From the outset, Two Worlds was destined to garner too much criticism from the gaming press. References to Oblivion were bound to happen seeing as Two Worlds is yet another fantasy RPG with swords and sorcery. However being compared side by side with Bethesda’s opus is a little misleading as Reality Pump’s creation has more in common with classic PC hack and slash titles like Diablo as opposed to the more casual-friendly Oblivion. On its own merits Two Worlds is an enormous game with great quest variety more items and weapons than you could possibly imagine, and outstanding character development that make it a worthwhile addition to any RPG lover’s collection.
Before we get too deep into this I want to get the problems out of the way first. Yes there are some things that hold back Two Worlds, and most of them are caused by poor development. For starters the frame rate is inconsistent at best and at its worst almost unplayable (generally only when playing online with groups of more than three). Secondly are the glitches; unfortunately with a game this large you can expect a few mishaps to occur simply because the scope makes it impossible to test every single facet of the game before shipping. The problem here is that the amount of glitches and problems far surpass many other games of this scale which begs the question did it ship before it was truly ready. Thankfully the developers are addressing the issue and are working on a mandatory patch that should fix some of these quirks, but things like this should be ironed out before releasing such a high profile game.
The final problem that most console players will run into is actually more of a design choice than a true issue. Unlike Oblivion, Two Worlds draws more from the classic PC RPG family. This includes deeper character customization and more micro-management with your items and spells. While you may be pondering how this could possibly be a bad idea it will become relevant when you see the screen in which to manage your inventory. It is obvious this was designed with a PC monitor in mind as playing on anything less than a giant HDTV display will have you squinting your eyes trying to find out just how much protection that class four armor delivers. The map system is also very vague in its design making some quests far more difficult to find than they should be. All of these aforementioned items are annoying at first, but if you are willing to look past them you will discover one of the deepest and most rewarding RPG experiences since the likes of Diablo.
The single-player experience is exactly what you would expect from a game of this type. The core storyline revolves around an ancient confrontation between man and orc which resulted in the imprisonment of the orcish God known as Aziraal. The game starts you off 300 years after these events when a local mining expedition has possibly uncovered the final resting place of Aziraal. Your character is actually more interested in saving his recently kidnapped sister than dealing with this war between man and orc, but fate somehow drags you into the mix. Just like other open-world games you have the ability to jump directly into the main quest or go rogue and explore the rest of the world in search of better items and quests.
Probably the biggest disappointment about creating your character is that you are limited to a human male offline. I am sure this was a design choice, but it would have been nice to take the sexless role found in other games such as KoTOR or even more recently Mass Effect. There are also no class choices; instead the game allows you to craft whatever type of character your heart desires. As you gain levels and skill points you can attach them to whatever skill you use the most so if you are a brawler it would be best to add them to vitality and strength whereas a mage would obviously choose to bulk up willpower and magic. This level of customization is great and really gives players a chance to craft any type of character they want. It also means if you grow tired of one style you can switch at any time by simply seeking our an NPC that will allow you to swap skill points from one attribute to another, for a price of course.
The combat here is where this game feels more like a Diablo as opposed to Oblivion. This game is pure action hack and slash and it never attempts to hide that fact. You play from a third-person perspective which allows for button mashing goodness and instant gratification. Melee combat usually ends up in a mashing of the trigger as fast as you can, although there are combos and different weapons that change up tactics. Magic and Archery work very similar with an archaic targeting system that definitely takes some time to get used to, but after a few hours it will be second nature. Unfortunately even on the normal setting this game starts off way too hard as standard enemies such as wolfs and boars will take you out with little problems. Actually it isn’t until you reach almost double digit levels that you feel comfortable enough to wander far from the healing shrines scattered about the world of Antaloor.
While the combat is certainly aimed at keeping you entertained the selection of enemies early on will not. Fighting off the same collection of bears, wolves and Groms (the game’s form of goblins) will certainly grow stale quick. Of course this is par for the course in most RPGs of this type, but a little variety would have been nice. Later in the game things to ramp up as you will face a nice selection of monsters including demons, skeletons, and even dragons, which more than make up for the early disappointment. The other cool feature about the enemies is that they don’t seem to respawn, instead you will encounter ghosts of defeated creatures which require a completely different strategy to kill.
Thankfully the quest variety more than makes up for a lack of enemy diversity early on in the game, which ranges from typical hunt and fetch quests to solving murders and of course eliminating packs of Groms. Quests are divided up amongst the different factions and classes in the game which is a nice change of pace. Necromancers will give you quests that will help in your study of magic and sometimes the rewards are worth it simply for the items you obtain. It is also worth noting that whatever quests you decide to embark on in the game will affect your relationship with other NPCs in the world.
Traversing the world of Antaloor is made simple thanks to the teleportation system located in each major town. Switching back and forth across the map is a breeze and a little more realistic than fast-travel found in Oblivion. If you want to see the countryside though I do suggest taking the trip on foot as controlling horses in the game is more of a chore than it should be. You will spend more time trying to point your nag in the right direction that you will actually enjoying the scenery.
Visually the game is a mixed bag that suffers more from the developer’s ambition than anything else. The world of Antaloor is gigantic, and streaming a world this large is obviously a challenge. Sometimes as you voyage into new areas the game will have to stop and load, which does detract from the experience. Animations are also in question take jumping for example. It seems the animation doesn’t even begin until you are nearly done with the action. Thankfully the game is as big as it is so it is easy to overlook these small hindrances. I also wanted to note that the lightning and thunderstorms in the game are some of the most realistic I have seen to date, but that has more to do with the sound and lighting than the visuals.
Speaking of sound Two Worlds voice acting borders somewhere between public television and amateur porn, seriously some of the lines are so outrageous I had to chuckle. When it begins to rain and your protagonist blares out “Lovely Weather” in such a bland and sarcastic tone it really takes away from the fantasy experience. The NPCs are also not innocent as their dialogue is outright laughable at times. The music however is actually decent with some nice orchestral arrangements that add to the ambience. My recommendation is to turn off voices and simply read the subtitles; you can thank me later.
In addition to the single-player portion developer Reality Pump has also thrown in a somewhat limited multi-player experience. Unlike its PC counterpart Two Worlds on 360 only offers a handful of join or host matches such as typical PVP deathmatch, monster hunt, and the severely disappointing RPG mode. In the PC version you can wander about the entire map with your pals in an almost MMO style, whereas on the 360 you are limited to one section and up to seven friends. The biggest problems with this mode are the difficulty and connection problems. The standard enemies are nearly impossible at first with less than four players, which is further hindered by the fact that the game has a nagging tendency to drop players sporadically in addition to the large amounts of lag you will experience over Xbox Live.
With a few patches this mode could easily pan out to be a glorious experience, and we fully expect it to, but as it stands most of the problems deem it unplayable at times. Another personal gripe is that all of the Achievements in the game can only be acquired while in the single-player campaign. Even though I can understand why the story ones aren’t possible, it frustrates me that some of the standard ones such as reaching a certain skill level and discovering locations are exempt from the online mode. The PVP mode is fun for a while but quickly becomes stale due to the style of hack and slash combat found in the game. Monster hunt will entertain a little while longer, but like everything else it grows stale with age simply because the further you progress the easier it gets to wipe out enemies at an astounding rate.
Two Worlds is not a bad game, in fact there is an epic adventure underneath this rough exterior that is rewarding to those willing to spend the time uncovering it. While initial impressions have been bleak it is nice to know that gamers willing to dedicate themselves to this game are finding its merits. Fans of old-school PC games such as Diablo will find plenty to entertain them and the amount of items and weapons to discover truly is impressive. As I said at the beginning comparing this game to Oblivion is a mistake, but the amount of fun that can be found within this game is definitely just as epic as Bethesda’s opus.