Two Worlds is a tough beast to score. This open-world RPG from relatively new developer, Reality Pump, was hyped from the get go as the end-all role-playing game for the Xbox 360 and PC, with rave previews and excellent word of mouth. It combined what made the Elder Scrolls series so popular- massive, open, fantastical environments to explore at the players will- and a much sought-after feature that the rival series lacked: multiplayer. Now that its here, however, Two Worlds is certainly less than the second coming of Morrowind. In fact, at a glance, it belongs in the reviled Valley of the Stinkers, with Big Rigs, Catwoman, and Superman 64. Here’s the problem, though. Two Worlds is actually a lot of fun.
The game dumps you into the massive world after a poorly animated, poorly acted cutscene that explains your origins: you are a bounty hunter whose sister is kidnapped by uh… things that totally aren’t Ringwraiths. After this, you can create your character (it would seem that he got plastic surgery to help ease the pain after his sister’s disappearance). The customization is basic, but appreciated. After that, you’re free to roam the village of Koromin, which is populated with even worse acting and animation. The tutorial dungeon, given after you speak to the village elder of Koromin, is where I nearly gave up. Your first fight with the Groms, the basic enemy in the game, is set in a giant rectangular room with repeating textures and poor lighting. The Groms themselves? Well, besides the fact that they have about four frames of animation, they sound like a recording of an intern being punched in the scrotum, which when you consider the production values elsewhere, isn’t entirely impossible. However, I struggled through, and exited the dungeon. Now, at last, I was finally free to explore the entire world. This was the first part of the game that put this writer at ease; the map is immense, and is extremely varied. Unlike the constant forests of Oblivion, a rival RPG on the console, Two Worlds features not only woods but deserts, glaciers, and barren wastelands. However, besides the setting, Two Worlds has more in common with Morrowind. It could be argued that this a blessing, but unfortunately, Morrowind was released in 2001. Quests are numerous, but the instructions are so contrived that it can be very difficult to complete them.
Fortunately, Two Worlds features plenty of variety outside of questing. There are countless weapons, pieces of armor, and spells to find, and the game actually has a clever way of making sure nothing ever becomes entirely obsolete. If you find two of the same item, you can buff the stats by combining the two, and so on and so forth. This means that your favorite-looking helmet won’t become a hindrance to you later on in the game, and is a clever way to add value to repeated items. And, as mentioned before, the game’s map is absolutely massive, and you can enter and exit all building without a loading screen; everything except the underground is constantly streaming. These caves I mention are a massive network underneath the main map, where different monsters and loot can be found. The combat in the game only consists of mashing on either trigger, depending on whether you are spellcasting or swinging a weapon. It sounds shallow, but because of the dense customization Two Worlds offers, it’s never boring. Oftentimes you’ll be up against multiple foes, which is exciting and also rewarding; every enemy carries something useful. Early in the game, though, combat can feel like a chore. The starting stats are so low, the player will die at the slightest touch, but thankfully after a few level-ups, this is rarely a problem. That is, if you stay in areas with similarly leveled enemies. You’re free to roam wherever you wish, but be careful. Foes in faraway places can often be too much to handle just yet.
Now, onto the nastier stuff. Two Worlds is atrocious to look at, and even worse to hear. The graphics themselves are actually very nice… when they aren’t moving. The framerate is stable, but the game engine chugs, meaning that it hitches up every few seconds. Eww. The animation is even worse, and sometimes just plain lazy. I’m not sure if there aren’t enough frames of animation, or if the game is locking up, but most enemies fight as if they were part of a slideshow. The main character’s movements are decent enough, but still, problems arise. There are no animation transitions, which means everything is very choppy- if you’re putting away your sword, and you want to move at the same time, you’ll move and your sword will magically be sheathed- and sometimes not even stacked. For example, enemies can stun you, which is signified by the character standing in one place, rolling his head back and forth in a daze. The thing is, you can still move, meaning you can magically scoot around the playing field without moving your legs, rolling your head around like a moronic zombie. And here’s the kicker- only some things have ragdoll. What on earth? Smacking a bandit around will result in a satisfying physics-based death, but some enemies, like Ogres and Wyverns, die the same way no matter what- falling over sideways to the left in a somewhat anticlimactic death throe. But honestly, as bad as all this sounds, nothing can prepare the player for the sound.
Oh, God, the sound. It’s bad enough when every actor is trying to speak in broken, vaguely Shakespearean English, but it’s even worse when they try to put on an accent far beyond their reach. Everything is overenthusiastic and forced, and every conversation is about ten sentences too long. When it takes ten minutes to receive a fetch quest, things have gone too far. I’m not sure if “Mayhap” was ever a word, but if it was, the person who first penned it should be condemned forever, and the writer cruel enough to work it into each sentence of Two Worlds should suffer the same fate. I’m sure after a few brewskis, this stuff makes sense, but anyone playing Two Worlds sober will just want to bust their eardrums with a rusty spoon. The one saving grace in this aural disaster is the main character. Oh, he’s terribly acted, but in a good way. His one liners are cheesy and frequent, but compared to the garbage coming out of the NPC’s mouths, they’re practically Tolstoy. Still, his arrogant cry of “Ha HA!” sounds eerily like Stephen Colbert’s Phil from Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law. It’s also a bit weird when he quips “It’s starting to RAIN!” when in fact it has been raining for about half an hour.
Compared to the hype, Two Worlds is a bitter disappointment. We were promised a multiplayer suite, but to be honest, it’s barely worth mentioning. It just combines the misery of the single-player experience’s graphics with internet lag, and of course, bratty Xbox Live patrons. A session with friends can be a lark, but otherwise, it’s strictly a bullet point on the back of the box. Two Worlds was being set up to be the best of the best, the renaissance of open-world RPGs. The truth is, Two Worlds is ugly, convoluted, and poorly voiced. Why, then, am I not giving it a score in the 1-3 range? Because under all of the grit, Two Worlds is a hell of a lot of fun. It has a solid RPG base, and some neat customization ideas, and frankly after enduring an hour or so, it’s extremely addictive. However, this is not to suggest that it is a great game; the production values and presentation are so bad that staying far away is recommended to most players. On the other hand, RPG enthusiasts willing to look past the rusty graphics will find a rewarding game. Mayhap it would be worth their money, some bonnie morrow when, Gods willing, fate will smile justly upon them, and the game doth bear a reduced amount of gold required for purchasing. Until that day, I pray that those of thee who are not as inclined as their RPG favoring brethren, take heed: Two Worlds is a heap of junketh.