"If Two Worlds is modelled as closely on Oblivion as it looks to be, then Reality Pump have missed the point entirely. The open world remains in full force and the art design is plagiaristically similar, but Two Worlds' judgement of what makes a high-quality digital RPG is way off. Bethesda mustn't know whether to laugh or cry."
If Two Worlds is modelled as closely on Oblivion as it looks to be, then Reality Pump have missed the point entirely. The open world remains in full force and the art design is plagiaristically similar, but Two Worlds' judgement of what makes a high-quality digital RPG is way off. Bethesda mustn't know whether to laugh or cry.
But this is Two Worlds: EPIC Edition, with big capital letters to boot. So not only are we treated to a re-release of the original Two Worlds game from last year, but also two new multiplayer maps adding 90 co-operative quests to the game. The single player experience remains untouched, meaning it's still a glitchy romp through unimaginative settings, fighting walking clichťs and conversing with cardboard-cut-out characters whose lips don't always move when they talk. The online mode's expansion, EPIC's key selling point, may provide for some entertainment, but it's difficult to tell at this stage. The English language servers are absolutely silent - it seems that only its home nation is giving Two Worlds the time of day. Hats off to the Polish - they all seem to be having fun - but there's not a lot of point in a non-speaker even bothering with the European servers, and unless the North American ones become well-populated there's no real draw for the English-speaking demographic.
Not that this is a bad thing per se, but, you know. It's released in the UK and the USA. You'd think they'd make it a worthwhile purchase for that audience group.
So as things stand, this package is still going to be about the single-player game: 100+ hours of rampant role-playing action with a narrative that drags you into the orc-infested south of the game's province in search of your kidnapped sister. The scope and size of the world are certainly impressive, and whilst it's by no means as huge as the lands explored in the Elder Scrolls series, it does an admirable job in its own right. Each village, town and city is littered with countless quests, some mandatory, most optional; but the whole thing is wildly unbalances and badly signposted. Compared to the refreshing sense of freedom offered by the likes of Oblivion and Morrowind, Two Worlds feels very much like it's trying too hard, and ultimately failing in its approach.
An early task in the main quest requires you to visit a location which isn't labelled on the map. You're told to find it just south of the opening village, but it's not there. Having stumbled upon it by accident while heading out of my way to complete an optional side-quest, I can confirm that the Goat's Cave is most definitely south-west, way off the main road running down the centre of the world. Maybe this was a trick to force players into exploration, probably in order to disguise that this story is, at heart, a completely linear journey from A to B. That's fine - most great fantasies are - but by painstakingly attempting to hide this fact it loses some credibility. Two Worlds uses this tactic a lot. The main quest is halted countless times when the game literally forces you to go away for a while, do something else, and come back again. A supposedly free-roaming game like this should never require players to complete apparently non-mandatory tasks. But Two Worlds does, often at really awkward points in the narrative. It's always a matter of taking two steps to the side in order to make one step forwards. It doesn't play fair.
That said, the whole thing is surprisingly intuitive for a game as big as this, and its mainstream friendliness rivals Bethesda's masterful inventions. Two Worlds is effectively a combat-based RPG, and fighting is nice and straightforward with both melee and ranged weapons. The inclusion of a 'dodge' button is particularly appreciated during more difficult battles, though it can render some disappointingly easy. But the balance is out yet again. At the start, it's a struggle even to fend off a pack of the wolves that inexplicably attack you every time you leave the safety of the more urban areas. But the levelling-up is so sudden and rapid that within just a couple of hours it's possible to massacre an entire village without receiving so much as a scratch. This is, bizarrely, a game that gets significantly easier as it progresses. Someone didn't play-test this enough.
That shows equally in the horrific amount of glitches on display. Two Worlds is built in an engine that finds it acceptable to allow player and non-player characters to walk through scenery and glide gracefully down sheer drops; an engine that occasionally plops the camera behind a wall during a cut-scene. It looks awkward, too. In this game-tech version of a pubescent teen, foliage pops up in places where it wasn't before, and the landscape is somewhat grand but blemished all over. The engine does have one saving grace: try Two Worlds on its lowest detail setting for one of the biggest laughs in gaming history. It looks pre-Doom.
There is a quaint charm to Two Worlds, and it can be reasonably enjoyable at times. But it's spoilt regularly by atmosphere-destroying nonsense and odd design choices. The script regularly confuses Tolkien with Shakespeare, resulting in some horrific Old English obscurity that rarely makes much sense. It's delivered by actors devoid of any sense of emphasis, and conversations end up hilarious at times and cringe-worthy at others. And it decides to make your sister a steaming-hot damsel-in-distress type. Now I'm not the sort to masturbate furiously over polygonal characters, but Two Worlds certainly uses this virtual sex symbol as a selling point (see the cover art of the original release). As a result, I found myself constantly having to remind myself that the lady I was saving wasn't supposed to be my wife. That's not necessarily Reality Pump's fault, but it does seem odd. It made me feel incestuous.
I'm not sure I enjoy games that make me feel like that.
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (September 22, 2008)
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