Friday, 15 July 2011

Two Worlds Vs Oblivion

I'm currently replaying Two Worlds since I never got to the end the first time and taking note of what I would have liked to see in vanilla Oblivion, and by extension, hope to see (and even more) in Skyrim.

Two Worlds 2 was a drama to get hold of here as the distributor went bankrupt and though I was finally able to get hold of a DVD copy purchased online, it doesn't hold the same appeal as the first game. In another post on this blog I speak about how I pre-ordered it and how it was delayed many times and finally became unavailable so I won't expand on it.  I have no idea if that's changed as it annoyed me so much I cancelled my order and haven't checked again since.

Yes, I know, I KNOW, Two Worlds and Oblivion are two different games, but my enjoyment of Oblivion unmodded would be better and more lasting if it had more actual role playing features that didn't have to be added by mods.  This will probably seem like Oblivion bashing to many, but it's not meant to be and I don't really care.  It's just comparisons between what I call real role playing and "lite" role playing casual style.

I'm going to use a word a few times here that seems to get some people unusually annoyed and uptight. "Realism."  There I've said it. Awful word isn't it?  One might ask how there can be realism in fantasy games with magic and monsters that have no basis, as far as we are aware, in our world?  Perhaps I should say plausibility or likelihood of particular things being possible, even within this fantasy world, especially in medieval style role playing games which are my preferred style.

Besides the fact this is a fantasy game, many things are based on realistic values....for example, I've seen a few people complain on Two Worlds own forums and probably elsewhere that they can't run fast or swim in certain armour. How far could anyone run or swim in full plate armour or run faster than the fastest horse?  In Oblivion and other games maybe, but not here.  Quest characters can die...also realistic, so don't go on killing sprees until you know who is who... you may need that peasant or rude city dweller at some point.  Even if you only do the main quest there are many characters that are tied to it and you would never level enough to complete the main story anyway without doing other things.

I don't need to explain further.  People who feel the same in small or larger ways, and have read anything I've written before on the subject of certain aspects of realistic features will probably know what I mean.

In case one wonders, and I can almost hear people scoff as I've seen, since this subject is brought up when "realism" is ever mentioned.  It's not about things like steel or chainmail bikini armour being impractical, since there is magic and the "armour" can be enchanted for protection in battle.  I do wonder if those enchantments would include rash relief and protection from the elements though and not just sword the cold and or heat and desert sand in delicate places.

Speaking about bikini armour mods...why is it that the legs and arms and often the head are fully covered, yet the most vulnerable parts of the body expose the wearer to being violently gutted at their first battle.  Those enchantments had better be good!  That was a rhetorical question really. It's mainly eye candy without the practicality. I quite like some skimpy armour if it's to enhance, looks good and isn't meant to ridicule or objectify as many of them are.  Light armour that doesn't impede movement, especially for agile characters which I generally play is pretty sensible really.  I never did like heavy gear, hoods or helms for that matter where the option is available, because I like to see my character's face and be able to move quickly when I need to.

Some of the things I do like to see in role playing games which Two Worlds doesn't have either, but the Gothic series does, are things like crafting and cooking, having to use an actual alchemy bench instead of mixing potions on the fly from the inventory, better and sensible interaction between not everything should want to rip you to pieces unless you get in it's face or it's an insane monster or bandits!!

I laugh every time I hear a guard in Oblivion say..."For your own safety, stay on the roads."  Or something close to that.  Right, so I stick to the roads and I'm chewed to pieces by a wolf or gored to death by a boar that was just wandering by and detected me from a kilometer away.  Not to mention the bandits conveniently camping out in the forts near the roads.

I'm a huge fan of the entire Gothic series and Risen (awaiting Risen 2), but NOT Arcania Gothic 4 which was just a tragic, sad mistake which I hope will never be repeated under the Gothic name.  As a basic adventure game Arcania possibly works, and I know many people liked it for that reason, but I'm sad that I purchased it only to be let down when it was supposed to be a true Gothic game.  It's my own fault as I did read the scathing reviews of the Demo before the actual game was released, but I was still hoping....
One of the most glaring things (among a long list of other things) is being able to kill NPC's in front of others, steal from them or commit any crime without anyone batting an eyelid and it has restricting invisible walls so there's no real free roaming.  If that was fixed at least I might have been able to force myself to play it further than the tutorial.  It is supposed to an RPG after all.

I love the open world, no barriers, discover by exploration type of game play with NO or very, very minor level scaling.  Like in real life, there are places you just don't go unprepared and many places one should never go. Fortunately, in games we can eventually breach those barriers and survive intact and victorious.  In my opinion the best thing that ever happened to Oblivion was Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, but I'm mainly using Waalx Animals and Creatures now, but I do have it Bashed together and working well with at least one character with OOO.  I'm well past caring about balance issues and a few little inconsistencies as I've been playing the game on and off since the day it was released.

I also know there are many people who embrace the trend of what seems to be casual gaming where thinking and puzzle solving isn't required and quests almost solve themselves.  That's fine and a choice, but it's not and will never be for me which is one reason I replay games like Gothic and Two Worlds that have replay value with branching quests and different endings and I never get sick of them.  Replaying Oblivion on it's own unmodded after one play through has no appeal at all for me and it's only that it can be modded so well I still have it installed. Even when I had much less free time than I do now, I always enjoyed the challenge of using my brain to solve puzzles or track down quest items. As frustrating as that can be sometimes, it's a different kind of thinking than the daily grind of real life, job stress and other things, is fun and rewarding and takes my mind off it.  At least it works for me.
But..moving on to what this was supposed to be about which is a comparison of sorts between two games, but mainly about Two worlds which I feel is a very underrated game.  Two Worlds is a bit of a mix of Gothic and Oblivion in a way, but for playability reasons Two Worlds wins over Oblivion for me and Gothic II: NOTR (Night of the Raven) and Gothic 3 over both of them.  People can call vanilla Oblivion role playing as much as they like, but it's not a true rpg.  Now Morrowind...that's another story and I played that game to death.  It was actually my first foray into role playing games and got me hooked so much so that even new games I've bought of different genres are still waiting for me to get back and actually play them after an initial look.

One other point about Two Worlds:
I suppose you could call this something of a personal review, so here are the reasons I like Two Worlds and am currently replaying it.  The game needs to be patched to version 1.6 at least for the best experience, and 1.7 for other multi player fixes and extra MP quests as just mentioned above.

This is a hard game starting out, but after playing Gothic 2 (Night of the Raven) and Gothic 3 I had some idea of what to expect and I'm enjoying it immensely. I've chosen to play as a melee/archer and magic user which works very well. An all rounder basically, but character development is very versatile. A player could choose to be an assassin, thief, strictly melee or a mix of all of them, although melee only is harder especially at higher levels and some kind of projectile weaponry, either spells and or bows, is essential at times, whether it be magic or bows. Keeping some mobs at a distance is the only way to survive in some cases until you're seasoned and able to take them on. Even then, one good whack from a golem or cyclops can still be a death blow.

The screen shots don't do the game justice and it's hard to take an action shot and not die, but I managed to get some with careful use of summoned creatures to distract the bad guys. Some of the HUD elements can be removed via a key press, but I often forget to do it so some have them and others don't.

Click to enlarge if desired.

By the camp fire.  There are several different coloured horses besides this one.

 Two Worlds Pros in no particular order:

1.  Beautiful graphics.  I would go as far as to say much, much better than vanilla Oblivion.  They are quite detailed and varied and yet NOT dragging the computer to it's knees despite being released after Oblivion.  Looking closely at armour or even the horses or a summoned monster (since others will kill you) the details are very good, where in Oblivion they become a blur of low res textures. For me, Two Worlds loads and exits instantly and never crashes, EVER, even in the middle of huge fights and lots of hectic action.

2.  A huge number and variation of monsters, NPC's and general wildlife.  Many NPC's occupy the cities without affecting frame rates, and while they are mostly there to bring life to the cities they at least make it appear like a bustling alive place to be rather than a partly empty world.  When speaking with NPC's the world action continues in the background instead of stopping time.

OK, so the body and face models may not be up to some expectations, but at least there is a population.

Random Desert Dweller.

3.  Vendors.  Like a real city of the type of era, there are market places with many vendors selling their wares.  There are vendors for the magic user, stealth characters and warriors with all the relevant gear needed.  Alchemy ingedients aren't sold though, but there are multitudes freely available everywhere, so it's really not necessary.  Almost everything from body parts, gems and metals, plants and more can be found in abundance.  In fact, probably too easily in some cases although some are very rare like the ingredients to make Permanent Effect potions, traps and weapon upgrades.

4.  Horses are a pleasure in this game.  Walk, trot and gallop.  And also varying speeds for all gaits depending on how much your press the foward key. Horse combat works, albeit not perfectly, but it works.  However, unfortunately you are the only one to ride or fight from horseback.  A feature that sadly was never finished.

Horses in this game behave like real ones and I used to have real ones so I know how they behave.  The more training you have the better rider you become which helps more with combat situations.

Horses are NOT suicidal in this game. They won't just leap over cliffs and down mountain sides and will balk if you try. They have a wider turning circle which is something many people fail to realize when trying to control them, so a little practice is required to ride those winding trails through the mountains, but it gets to be very easy and actually pleasant.  Also, another big plus...unless you are actually riding the horse, mobs won't attack it if you dismount to fight.  You can cast spells, fight with swords, halberds and spears or use a bow from horseback.  If the horse takes damage while riding you can cast a healing spell which will heal him and you get that spell at the start of the game.

 Archery on horseback.  Attacking Wooden Golems with a bow...big mistake!   By the way the horse will move his head aside when using bows!

Horses have inventories like saddle bags so you can store gear and loot.  Every type of horse, and even between single types, has a different encumbrance limit, speed and behaviour, or at least it feels that way.

Nearly forgot to mention.  There are three different types of horses...normal, skeletal and Orc.  You can also whistle to your horse to call him as long as it's within hearing distance.  He will run away a short distance if there's fighting so it comes in handy if you don't feel like running back or he's hidden by trees or bushes.

Skeletal necromancer's horse.

Orc Horse

5.  Dead NPC's and creatures etc don't disappear from the game unless they have been completely looted and have no items left in their inventory and ALL containers, (chests, cupboards and even bodies) are safe, so can be used to store stuff indefinitely. There are no buyable houses as such, but there are several empty houses (abandoned or liberated) to set up in. You can even take over a whole town or village if you're careful about crime....fines are expensive and your reputation precedes you.

In earlier versions of the game it suffered from the "psychic guard syndrome" but this has been fixed.  I've looted whole villages and most cities without being caught, as long as an NPC isn't in a house with me or very close by, and having only one point in the sneak skill.

6.  Actual faction relationships.  If you upset the members of a particluar guild or clan you risk their vendors not dealing with you or depending on the "slight" charging much more for their goods.  You can also cut yourself out of questlines by being a smart ass via dialogue, and also don't go indiscriminantly thieving and killing until the NPC's etc have no more use.

You can however, play one faction  off against another to your advantage until a certain point though.

7.  Real consequences for your actions.  If you go on a killing spree, for example and kill a needed quest NPC don't blame the game.  If you steal or murder and are detected, expect to pay for it either with a LOT of gold, your life or permanent ban from a town or city.  Be careful with dialogue options as well, although often you can speak to the NPC again and choose another option, but not always.

Quest givers can die in this game by your hand or by mobs as I said.  There's that word realism popping up now.  Think before acting or at least keep a lot of saves.

8.  Very little hand holding with quests although there are markers on the map with notes.  If you listen to the quest givers, read your journal and explore your map, it's not that hard to find your objectives.  It also has the Fog of War so locations aren't uncovered until you venture there.  Certain locations are visible but not available until you've been there on foot or on horseback.

Overlooking Four Stones village.

9.  A very good Alchemy system with the ability to make Permanent Effect potions, weapon power ups and traps.  To make it really worthwhile though, one needs to put the skill points into it, but I don't bother too much with higher levels as potions are plentiful except for the permanent ones and probably a few others.

10.  I like the magic system, but I do feel the spells are underpowered in many cases and I'm mainly using the Necromancy spells as my main line of offence.  There are Booster and other enhancement cards like mana savers to find in loot, as quest rewards or to buy so it does actually work well with a bit of thought.

11. The music is OK but not the best I've heard in a game.  I like the theme song, and the other in game music is unobtrusive and suits the game. It can be turned off in the Game Options though unlike Oblivion where you need to make an ini change.   I turn the music off in Oblivion for a more immersive experience and a frame rate boost, but in Two Worlds I have it playing quietly in the background.  The other Ambient sounds are very good for the most part except for one thing I found that stands out.  Around villages and camps you can hear dogs barking and there are no dogs in the game.  However, there are chickens, ducks, snakes, rabbits and other small animals that give ingredients for alchemy if killed, but I can't bring myself to kill them and I haven't found a need for their parts except for Dodo feathers for a quest.  Some ingredients from the small animals are for permanent effect potions though, but I'm finding enough without them.  Besides alchemy isn't of great enough value to me to spend skill points to get it to the highest levels.

12.  Varied environmental regions from deserts, grassy forests much like Oblivion actually as it also uses SpeedTree, a bamboo forest near an Oriental city, seaside villages (one anyway) to dead lands inhabited only by the undead.  There are also volcanic regions blasted by lava and ash inhabited by dragons and various kinds of Orcs and monsters. There is even a glacier, but is unused for the most part except for a few camps and critters.  This world is huge, unlike Oblivion which is deceptive in size and is really quite small.

There are portals which need to be activated as part of an early quest and then you get your own personal droppable and reusable portals as well which is good considering the size of the world.

Varns attack in the desert.  My summoned scorpion attacks them from behind.

13.  Dual wielding that actually works well IMO.  I love my two Exotic Axes loaded with poison and spirit (soul and magic) damage which are the best enhancements.  The second weapon is in the shield slot, but does a lot of damage especially when skill points are put into it.  The animations for all weapons are excellent in fact.  I forgot to mention combat in all of the above now I look back, but although it seems to be point and click action there are combos and skills that enhance combat in all areas.  Even "dirty tricks" like kicking dirt in enemies faces to blind them and jabbing a torch in their faces to burn them.  And more.

Possible Cons or things I think could be better:
1.  A fairly generic rpg storyline, but then so are most rpg's.  However, the rest of the game makes up for it, and in it's way is woven together well.

2.  Dubious point IMO...There is only one gender to play...male. That's because the Main Quest is based around a bounty hunter/mercenary whose twin sister has been kidnapped and due to the story would make no sense the other way round.

However, there is a mod that allows playing as a female for the people who I've read feel put out about the choice, but the story is the same. The option to play as a female is also available in multi player as well as other quests added with the 1.7 patch for MP only.

It was wrongly pointed out to me elsewhere awhile ago that it's "politically incorrect" to only have one choice. What rubbish! That means all books, movies and other media are also not PC because of the hero or heroine they choose to portray. I'm female and have no issues playing a game as a male if that's how the story is written.

People should really get over the PC stuff. It's really getting out of hand in all aspects of life, not just games.  The "gender" challenged who feel they must at all costs be able to customize ad lib despite the storyline and type of game are out of luck.  I'm female and it doesn't bother me in the least that I'm playing as a male hero.  This isn't a SIMS game, which I think Oblivion has turned into, but that's another story.  Thankfully, because of the type of game Oblivion is and the moddability of it, one can play it to suit themselves.

3.  Another dubious one IMO depending on your outlook.  The spoken dialogue has been criticized for it's archaic style, but in it's way I think it's very fitting and actually reflects the medieval setting of the game.  After all, people did speak this way once upon a time in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The protagonist also has a sense of irony and at times humour.  Sometimes I feel the dialogue suffers in translation to English, but it's pretty minor.

At least there are varied voice actors and they don't have inane rumours and meaningless repetitive conversations that make me want to cringe and avoid populated areas as much as possible as I do more and more in Oblivion.

4.  Something I hate with a passion in all role playing games, not just this one.  Wolves and other wildlife that run to attack from kilometers away just because you've appeared on their radar.  Monsters, yes, but not wolves especially, as they are in reality (that concept many people seem to love to hate) wolves are shy creatures that will leave humans alone unless provoked. This is at least one thing, (among many others), that the Gothic series got absolutely correct.  As long as you stay out of a beasts "personal" space it will leave you alone, give a warning if you do get too close and of course attack if you ignore the warning or just want to fight them.  There are also faction relationships between different animals in Gothic games, so you will see them attack each other or peacefully co-existing.  Boars are exempt.  They just hate everyone.

5.  Summoned creatures, except for perhaps the giant scorpions and wyverns which have poison, are virtually useless much to my dismay since I play as a battlemage type character.  They are too slow, have bad AI and don't attack enemies unless you yourself are unseen by all enemies and you let them loose, and they don't seem to do much damage.  Even the high level ones don't help me much unless I get creative with other spells so the summons can actually do something.  It does help though when you get the high level multi summons spell so many creatures of different types can be summoned at once and believe me at times you need them.

Trachidis which are insect like and Barkogs which are tree creatures.  My summoned Scorpion is in there on the left back amongst the melee.

Unfriendly Steel and Adamantium Golems with my summoned Demon in hot pursuit....albeit it slowly.   Letting these things get close is a recipe for disaster.

6.  Unfortunately one can't sleep or advance time in this game which at times can be annoying, but you get used to it and day and night cycles pass quite quickly.
7.  Probably a few very small things that I can't think of at the moment, but are of little consequence.  Nearly all games have some small niggles anyway.

Minor dragons under a blood red sky.  The big and bad dragons are elsewhere.   I forgot to get screens of them and they are already dead.

Fighting a Sand Dragon.  These and the other big ones breathe fire!!!  They don't fly though which is a bit odd.

Of course I realize that the points I've made here may seem like Oblivion bashing in some cases, but I believe most are really valid points when it comes to the type of game I prefer to play.   I still like (not love) Oblivion even though I'm taking another needed break from it and it's frustrations at the moment.  Just when I get everything sorted and mods working great together, it starts crashing for no apparent reason.  It just pisses me off so much sometimes that I don't want to even play it and I get sick of the troubleshooting and micro management.  After a break I'll go back as I always do, and maybe the fairies will have solved the random CTD's the game loves to throw around at times despite all the fixes and solutions.

I most definitely think Oblivion would have been a much better game with the addition of at least some of the points I've made about Two Worlds and by extension the Gothic series.  In fact I've replayed Two Worlds several times so far but never finished due to to one reason or the other, BUT I would never replay vanilla Oblivion after one (and a half) play throughs.  Boring main quest that can be done at level one, little to no choices or consequences, no diverging storyline and quest branches, and THE worst of all is level scaling. And I absolutely HATE Oblivion Gates. I could go on but I won't as the list would be too long.

Random last thought:
Why is it horses in both of these games never have reins?  They have bits and bridles but no visual control method.  In Oblivion Alienslof was able to do it well so why the devs left something so obvious out...I wonder.  I can understand no stirrups as that would be pretty hard if not impossible I imagine, but reins at least look realistic.   There's that dreaded word again.....

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