Ah, multiplayer. Two Worlds' multiplayer was certainly ambitious, a weird kind of player versus player offering that came sprinkled with light MMO chocolate bits. But it failed to capture the imagination - it bored and frustrated in equal measure. Well, Two Worlds II's multiplayer is, once again, ambitious, but in ways that make you feel genuinely excited that it could be something special.
It's all down to the new RTS-esque Village Mode. In it, you build your very own city, which must be resource managed to craft powerful, PvP items and defended to keep your citizens from grizzly death. The game throws instanced quests at you, say, for example, orcs ransacking your city, that demand you team up with three friends via a Battle.net-esque lobby system to complete. If you don't bother to defend your city, your population will decrease, and your ability to pump out those shiny resources diminishes. It's like the love child of SimCity and World of Warcraft.
It's all about the loot, of course. Your city can create one distinct type of resource, such as leather armour, or steel swords, that kind of thing. There are armour sets and weapons only available through the Village Mode, the idea being that players will be enticed to trade with each other. "It makes an almost entire world happen," James says.
Your single-player and multiplayer characters are entirely independent of each other - a decision that initially gave us the fear, but it makes sense in context. Two Worlds II's co-op multiplayer feature is set during the gap between Two Worlds and its sequel - you can play as a female human or an orc - and is designed to lead right up to the beginning of the single-player game. You see Gandohar exterminate the orc race in glorious detail, and there are loads of pretty cutscenes to sit back and enjoy. It is entirely conceivable, then, that some fans will only play Two Worlds II's multiplayer, and never touch the single-player component, but Reality Pump hopes the story element will convince fans to check it out, even if it's just to see what happens next.
The game will come with seven co-op levels, each one different - some eight player co-op, some four. They work like instanced dungeons, and play like old-school dungeon crawling; if you get killed, you have to start all over again. James estimates it all adds up to an extra ten hours of gameplay. Already, Two Worlds II is bulging at its virtual seams.
And that's not all. James teases something he's not allowed to talk about yet: "We also have some fun stuff, that's just like, this out of this world shit, that makes it more MMO. It's just a little different. It's some unique ways to interact with other players, let's put it that way." Big words. We'll be watching with interest.
So, that, in a nutshell, is Two Worlds II - a game that's shaping up to be more than a mere improvement upon its predecessor. It's a genuine attempt to innovate in the traditionally single-player oriented western role-playing experience. Will Reality Pump - and TopWare Interactive - realise their ambitious plans? James is convinced.
"In the beginning we knew what we were up against. Two Worlds had some flaws. And we knew if we were going to do it again we had to do it right. We're taking it to everybody. We're going to show everybody the game. We're going to take it to all the game shows. We know we've got something to prove to people. I just know with the experience and what's being put into this game, we're going to be successful in what we're doing."
Two Worlds II is due out on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 between July and September 2010.