Two Worlds II: Pirates Of The Flying Fortress – E3 Preview
There are few games which, when reviewed, have enough depth and immersion to warrant over eight thousand words, especially having been delayed for three years after its original announcement as a mere expansion. Two Worlds II is one such game. In April, only a month after the eventual UK launch, it was announced that the first expansion to Two Worlds II, Pirates Of The Flying Fortress, was slated for a September release although this now appears to have been moved to October.
With over 2.5 million units of Two Worlds II sold worldwide, it came as no surprise that the E3 appointment book for TopWare Interactive began to fill up as soon as the invitations were sent out but, thankfully, we were fortunate enough that our own schedule allowed us to secure an appointment for 1pm on the Tuesday afternoon after the Microsoft conference… the first viewing of Pirates Of The Flying Fortress at this year’s E3 Expo.
Before getting down to the meat and bones of the upcoming expansion, we should perhaps mention that the voice actors of have been entirely re-cast, including the main character… twice. This will no doubt be music to many ears as one of the highest criticised areas of Two Worlds II was the choice for lead actor. Personally speaking, I enjoyed the grizzly voice of the original and had convinced myself that Christian Bale was moonlighting in between his stints as The Caped Crusader. This change in actors was immediately apparent and will undoubtedly reel in those wary gamers who were perhaps put off by the previous characterisation.
Flying Fortress continues from where Two Worlds II left off but, rather than being back in the hills following the end-game, you find yourself on a beach with your sword pointed at some poor soul begging for mercy in an introductory cut-scene. Within moments, you’re knocked unconscious and wake up on The Wandering Wraith surrounded by pirates where Captain Teal, their cruel leader who is said to be devoid of any soul, forcibly enlists you to do his bidding after his ship runs aground, dooming them to an eternity trapped on the island. As is always the case with stories such as these, the pirate Captain and his motley crew are somehow incapable of fending for themselves and recruit you as their saviour, and who are we to argue.
While it may appear on the surface that you’re tasked with retrieving more than simply fabled treasure, with the main premise being to seek out Maren – Captain Teal’s lost love, a reclusive beauty who is rumoured to live on one of the many islands – there are twists within the plot which would suggest that all is not as it seems with the Captain’s trusted crew. Not much more was given away about the story itself, other than it being a tale of treachery and mistrust, as I’m sure that anything beyond this would include massive spoilers.
The setting for the expansion is Kangor Bay, a cursed archipelago that your character must navigate in order to complete various quests to gain favour with the pirates and, ultimately, stay alive. The map itself looks impressive, adding another 25% to the existing single player area and is said to provide another ten hours of gameplay from beginning to end. Presumably, as with all decent RPG titles these days, natural exploration and treasure hunting could easily add another ten hours, depending on how much time you would normally spend off-quest.
Along with a whole host of new weaponry and clothing, we see the addition of “impact oriented horse armour”… without having to pay for it as a separate DLC, and we’re told that the horse handling has improved somewhat from the main release. Whether it will actually be necessary or not was never intimated although, based on the new map, I imagine most of the time will be spent sailing and traversing the cluster of islands rather than tearing across open terrain at high speeds.
It’s important to note that, while being completely missing from the main Two Worlds II release, the weather system that added so much atmosphere to the original Two Worlds has been reintroduced. Whether this will bring that familiar chant of “It’s raining, it’s pouring” from the main character remains to be seen but, in all honesty, I’d love for the quirkiness to come back although I can’t see it happening as the sequel certainly takes itself more seriously than its predecessor. With the promise of thunderstorms, it should make for some fantastic gameplay in the sailing segments, between fighting waves and wrestling the sails against the wind.
For anyone familiar with Two Worlds II and the sailing, it’s likely that they experienced the same problems as I did at one point – you find a spot to land the boat, spend time exploring the island and inevitably get caught up in a side quest which results in your teleporting back to the main island to off-load some of the newly-acquired inventory… and you forget where you left your boat in the process. It wasn’t necessarily a bone of contention, as I generally travel on foot anyway, but there were areas at the northern most side of the largest island which appeared from the map to have small villages, but were unreachable after ‘mislaying’ my boat. As trivial as it may sound, the inclusion of a boat marker and horse marker on the map had me more excited than anything else at this point.
It’s clear from the first few seconds of gameplay that this isn’t just a standard expansion. Shadows are more realistic, the quality of the graphics appears to have been enhanced somewhat, and when I ask whether the engine has been improved upon I’m told that “The engine has changed a lot. There are also a lot more animations added to it as far as dialogue animations, as well as tonnes of new equipment”. The inventory system remains as it was within the base game but there are several new additions, most notably with the ranged weapons class, which now includes crossbows.
Our trip through the graveyard highlighted the improved combat system and showcased a particularly deadly hammer, capable of taking out skeletons with a single blow, although it’s entirely possible that the demo featured a god mode with a high level character. It was during the melee within the graveyard that my heart sank as talk of a zombie mode reached my ears and, as someone who is fed up with zombies being shoe-horned into regular games, I was positively elated to find out that this wasn’t your typical zombie fest. Instead, one particular section of the game has you tasked to help out the undead and will see you visit an area that features “actual zombie strippers”. I live in hope that the inclusion of the undead will be done with more tact than other franchises have displayed in the past.
For those with co-operative gameplay in mind, the multiplayer angle of Two Worlds II which, I have to admit, pulled me in a lot more than I’d expected, has also been ramped up with the addition of four new multiplayer maps. How long these run to, or what’s involved, is unknown at this time but if they’re anything like the multiplayer in the main game, then they’ll be a great way to kick back with friends.
As well as the general release at $29.99 USD, a special Game Of The Year edition will also be made available for those who prefer something more interesting than a regular expansion pack, and includes a choice of two “Velvet Edition” box sets priced at $49.99 for the PC and Mac versions, and $69.99 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The Velvet Editions will include:
- True velvet box (royal red or black)
- Real metal corners
(antique silver plated or golden, brass plated)
- Shapely designed Two Worlds II metal logo
- Game disc including all expansion packs
- World map and exclusive in-game item
- Bonus disc including extended soundtrack
- “Pirate Head” pin (5cm x 1.3cm)
Overall, my initial scepticism over there being a pirate themed expansion has been laid to rest after seeing exactly how pirates have been introduced. Considering the inclusion of sailing in the main game, it stands to reason that Reality Pump would want to get as much use out of their seafaring mechanics as possible. Thankfully, it works. With a fresh cast of characters, fantastic new score, additional weapon class, weather system and around ten hours of single player gameplay, Pirates Of The Flying Fortress should satiate the desires of any Two Worlds II lovers that yearn for more content.
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