that draws you in and makes you want to play. So, the lighting guys, texturing guys, coding guys and story guys never seemed to sit in a room and say, "Hey, we want a high quality game". They just all seemed to do their work independently, then put it all together, beta test and then release. Little quality control on the end result seemed to happen.

So, the game's quests are many and take a while to complete, even though they are trivially easy. If you're willing to overlook all of the negative aspects mentioned above, you might find some kind of enjoyable experience from Two Worlds II. That is, if you like to just blindly quest without thought to the story. Granted, I do find myself blindly questing much of the time even in Oblivion. So, in this way, I find myself doing the same thing in Two Worlds II.

Play this game only if you like blind questing. Since there is a drought of major RPG titles, this one will do until Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is released in the fall of 2011. This game is not likely to win Game of the Year from Gamezelot (or any other review site), but it is much better than Two Worlds. I recommend this game only if you are desperate for an RPG and you need something to play. I also only recommend it as a 'buy used'. It's a bit to expensive at $60 with all of its flaws.

  • Sound: 4/10 (works ok, but needs help, bad voice acting)
  • Graphics 3.5/10 (bad quality 3D work, textures, lighting, etc)
  • Story: 2/10 (not engaging)
  • Bugginess: N/A (no hang bugs found yet, surprisingly)
  • Controls: 7/10 (reasonable, but could have been better)
  • Bang-To-Buck: 2/10 (Not really wanting to revisit this world)
  • Play Value: $5 (play once, but too long to rent, buy used)
  • Overall: 4/10 (improved from TW, but not great)
Definitely not the quality you would expect from an RPG