Update: 4th October 2009, been meaning to update on this, my conclusion is that the game does a very good job of quick feedback on all the small actions within the game, such as attacks. This is partly helped somewhat by the 3rd person perspective used by the game.

So, I recently saw a Rock Paper Shotgun article talking about Two Worlds 2 being on the horizon and the resulting discussion led me to wonder why I had enjoyed the game on the first playthrough. I’ve just spent around an hour with the game before it crashed, potentially wiping out my progress since I hadn’t bothered to save the game yet. What follows are a few observations I made whilst playing the game for a bit before heading to bed (Which I plan to do once I’ve published this post)…

The voice acting (In English at least, the development company is based in Poland, it is likely that this has influenced the weak voices for the game) appears to be rather weak, in the sense that the voice actors aren’t demonstrating an understanding of the context of the lines they are saying. For instance, the player character has just checked out a house to see if it’s safe to sleep there for the night, he returns to an injured companion to bring her to the house but she’s been stolen away, the player character intones “Kira. Kira? Kira!”, but each intonation of the name is vocalised in pretty much the same way, when by the third usage of her name, the voice actor should be sounding as if he is either despairing or demonstrating some other appropriate negative emotion. Generally, there is a slight halting nature to the voice acting that suggests to me as if the actors are struggling with the text given to them.

Unsurprisingly the music is good and I rather like the openning theme that loops during the menu, it is of course pretty rare that music in a game is regarded as bad, though I don’t say this as if to say making game music is easy, just that it’s rare that finished work that reaches a game release candidate is bad. Unlike voice acting, interfaces or game mechanics; music can typically cross language barriers without major issues and the production of music is generally self contained in such a way that the games development process doesn’t tend to interfere with the process of making good game music.

Curiously the minimap is in one corner, the health/mana in another corner and the equipment bar another corner, these could’ve all been placed at the bottom of the screen so that the information is close together, meaning the player can focus on two sets of information (The action in the game environment and the information at the bottom row of the screen) instead of 4 separate interface locations (Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left & Centre).

A lot of RPGs have a big problem where players become defacto second hand arms dealers who scrounge money by selling armour, weapons and so on from bandits, with players even min-maxing the strength attribute so they can maximise the amount of loot they can carry around. What’s interesting in Two Worlds is that this issue is mitigated somewhat by the way you can combine weapons and armour of the same type together, stacking them to turn two mediocre weapons into one improved weapon. Alternatively, you can think of this as a variation on repairing in fallout 3, which requires parts from a similar gun to do the repairs. Ok, this doesn’t solve the second hand arms dealer problem itself, but it does reduce the need a player might percieve for maxing out the strength stat as soon as possible.

The game doesn’t try to teach you how to heal yourself, ended up in an interesting situation, running from 2 boars wondering where the inventory key was. I’m not a big fan of inventory access pausing the game as I feel it breaks the flow of an open world environment and can also result in issues with game difficulty (Low on health and forgotten the heal key? No problem, I’ll just access the inventory and break the tension in an instant) but in that situation it was a relief.

It seems a lot of my concerns with the game stem from interface/interaction issues, it isn’t explained in game for example, how to access your inventory or enter the stats screen from which you perform level up actions. It teaches the absolute basics of attacking, moving and using objects, then leaves you to be confused or at least assuming you’ll read the manual and look at the key configuration screen (Which a user should only look at if they want to, not because they have to). Accessing the stats/level up menu happened by instinct, not taught knowledge.

A lot of people are recognising me as “The bounty hunter”, my reputation must be preceding me, or I’ve been passing around business cards with my appearence on them. This brings up another issue, I’m a bounty hunter that starts at level 1, why not just start the game with me at level 5 to give the impression I’m already experienced as a character in this world?

Personal preference here, but I’d rather the jump key is assigned to the space bar by default, and the use item key defaulted to E, in both this game and Oblivion, it’s the other way around for reasons I don’t understand or aren’t privy to.

The game crashed not long after I’d sold off some loot. I’ll need to play it further however to analyse more than just the visible mechanics and other implementational issues, my intent is to analyse why I’m enjoying the game, as much as to look at the game itself.