Two Worlds II
Two Worlds II is an epic, open world action-RPG. It’s not the style of game that would normally cause me to think of something with deep multiplayer in multiple shapes and sizes. To be fair, the first Two Worlds also had a multiplayer mode, but few gamers were able to stomach even the single-player quest much less venture online. Along with the many improvements being made to Two Worlds II, developer Reality Pump has put a surprising amount of effort toward crafting interesting multiplayer modes that work within the Two Worlds formula. This week, I had my first chance to try them out.
You start by creating a character. You can’t bring your single-player character online, so any grinding you’ve done and awesome loot you’ve found from the offline game won’t carry over. The upside of that is that you have significantly more customization options for the online game. The single-player storyline requires that your character is human, but for online modes you can pick between several races, including various types of elves and half-orcs.
You also choose a starting class, such as a sword-wielding warrior, a ranger, an earth mage, or a necromancer, but as in the single-player game, you can change your focus at will as you level up by shifting skill points around and equipping new weapons and magic spells. Though your single-player character is stuck in the campaign, you can build multiple characters for online play and take them into any of the various multiplayer modes.
The first and most obvious multiplayer mode is simple cooperative questing. You can from a group of any size between two to eight players to play through a seven-chapter co-op quest that, once again, is completely separate from the single-player game – new quests, characters, and lands form this healthy addition to the overall Two Worlds II content.
I joined a group of Southpeak and Topware representatives to form a group of six for a quick foray through the first chapter of co-op. My fresh character began at level one, as did a few of my partners, but several level five and six characters joined us as well. As it turned out, this was more than enough manpower to fly through this level, crushing packs of wolves, the occasional stray bear, and some undead monstrosities along the way. The speed with which we destroyed all enemies meant I flew up several levels in the span of minutes.
Again, although your single-player progress is kept separate, your multiplayer characters maintain their increased abilities and new equipment across all modes. The compelling, endless grind of loot improvement carries over to online, but it leads to some slightly awkward moments. At numerous points during our session, we had to pause for players to assign new skill points, upgrade equipment, and purchase from vendors. We spaced these breaks out in such a way that they weren’t too annoying, but I can see it breaking the flow of the game if you’re ready to keep moving but your friends are still working through a bunch of menus.
We had crushed the first chapter of co-op within about half an hour, but I was told that we were also a bit overpowered for this part of the co-op experience. Each of the seven chapters gets progressively harder, encouraging players to level up further and invite more friends in before they take them on. By the end, you’ll probably want to fill out a full eight-person party to avoid struggling.
If you’re more interested in competitive play, Two Worlds II also features a number of player versus player modes. Deathmatch is the simplest and most self-explanatory form, and it can be a lot of fun when played in teams. Maps are small, which leads to fast, intense battles in fairly tight corridors. For the several rounds I checked out, I was placed into a group of three versus an opposing team of the same size.
The biggest problem with deathmatch in Two Worlds II is that it’s not really balanced and, given the wide range of character levels, equipment, skills, and spell choices available, it’s probably not even possible to balance in any suitable manner. Because they’re generally in more powerful armor, melee classes have a huge advantage over ranged characters.
In the first match I played, my team was made up of two magic-wielding characters and one with a sword, whereas the other team had three melee fighters. Characters move fast enough that kiting isn’t a viable strategy, so the only way to succeed as a ranged class is if you have enough melee partners to keep you out of harm’s way. Needless to say, we got destroyed. This wasn’t helped by the map we were on, a small village setting that didn’t provide many good hiding spots or vantage points. The next map I tried, a maze-like sewer, fared a bit better for mages, offering an upper level from which targets can be harassed and numerous passageways to dart down in an effort to escape.
After deathmatch, I tried out “capture the crystal” mode, which is extremely weird yet much more interesting. Players are placed onto a big, wide open map that is full of floating, shiny objects of two main types: crystals, which give you points, and skulls, which take away points. The landscape is also littered with special switches that will turn any nearby crystals into skulls and vice versa. Players must collect crystals, avoid skulls, and touch those switches at the right time to maximize their crystal collecting or sabotage their opponents. It’s sort of like how I imagine competitive multiplayer might work in an old-school N64 collect-a-thon platformer.
Despite not feeling like it belongs in Two Worlds II, capture the crystal mode certainly seems to be the highlight of the game’s competitive options. Deathmatch will work fine for some mindless fun with friends, but I don’t think players will return to it for long, especially since matchmaking currently dumps you out of your party when you complete a match.
One multiplayer component of Two Worlds II that I didn’t have a chance to try yet is village mode. Here players will run quests from settlers in their own community, slowly building the town up and specializing it as you see fit. As you progress, you’ll be able to invite friends into your village or visit their villages. On a basic level, it reminds me of the incredibly cool toy box mode from the Toy Story 3 game, which is something I’ve wanted to see more games try, so I’m excited to give this a shot when I review Two Worlds II next month.
Based off the short time I’ve spent with it so far, I’m more impressed with Two Worlds II’s multiplayer components than I expected. The competitive modes are fine if not spectacular, but the game really has a chance to shine with its various cooperative options. If Reality Pump has built enough compelling content in the seven chapters of co-op questing and village mode to make players want to organize into bigger groups and strategize for taking down bosses, it could prove to be a brilliant addition to the game. There's just something awesome about seeing four sword-swinging heroes swarm a pack of wolves and take them down. I'm hopeful that feeling will carry over to further chapters.
If you’d like to check out Two Worlds II’s single-player mode in action, watch our Quick 15 video from a few months ago. For my final impressions on the game as a whole, stay tuned for a review next month.