So i finished 2W2 last night and I have to say, barring the little frustration I had at the beginning with the horse racing, it was an enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone looking for that "Western" action RPG styled game. Gamerscore-wise I accumulated 775 out of a possible 1000 so far, with all the remaining points coming from the multiplayer experience that I'm waiting on a friend or two to play with me on.
Excellent visuals and lighting in the well realized world
Beautiful musical score
fairly well laid out control (save for the horse riding)
Beautifully designed monsters
Excellent weapon, item, and spell customization
Last generation character models for humans
Quite possibly the WORST Voice acting and translation in all of gaming
VERY confusing quest log
Graphical and Quest Glitching
Annoying "safe area" text windowing.
To start off, the question that many will have is whether or not it improves on the first game. Given that this wasn't a hard task, yes, it is an improvement. The world, while it has an occasional slowdown and pop in is well delivered and not choppy. The grass and foliage sways when you run through it, fences fall down when you run into them accidentally, and areas where you are supposed to "hate" to go do give you the ominous feeling of dread every time you need to venture into them. (See: The Swallows). The cities, while not super large, are designed well enough anddo give a sense that you are out of the woods and in civilized lands. Two cities in chapter 1, Hatmador and Cheznaddar were particularly well designed. The creatures of the game are incredibly well imagined, with zombies, ghouls, Varn (Jackal like dog people) and various critters populating the world. In contrast, the human character models looked right out of last gen technology. Yes, their hair wavers in the wind, but when you see games like Assassin's Creed (which someone painfully compared it to to get me to play this) it's impossible to understand why characters like this are created. BAD Southpeak, BAD.
The music is gorgeous, but truthfully not original. (I can't hold that against it though, as a musical score of any sort in games these days is similar to most others) often times reminding me of games I loved in days gone by. In particular, in chapter two you land in the "oriental" portion of the game, with music strikingly similar to Guild Wars Factions, and even some visual elements looking similar.
The voice acting, in STARK contrast to the music, is absolutely terrible. Wasn't there an article published recently about how disconnected the audience feels to their gravelly voiced protagonists? (I do believe it was IGN... SOUTHPEAK! READ THIS!) The lead character is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. Nobody talks like that! DEAR GOD. Do yourself a favor as well, turn off the subtitles. They are filled with typos and often times, do not even say the same things as what the characters are saying.
The controls are somewhat simple, with the "A" button (I played the 360 version) being used for pretty much any interaction with the environment, and jumping. As strange as it sounds, it is fairly well realized. The fighting is good as well. Right trigger for "kill", left trigger for "keep from being killed". It's rather effective. The other buttons were assignable skills like spells or special warrior attacks.
The story isn't anything spectacular, with many of the side missions being more engaging. Having said that, there were a LOT of side missions. A particularly good one was solving a well laid out murder mystery. It's too bad the quest log was so confusing. It actually takes away from the experience of playing the missions when you cannot easily check your journal/ quest log to keep yourself up on what needs to be done next. There was a great ending to the game though, look forward to being pleased.
If you go into this game looking for the next Dragon Age, you will be sadly disappointed. It's a strong game with a lot going for it, but it isn't in the same league as games created by Bioware. If you go into this game looking for a fun fantasy experience along the lines of a great no name book you find in some no name used bookstore, then you will be vvery pleased with what you come out of it with. Minor glitches and TERRIBLE voiceacting aside, this is a game for a fantasy fan looking to kill 30 hours of his life and to like doing it.
Given that I haven't played the multiplayer portion of the game save for the first 10 minutes or so, perhaps my review can be considered incomplete. I was able to find games really quickly, and the multiplayer "questline" looks well designed and implemented. There was deathmatch, quest mode, and village mode (I guess it's something like Command and Conquer... I'll get back to you on that one.) The matchmaking looked a little broken though, as in a deathmatch, as a level 1 character, I was first paired with a level 390 player. Dear god.
to me, it's a $39.99 title. Buy it when you see it at this price or cheaper, new or used. In real world metacritic game ratings, I'd give it a 78 out of 100.